By Chef Vincent Tropepe
When people think of Philadelphia and the Philly Cheesesteak they automatically think of Geno’s or Pat’s, as they are long time Philly cheesesteak competitors within walking distance of each other. To some Tony Luke’s is another cheesesteak icon. If you are a Philadelphia resident, it is unsurprising that everyone will be passionate about their preference. And if you are a tourist and take into consideration everyone’s preferences you will simply wind up confused.
Having lived in the city of “Brotherly Love” for five years, I have eaten all of their cheesesteaks and each of them have their good and bad characteristics, but in a recent trip to Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market I ate a cheesesteak from Spataro’s.
It won’t take you long to find Spataro’s in the market, all you need to do is look for the Liberty Bell in red neon and there you will find this under rated Philadelphia icon. With the flat top sizzling with perfectly seared steak and the hallmark aroma of cartelized onions, Spataro’s in my opinion is probably the most under rated in the entire Philadelphia cheesesteak game. Offering the iconic sandwich with the choice of the three traditional cheeses, America, Provolone and Whiz.
However if getting the city’s signature sandwich isn’t what you are looking for Spataro’s offers a fantastic roasted turkey sandwich and their corn beef is excellent as well. You can also select a sandwich with Italian provisions like Cappocollo or Genoa salami.
Having been to the Reading Terminal Market more times then I can count, I wanted to check out some of the reviews of Spataro’s. To say the least they were mixed. The reviews that were good, were great and the ones that were bad were terrible.
As a professional chef, restaurant and food consultant and as senior food writer one of the things I have no patience for are the people who think they are foodies, people who are want to be food critics. Meanwhile all they really evolved into being are serial Yelpers. To be honest with every bad review I read, I only wanted to order more from Spataro’s – and I did.
The cheesesteak was definitely better then some of the more notable cheesesteak places in Philadelphia. It has a wonderful mouth feel, perfectly seared steak, the sandwich was fulling, and a wonderful proportion of cheese to steak. The roll was soft and light making this cheesesteak something I could eat all day long. Being born and raised in Brooklyn, I know all about Italian provisions. Their hoagie roll with lettuce, Genoa salami, thinly sliced white onions, spicy cherry peppers with oil, vinegar and oregano transported me back to my old neighborhood.
In closing, Spataro’s has been around since the late 1940’s and my visit clearly showed why. The Reading Terminal Market as an organization should be proud that they house one of the most iconic vendors that made this Italian boy from Brooklyn remember his nona and with a cheesesteak sandwich that makes the city of Philadelphia proud.
Located at: 1136 Arch Street #466 Philadelphia, PA 19107