The Deluca family of Villa di Roma. Courtesy of Maria Young
Philadelphia's restaurant scene is a growing one. But among the crowds of newcomers, there are some longtime institutions around town, like the Termini Bros bakeries or the Villa di Roma teams, that are beloved as much for their food, as they are for the families manning the stoves. Through hard work and determination, these iconic foodie families have shaped the city's dynamic dining landscape and created many special memories for generations. Here are just a few of the teams to know.
Termini family from Termini Bros.
With only a suitcase and recipe book in hand, Giuseppe Termini arrived in Philadelphia in 1921 from Sicily to reunite with his brother, Gaetano, who was working for the Stetson hat company. After saving money from factory work, the brothers opened their first bakery at 1514 S. 8th St., which became beloved around the city for its cannoli, cream cakes and Italian treats. In 1976, Giuseppe passed the torch to his son, Vincent Sr. Now, three generations later, brothers Joseph and Vincent Jr. Termini are baking with the same recipes used from the very beginning.
Secrets to success: "Business is like a baby. (You have to) feed it, change it, love it," said Joseph. He explained one of the great honors is getting to "maintain this beautiful story that was handed to (them) — father to son."
Jesse and Masaru Ito from Royal Sushi and Izakaya
Since age 16, Masaru Ito has been in the kitchen. In his early 20s, he arrived in the States from Japan to work at legendary Japanese restaurant Sagami in Collingswood, NJ, and in 1979 opened his own spot, Fuji. It was a family affair from the start, with Jesse working alongside his dad in the kitchen as a young teen. After selling Fuji in 2015, the Ito father-and-son team joined with business partners Dave Frank and Stephen Simon (Khyber Pass Pub, Royal Tavern, Triangle Tavern) to open one of Philly’s hottest spots: Royal Sushi and Izakaya.
Must-order: Natto okra, which is fermented soy beans and okra. Jesse Ito describes the dish as "a very traditional Japanese comfort food" that he grew up eating.
780 S. 2nd St.; 267-909-9002
De Luca family from Villa di Roma
For four generations the De Lucas have been making the same hearty, homestyle Italian meals that have earned them loyal Philly fans. In the kitchen, there are storied dishes, like the iconic gravy and meatballs. Those hand-rolled meatballs have been made by only three De Lucas since 1963, when the family business began. While the food is a standout in Philly, the strong ties go beyond family, extending to customers as well. Frank De Luca says that people "come for comfort," many of them eating at Villa di Roma for years.
Must-order: The sausage Genevese. De Luca said he’s "never seen (a plate) come back without the dish being wiped clean."
936 S. 9th St.; 215-592-1295
The Mink family from Oyster House
Oyster House has had a few iterations over the years, but the Minks have always been a part of the story. The original started in 1947, when Philadelphia lawyer Samuel Mink purchased the popular seafood house named Kelly’s blocks from City Hall; the spot was a neighborhood draw for judges, politicians and lawyers for decades. After Samuel’s sudden death in the late 1960s, David Mink, Sam’s son, returned home to helm Kelly’s, but the restaurant was sold to a new owner shortly after he took over. Missing the kitchen, David Mink opened Sansom Oyster House on Sansom Street in 1976, which his son Sam (named for his grandfather) has led since 2008. While Sam is the sole owner of the restaurant today, it remains a family business. His mother, Judy, has been the bookkeeper since the days David ran the show, and every morning David heads to the market to find the freshest picks of fish for the day.
Must-order: The snapper soup, fried oysters and chicken salad have always been on the menu, with only a few changes to the original recipes.
1516 Sansom St.; 215-567-7683
Mignucci family from Di Bruno Bros.
Italian immigrant brothers Danny and Joe Di Bruno opened their famous 9th Street grocery store in 1939. Little did they know their future was filled with cheese — and lots of it. During a trip to Switzerland, Danny Di Bruno was so impressed with the artisan cheesemakers he brought his appreciation back home to his Philly market. Years later, the grocery is known as the Philadelphia "house of cheese" for its large specialty selection. Cousins Billy Jr., Emilio and Bill Mignucci now helm the business, and helped lead the successful expansion to Center City and to five locations around Philly. The Mignucci family embraces its place as one of the longstanding family businesses in town.
Secrets to success: "Philadelphia embraces and supports the family food community," said Bill. "(It) takes care of its own."
Sarcone family from Sarcone's Bakery
Italian immigrant Luigi Sarcone came to America as an apprentice baker with a vision to open his own bakery. In 1918 he unveiled his bakery in the Italian Market, where he turned out some of Philly's finest breads from his brick oven. As the years went on, the family business was passed down, and now, almost 100 years later, a fifth generation heads up the ovens, making that famous bread, among other specialties like pizza and pastries.
Must-order: Sarcone's has been churning out tomato pie since it opened and it's one of the signature favorites at the bakery.
758 S. 9th St.; 215-922-0445