5 Classic Eats from Philly Bakeries That Every Philadelphian Must Try At Least Once
1. Italian Cookies
Everyone has a favorite (ricotta for us), but it’s not about individual cookies; it’s about showing up with the giant plate of all the cookies. The bakeries of South Philly always have dozens to choose from, but come holiday time, get there early or leave with a sad face. Try them at: Isgro Pastries, Varallo Brothers Bakery and Termini Bros. Bakery in South Philly; Swiss Haus Bakery (not technically Italian, but scores of cookies are available daily) in Center City and Old City.
2. Tomato Pie
Is it bread? Pizza? The staff debate raged, but we landed on the former, because the best Philly-style tomato pies are turned out by bakers, not pizza makers. While variations abound, here are the basics: square-ish, thick dough, smothered in sauce, no layer of cheese (or else it’s Trenton-style), and always served room temp. Try it at: Iannelli’s Bakery and Cacia’s Bakery in South Philly; Tony Roni’s and Corropolese Bakery & Deli in the ’burbs.
3. Butter Cake
Thank German bakers for this Philly concoction. Unfamiliar? It’s more bar than cake, with a layer of super-sweet gooey filling and a blondie-like crust. It’s simple and addictive and makes people from the Northeast cry tears of nostalgia. Try it at: Danish Bakers and Holmesburg Bakery in Northeast Philly and Flying Monkey Bakery in Market East.
4. Pound Cake
People still drive for hours to snag a Stock’s Bakery pound cake, especially at Christmas. Little do people know it’s not really a pound cake: At some point, one of the Stocks added more than a pound of something. (Our guess: butter.) Try it at: Stock’s Bakery in Port Richmond; Potito’s Bakery in South Philly; any Oteri’s location.
It was Sicilian immigrants who brought these Italian pastries to town more than 100 years ago. The shell gets its signature blistering from wine in the dough; the filling can be ricotta or chocolate or vanilla cream. If the bakery doesn’t make the shells daily — and fill them by hand to order — keep walking. Try them at: Isgro Pastries and Termini Bros. Bakery in South Philly; Cipolli Cannoli in Collingswood.
First published as “The Classics Thrive” in the October 2017 issue of Philadelphia magazine.