Welcome to Ralph’s Italian Restaurant, a 123-year-old Italian restaurant located in South Philadelphia. Run by four generations of the Dispigno family, Ralph’s Italian Restaurant is a neighborhood institution, renowned for its hearty portions of classic red sauce dishes. The establishment is also a nod to the history of Italian immigrants in Philadelphia and the successful intergenerational business they built upon their arrival in the city.
Ralph’s Italian Restaurant opened in 1900 when Italian immigrant Francesco Dispigno poured his life savings into renting a building at 901 Montrose Street. Over the next 10 years, the restaurant experienced such economic success that Francesco needed to relocate to a larger space on South 9th Street. With his death in the early 1930s, his son Ralph took over the family business and grew to become one of South Philadelphia’s leading businessmen.
Ralph and his wife Mary taught their children the ropes of the family business with the intention that the legacy would continue to be passed down throughout the generations. Their son Ralph Jr, for example, would end up working in the restaurant for 75 years.
Today, Ralph Jr’s grandchildren Jimmy Rubino Jr and Eddie Rubino, represent the family’s fourth generation of owners running the restaurant. Ralph’s Italian Restaurant has managed to survive prohibition and both World Wars, and has lived to see 19 presidents come and go. In fact, both former President Theodore Roosevelt and current President Joe Biden have dined at the restaurant, alongside celebrities like Taylor Swift, Frank Sinatra, and Patti LaBelle.
In July 2022, Ralph, the patriarch of the family business and the grandson of Francesco Dispigno, who established the restaurant in 1900, died at the age of 93. The news of his passing was announced on Ralph’s Italian Restaurant’s Facebook account. "It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Ralph Dispigno Jr, or as we called him, Uncle Ralphie. Named after his father Rafael for whom the restaurant was named, Ralph Jr. spent the vast majority of his 93 years on this earth inside the walls of the restaurant, for years working seven days a week," the post read.
Ralph’s Italian Restaurant is open seven days a week.
Asia London Palomba
Asia London Palomba is a trilingual freelance journalist from Rome, Italy. In the past, her work on culture, travel, and history has been published in The Boston Globe, Atlas Obscura, The Christian Science Monitor, and Grub Street, New York Magazine's food section. In her free time, Asia enjoys traveling home to Italy to spend time with family and friends, drinking Hugo Spritzes, and making her nonna's homemade cavatelli.