Thursday, September 3, 2009

Marra's Cucina Italiana Restaurant

Today, I will provide my next major review of the best Philadelphia pizza places through an analysis of Marra’s Cucina Italiana restaurant. Marra’s is an old fashioned Philadelphia Italian restaurant that specializes in old Philly style pizza. I told you when I set this blog up that I would take you to places that the so called Philly food critics don’t even know about. Today, we shall do just that.

Forget about what you heard about Philly pizza if it was bad. Marra’s Restaurant will easily disprove anyone’s negative comments about how bad pizza is in Philly. Philly does have other good food besides cheese steaks. Marra’s pizza is the quintessential (I don’t even know what that word means but it sure sounds good) example of what Philadelphia pizza should be. First, let’s explore the history of Marra’s and then I will post my review of my recent experience there.

Marra’s Italian American restaurant is possibly the oldest Italian pizza place that is still in existence in Philly. It sits in a little pocket of South Philadelphia at 1734 East Passyunk Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19148. Marra’s story begin with its two owners both husband and wife, Salvatore and Chiarina Marra. The Marra family came to Philadelphia from the pizza capital of the world (see pizza history), Naples, Italy in 1920. Seven years later in 1927, they opened up this very popular local restaurant.

Marra’s restaurant is run by the original owner’s grandchildren today. Everything about this place depicts old style Italian Philadelphia charm. It is not a fancy restaurant at all. It is just the ideal little pizza and pasta joint for a casual meal. They have old style wooden chairs to sit and an even older looking bar.

Marra’s menu consists of various Italian dishes including calamari and clams. They also serve various pasta and salad dishes. However, there main dish is relative to this review. That’s right, pizza…Philadelphia style pizza. The greatest charm of this place is the original brick oven where the pizza is made. Supposedly, this oven was made from the bricks of Mount Vesuvius in Italy and the work was crafted by the original owner Salvatore Marra.

Now onto my review… Honestly (and you can tell by now that is one of my good qualities), even if you don’t like the food you should come and visit this place at least once for the history. This place has been opened since 1927. Not many Philadelphia pizza places can say that. Up until about 40 years ago, this was one of the few pizza places to eat outside of your own home. Back in the fifties and sixties not many people went out to eat, that is, unless it was a special event. And for those events, many Philadelphians went to a place like Marra’s. It wasn’t until the sixties and seventies that all of these new pizza places started popping up throughout Philly. So if you are interested in learning about Philly pizza why not go to the most historical place first?

The pizza… I always order a margherita pizza…so if you own a pizza restaurant you will be able to detect me if I walk in your door. I do this because this is one of the most basic types of pizza that was created in Napoli, Italy and is the best way to make my reviews consistent. It is just by chance that the owners of this restaurant are from Napoli, Italy. So they have acquired the style of that region, thus, they should be able to produce a traditional Napolitano style Margherita pizza with no problem. This is exactly why they did. As I sat on the hard wooden bench eating my pizza I realized what a beautiful pizza Marra’s can produce. They gave me a personal 10 inch pizza enough for one hungry person. The crust on their pizza was a little blackened but just right. I will say that for thin crust pizza, their pizza was a little higher than average yet not as thick as American style pizza.

The tomato sauce was very traditional Italian style. The sauce was not too spicy yet had a sweet and salty taste combined. There was an equal proportion of sauce and cheese on the pizza though. This to me is a fine balance (some may disagree). The mozzarella cheese was served just right with a nice melted appearance and a not too overcooked taste. There were several leaves of basil sprinkled throughout the pie (but definitely not too much or too little).

Overall, I really enjoy their pizza. Marra’s pizza has been consistently good throughout the years (and I have been coming here for many, many years). That is a true sign of a restaurant labeled best pizza – consistency. Anyone can make a good pie once by luck. But to do this every time…since 1927…well that is skill. Marra’s pizza is definitely rated as a green light in my book. Please try this place at least once if you are truly interested in experiencing the best real Italian style Philadelphia pizza.

Marra's on Urbanspoon


  1. I just love this place...the pizza is incredible...the waitresses call me hun. They have Yuengling can't be much better!

  2. Great pizza. I have read a lot of reviews were people complain about the staff, but having worked in the industry during college and grad school, those types of people complain everywhere they go. Its South Philly service, direct, to the point, no kissing up, but I love it. The Pizza is one of if not the best in the city, ( its hard to pick a winner between them and Celebre's). But love the people, love the atmosphere, and as a native New Yorker who knows his pizza, I can tell you its top notch. Thin crust, homemade sauce, as good as it gets.

  3. ALL the foregoing is correct...I'm a Philly boy transplanted to Massachusetts but I go to Marra's whenever I'm back to visit!