The Best Restaurants In Bella Vista
photo credit: NICOLE GUGLIELMO
If you’re ever (somehow) still hungry after shopping in the Italian Market or want a delicious reward for finding a parking spot in South Philly, the restaurants of Bella Vista are here for you. It’s home to some of the city's best and oldest eateries, whether you’re looking for a cheesy slice, a throwback Italian experience, or the best water ice in town.
photo credit: EMILY SCHINDLER
If you make the best cheesesteak in Philly (and some of the best pizza), you deserve the key to the city. In this town, that title belongs to Angelo's. The cash-only South Philly spot is the only place you should go to when you can’t choose between the ribeye cheesesteak on crackly seeded rolls (that they bake in-house) or a classic margherita pizza with the creamiest fior di latte in the city. If you survive the line at this takeout-only spot, you deserve one of each.
Spend your whole night eating Italian food at Fiorella (or at least until someone tries to kick you out or demands rent). The pasta bar from the Vetri team has outstanding small plates like pear saltimbocca, but make no mistake: it’s the carbs you’re here for. If you snag one of the few bar seats inside, you’ll have a great view of ricotta gnocchi, braised lamb pappardelle, and their legendary sausage rigatoni being made right in front of you. Bring some out-of-towners here if you want to impress them while simultaneously ruining all other ravioli dishes they've ever eaten.
photo credit: GAB BONGHI
If the city held an America's Next Top Model-style competition for our favorite BYOB, Tyra would be doing a dramatic photo reveal of Mawn. The intimate Cambodian restaurant only has 10 or so tables inside, so while you can walk in without a reservation, we wouldn’t recommend it. They have a lengthy menu of unforgettable Southeast Asian dishes, but the soft shell shrimp, oysters with a black pepper mignonette, juicy whole fish, and Thai crab fried rice are not to be missed. It’s the perfect lineup for a casual weeknight dinner, date night, or group catch up with your friends surrounded by whatever bottles you agreed on.
photo credit: GAB BONGHI
There are a universal few truths in the world: Gritty is the thing of nightmares, you don’t take I-95 on gameday, and South Philly Barbacoa makes the best tacos in the city. There are a few things on the menu, barbacoa and pancita tacos, a lamb consomme, and specials like tamale and quesadillas, and they’re all excellent. It’s also a pretty popular spot with both locals and tourists, and they’re only open on the weekends, so show up before noon (they open at 5am) if you don’t want to wait in a line.
photo credit: NICOLE GUGLIELMO
Sometimes, you need a great neighborhood spot where you can sit down and feel right at home. And this laidback Filipino restaurant has that atmosphere—plus a bunch of dishes you’ll fantasize about during your morning run. The cozy BYOB’s dining room is always packed, so don't show up without a reservation. People come in droves for the fried chicken (which is more Peking duck than breaded chicken), a pancit bihon noodle dish that perfectly balances spice and citrus, and a friendly staff. They also have an incredible ube sundae and community fridge—in case you actually sprinted here after your run and forgot a bottle.
There are mornings when you feel invincible. You know, meditation at sunrise, early morning yoga, post-class green-juice mornings. And then there are mornings where you need a plate of cheesy eggs and potatoes, served with a side of more fried things. On mornings like this, Sam’s is the right choice. This brunch institution has been around for more than two decades, and though it’s nothing fancy on the outside, the service and food are consistently fantastic. Just don’t schedule any plans afterward, unless those plans include a nap and leftover pancakes.
photo credit: KERRY MCINTYRE
Blue Corn is a lively 10-table restaurant in the Italian market, and it’s one of our go-tos for great margaritas and even better tacos. Everything here is made in the small, open kitchen—from the two semi-spicy salsas that appear on every table, to the blue corn tortillas in their tacos, quesadillas, and huaraches. And while you might find tortilla soup and ceviche on lots of menus, Blue Corn also serves unconventional dishes like nopales and beef cheeks.
photo credit: GAB BONGHI
Whether you’re dining solo at the bar, sitting with a date outside on Christian Street, or cozied up in a leather banquette with a few friends, you’re at this buzzy Italian Market spot for anything from the charcoal grill. Alice occupies a storied neighborhood space, and the new American menu focuses on seasonal cuisine. While the Colorado rack of lamb and chargrilled naan are delicious, the service is about as choppy as the WiFi at PHL. Be prepared: it may take 15 minutes to get your Campari-laced King Vidi, or several tries to get the crispy soft-shell crab with black garlic sauce. Get the housemade toffee ice cream to soothe your worn patience, and it'll all be worth it.
photo credit: RACHEL LERRO
Little Fish is a small corner BYOB with a menu made up of creative seafood dishes like salmon with creme fraiche, grilled octopus in a hot mustard vinaigrette, and sashimi platters with a house soy glaze. Although the dishes on their rotating a la carte menu can be hit or miss, it feels like you’re part of a test kitchen—where everything you’re eating is coming straight from the chef’s mind (or the sea) and onto your plate.
