The history and culture of Philadelphia are closely related to the Italian immigrant community in the city and the local cuisine is no exception to this. Actually, most of the food that is associated with Philly was inspired by traditional Italian dishes, though there are certain twists and developments that make the local cuisine truly unique. Surely, here you can enjoy a slice of pizza so good that New-Yorkers or Chicagoans can simply eat their hearts out. But if you would like to try something really nice and one-of-a-kind, you might want to dig deeper and further into the list of typical Philly-dishes that are being offered at bars, restaurants and food-stands all over the city.  


The Italian heritage is strong with the Stromboli 

The Stromboli first appeared in Philadelphia in the middle of the 20th century and it quickly become one of the most iconic dishes in the city. Basically, this is a meal that is a turnover pastry filled with a variety of cheeses and cold-cuts. The dough can be made either from pizza dough or Italian bread, depending on the establishment and the chef’s preferences. Some claim that the Stromboli is so similar to the calzone or that they are actually one and the same thing. But any food aficionado will notice the differences: 

  • Stromboli is made by rolling up the dough already topped with the ingredients, instead of being stuffed with it prior to baking; 
  • Stromboli has the shape of a cylinder, not a crescent; 
  • Stromboli can be made with Italian bread and not only with pizza dough; 


A true icon – the cheesesteak sandwich  

The establishment that claims the honor of creating one of Philadelphia’s most iconic sandwiches, the cheesesteak sandwich, is Pat’s King of Steaks where thinly sliced steak was used for sandwich stuffing for the first time in the 1930s. Cheese was added to the recipe at some later stage, and the rest, as they say, is history. This type of sandwich is so typical of the city that it is known across the nation as Philly cheesesteak. Even today it remains one of the most preferable fast-food options for locals. Its popularity inevitably leads to a number of variations such as the chicken cheesesteak, or chicken Philly, which substitutes the beef for chicken; the pizza steak, where the steak itself is topped with marinara sauce and mozzarella; the cheesesteak hoagie, which contains lettuce and tomato; and, of course, the vegan cheesesteak, which contains neither meat, nor cheese.  

Traditional Italian cuisine

Caption: Traditional Italian cuisine has played a role into the shaping of Philly’s food trends  


And for dessert 

If you want to be able to claim that you know Philly’s cuisine well, you should try out the local deserts too. One of them is the Irish potato candy, which despite its name does not contain potatoes and has nothing to do with Ireland. Another great dessert is the Italian ice (water ice) – a frozen fruit or fruit puree, with natural or artificial flavoring. 

If you want to taste the best local food in Philadelphia, we will also recommend you The Mad Rex – one of the most innovative restaurants in Fishtown that still takes classic food very seriously.