Rite Before Christmas

Assimilation challenges tradition in South Philadelphia’s Italian-American population.

By Tara Murtha
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Dec. 29, 2008

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Given high prices in places like Bella Vista, young urban couples have been moving to less plush (read: more neighborhoody) parts of South Philadelphia for several years now, bringing new bars like the P.O.P.E, coffee shops like Benna’s and sushi joints like Izumi with them.

Neighborhood Italians call them “the yups.” They call the neighborhood Italians “the originals.” But there’s little venom there. Paul Rhodes of Coldwell Banker Preferred, who regularly sells houses in South Philly, says it’s been a “less painful” transition than similar gentrification trends in other areas of the city.

Anthony D’Angelo of Ippolito’s sees it as a good thing.

“The neighborhood was going downhill for a while, but it’s just revitalized,” he says. “It’s getting pretty good now. A couple of restaurants opened up, there’s going to be a coffee shop next door. It’s getting there.”

D’Angelo, whose family seafood shops are anchored in the Mediterranean where his great-great-grandfather ran a fishing boat, says his family prepares 13 fish dishes, which he says is traditional for luck. Tomorrow he’s expecting a shipment of air-cured Norway stockfish for rarified cooks who’ll know what to do with it.

But for his own Feast on Christmas Eve? He’s bringing sushi.

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