Philadelphia is the center of a region famously blessed with renowned street food from mom and pop operations: soft pretzels with yellow mustard, Italian hoagies, and, of course, the cheesesteak. Philly natives who move here have been vociferous about the lack of these foods just as the people from the other side of that state long for their Primanti's sandwich. The good news is the first group may not have that far to go to get their fix.
The expansive glass windows which front the 40-seat A Taste of Philly reveal an Italian green, red, and white interior. The kitchen is open and a water ice station is located toward the back. Italian water ice is made by a process of freezing water and syrup — more like a granita than a slushie. Philly's root beer water ice is modestly portioned, densely flavored, and quite good.
The Daddona family — Tonys II, III and IV — opened Philly in the University area last June. As with so many area entrepreneurs, senior Tony Daddona turned his longing for a taste of home into a business. When he moved here to be closer to his son after retiring from a Pennsylvania construction company, he realized Charlotte lacked what he craved — cheesesteaks. His business instincts told him he was not alone in this. He was right.
Together with his son and grandson, a student at Johnson & Wales University, they set out to replicate the quintessential Philly sandwich. "We age the meat for 28 days and slice it fresh," Daddona says. In addition to this, he imports Amoroso's hearth baked rolls from Philadelphia to add to that "authentic" taste as well as adding "essence," a secret ingredient, to each cheesesteak. Their special is stuffed "wit" sliced beef, provolone, grilled onions, peppers and mushrooms. The "original" is one you can tailor to your taste. These splendid sandwiches evoked memories of a fabulous cheesesteak I once consumed while trying to figure out the pattern of Philadelphia's "treed" streets (Penn named the major roads after trees, randomly — and you thought the intersection of Queens and Queens peculiar here).
Philly also offers pizza, by the slice or in medium and large sizes. The crust is pliable, but the toppings weigh heavily upon it. The "Rocky" meat lovers (get it?) pizza has a prodigious helping of meat pummeling the crust, too much for me, but noticeably instantly inhaled by my dining companion. Daddona says the difference between New York styled pizzas and Philly pizzas is the "pungency" of the toppings, or as the Herr's chip (also sold here) bag proclaims: "Live Life with Flavor."
Rounding out the menu are soft pretzels, baked on-site but the dough is shipped in; Philly chili; Italian and meatball subs, the latter a Daddona family recipe; pierogies; fried pickles ("We took this one from Charlotte"); and, of course, Tastycakes products.
A Taste of Philly has already met with success and the family plans to open four to five more in the Charlotte area. Maybe one near me?