Open since 1899, this is (arguably) Philadelphia’s oldest Italian restaurant. Between the chandeliers, black and white photos, and fancy dining rooms in the converted townhouses, you’ll feel the old-school charm each time you come here. The South Philly spot uses that experience to whip up some top-notch pasta like gnocchi romano, fettuccini filetto with filet mignon and sun-dried tomatoes, and a baked lasagna that’s the best in town. And even though the interiors look fancy, you can eat here without dropping some serious money—none of the entrees cost more than $30.
photo credit: NICOLE GUGLIELMO
This cozy French spot works just as well for a casual Friday night dinner with friends as a first date on a weeknight. There’s a long bar that’s usually lined with diners sharing carafes of natural wine or sipping on seasonal cocktails. Rotating dinner specials make up nearly half the menu—and they’re always stellar. Their duck of the day, like the crispy duck wings, tender duck breast served with herby lentils, and sunchokes fried in rich duck fat, are good enough to have you planning a Parisian vacation you can’t afford. But the core menu—full of steak frites and mussels in a shrimp bouillon wine sauce—is just as exciting as the specials that appear on the chalkboard every night.
Most Italian places in South Philly, even the OGs, feel more like tourist traps than they do old-school Italian hangouts. Villa Di Roma is the exception. Walk into this spot in the Italian Market, and you’ll see pictures of families hung up on the walls and tables of regulars who’ve been eating veal parm here since it opened in the ’60s. The menu is long and has everything you’d expect from a red-sauce joint, including meatballs in gravy, veal francese, and countless pasta options. It’s the kind of place you want to keep to yourself and tell everyone about simultaneously.
photo credit: Nicole Guglielmo
Saloon is an Italian restaurant, but it’s also a quintessential South Philly dining experience. It’s been around for decades, and is still outfitted with dark wood walls and candlelight, stained glass windows, and paraphernalia from 19th and 20th century Philadelphia. The staff has as much personality as the building itself (and most have been around just as long). The menu ranges from traditional steakhouse dishes like clams casino and petite filet with mashed potatoes, but we’re partial to the Italian house specialties, like the linguine pescatore with jumbo shrimp and a buttery lobster francaise (and if Rocky were real, he would be, too).
photo credit: Banh Mi and Bottles
This South Street restaurant and shop serves—you guessed it—banh mi and craft beer. But thinking that’s all they do is like thinking Tom Hanks just does a little acting. They also have sophisticated cocktails, along with an extensive menu of Vietnamese street food and snacks. The chicken wings are perfectly crispy, the stuffed clams are tender and deliciously spicy, and the pork bao buns are a must-order. Pop into the industrial space anytime you’re feeling peckish—the small plates are always changing—but make a reservation if you’re going with a group (it tends to get busy on the weekends).
photo credit: Eddy Marenco
Grace & Proper is a European-style bar that tends to get as crowded as the subway on a Monday morning. The cozy, buzzy bar offers small plates, including cured meats, fragrant cheeses, and meatballs in a blackberry romesco, along with an extensive drink menu. The cocktails range from $12 to $18 and the wine and spirits list may be one of the longest in town. But it’s their incredible signature drinks, like the Good Giving & Game with saffron-infused gin, honey, and 24-karat gold leaf that sets this place apart. Come in for a low-key lunch with a spread that reminds us of a European picnic and stick around for a few hours when the entire neighborhood shows up.
photo credit: Lazeez Indian Cuisine
Lazeez Indian Cuisine is a place of spice and flavor worship—and the white tablecloths, cozy candlelight, and golden Patachitra paintings are almost as impressive as the food. Spend an evening with satisfying plates of chicken, lamb, and beef shanks cooked in creamy gravy or a tangy ginger sauce. They also have kebabs with a great combination of spices, ranging from tandoori shrimp to the savory sweetness of chicken marinated with cream cheese. Plus, they have a subtly sweet badam kheer and super rich rice pudding with cardamom, almond, and pistachios so good that you’ll forget that your date was 20 minutes late.
Sure, Isot is where you go when you want incredible Turkish food or can’t get into Zahav. But this cozy spot also has a lot of things that Zahav doesn’t, like plates of grilled chicken and lamb kebabs served with sides of vegetables and about five different Mediterranean salads. The portions are massive, so you can reheat the rest the next night and further delay cooking that salmon filet that’s been in your freezer for the past two weeks.
John’s is a classic. The Italian Market-adjacent spot has been around since 1945. While the flavors change occasionally, they always have their classic (and best flavors) available: lemon, cherry, and chocolate. Plus, they have housemade ice cream that they use for their gelati. There’s usually a line—think the most popular ride in Dorney Park long—so be prepared to wait, especially on hot days.