The Godfather. Rocky. Red sauce. Sinatra. All thoughts that bubble up the moment you set foot in this 100 year old institution of a restaurant. Ralph's Italian is still owned by the Dispigno family, or so says the story on the back of the menu. They reassure you that you'll be receiving the same food that they have been serving for four generations here. And while the old school tile floors and kitschy charm of the place makes it feel instantly familiar, the 100 year old recipes could use some updating.
We used our $29 Groupon for a prix fixe meal consisting of a bruschetta appetizer, shared pasta and two entrees. We also splurged a bit and got abottle of wine, dessert and some grappa to sip on after dinner. Nothing that came out of the kitchen was bad, but nothing was very remarkable either. The bruschetta was sliced italian bread ladled with marinara sauce, sprinkled with parsley and some parmesean that probably came out of a green plastic bottle. The fettucini alfredo was decent, lots of butter and cream in the rich sauce helps, with noodles that were cooked just al dente. But unless you're carbo-loading for a marathon the next day, there's no good reason you should go solo on this belly buster.
The flounder francaise was a nicely cooked piece of fish, slathered in a sauce that lacked any real depth of flavor. Instead of a light garlicky lemon dish, the kitchen went way overboard on the butter - I swear they melted an entire stick just for this plate. Veal parmigiana, buried under a quart of marinara sauce was tender, but forgettable. A shame really, since the breading was perfectly seasoned, but submerged in the cheese and sauce, it lost all it's texture. We finished dinner with full stomachs, to be sure, but an empty feeling inside like we missed out on great meal.
A bit of grappa picked up my mood, followed by an excellent cannoli. Not sure if they are doing their desserts onsite, but I wouldn't be surprised if it came from one of the amazing Italian bakeries in the neighborhood. It's hard to make up for an entire meal with one cannoli though, good as it was.
I think I had a notion in my head that this was going to be somehow more authentic Italian - superior ingredients, cooked with love. An old school place that's been doing things the right way all these years. Instead we got a boring meal that we could have made at home. Maybe we're jaded from the luxury of such amazing Italian food in this city.
Ralph's certainly has it's loyal clientele - we saw families sitting down that clearly have been celebrating life events here for decades. The portions are definitely big, so if you're feeding a group of hungry kids, I can see the appeal. For two normal sized adults looking for good Italian in Philadelphia though, there are literally dozens of better places. Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.
Food Baby Rating: OnlyChild
760 South 9th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147