1514 S. 8th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147
I went to Mr. Joe's Cafe a while ago, but I completely forgot to write about it. I don't know how, it was easily one of my favorite meals of the year, and believe me, I've had a lot.
Mr. Joe's Cafe is a neighborhood spot in South Philly that will make you think you ended up at your friend's Italian grandparents' house. Everything about this place is adorable.
Mr. Joe's is owned by the Termini family (Termini Brothers is across the street) which means there is bound to be some delicious pastries involved.
Although at first blush, the prices may seem a bit steep for a lunch place, but the value is undoubtedly one of the best around. With your order, you get a complimentary glass of wine, some hearty bread, a salad, entree and dessert.
While the decor may be kitschy, the service and food are no joke. Everything is hearty and well prepared. I had decent tomatoes in my salad, in the winter, and the hearty bread sops all of the leftover oil and vinegar nicely.
In between courses I snuck back to peek into the kitchen. I have no idea how they put out the food that they do from that little room.
In the bathroom is the original deed to the land. Amazing.
The salad was delicious, but I was more excited for the main event. First up was the gnocchi in gravy. The red sauce here was an exercise in simplicity. The quality ingredients spoke for themselves, and the gnocchi was as light as air. Not to mention, this is a generous portion, even by my standards.
The hearty tomato sauce was slightly sweet, well seasoned, and just the right consistency.
Check out the mid-air cheesing shots.
The panini came highly recommended, so I decided to go with the fresh mozzarella, tomato and proscuitto. The rustic bread was doused with olive oil prior to construction, which added a nice lubrication to what could have been dry. Again, the simplicity in ingredients was greatly appreciated. Mr. Joe's Cafe uses no gimmicks, just carefully crafted, quality food.
Of course, this was not the end, there was still dessert (it IS owned by Joe Termini, after all). Each entree gets its own choice, so I went with the rum cake, and the Tiramisu. The Tiramisu was light, slightly rum tinged, and incredibly addictive. I was already stuffed, but no cake went uneaten.
The rum cake was indulgent. Although I didn't think I would like it just by looking at it, I was again impressed. The silky custard filling was not nearly as heavy as it looked, and it felt like a trip down memory lane – eating a cake that has probably been made the same way for decades.
When all was said and done, the gnocchi was $16 and the panini was $12 without tip. A steal. Seriously. A three course meal and a glass of wine at a laid back Italian place in South Philly, for less than $20 per person. Just don't come there in a rush. Sit back, take in the old neighborhood folks and enjoy the food. Because if you wouldn't enjoy this honest, delicious food, then you wouldn't be reading this in the first place.