Restaurant: Villa di Roma
Address: 936 S 9th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
What we ate (and loved): Drop meatballs, fried asparagus
Insider tips: An operation that spreads over most of a block of 9th Street in the Italian Market, Villa di Roma offers red-sauce favorites in a familiar Italian-American setting. Just down the street from the entrance to the restaurant (which takes you through a bar watched over by a framed photo of Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa), members of the DeLuca family staff a commissary kitchen that turns out thousands of handmade meatballs every day, mixing and measuring ingredients by handfuls and instinct according to a recipe passed from generation to generation. Not necessarily traditional, but also worth ordering: breaded and fried spears of asparagus, served with a lemon-butter sauce that gets a spicy kick from just a few heavy dashes of hot sauce.