Philadelphia’s iconic Italian restaurants La Buca and Moonstruck close their doors
You missed your chance to grab a farewell meal at Ristorante La Buca, one of downtown’s oldest Italian restaurants, but you can still try to find a table at another classic Philadelphia Italian restaurant, Moonstruck, who is in his final weeks at Fox Chase.
La Buca, which opened in 1980 in the basement of 711 Locust St., just off Washington Square, took to Instagram and Facebook on Monday to announce its permanent closure.
Pisa-born chef Giuseppe Giuliani founded La Buca, whose name literally means “the hole” or “the basement”, with the help of famous defense lawyer A. Charles Peruto Sr.
Giuliani, a gracious host, came to the United States in 1958 without speaking English. He and his wife, Mary, settled in Philadelphia, where he found work at a collection of old restaurants, including Arthur’s Steak House and Gaetano’s. In 1976, he and his then-partner Enzo Fusaro opened Il Gallo Nero, an Italian destination, on 15th Street in Latimer, where a Buca di Beppo was later held and where Howl at the Moon is now located. . Peruto helped Giuliani navigate a three-year zoning battle to gain approval for their formal yet rustic hideaway, known for its grilled meats and seafood, as well as pasta.
That year, the two had been told that Luciano Pavarotti would be traveling to Philadelphia to judge a competition at the Academy of Music, so they rushed the opening to welcome the tenor. They named a piece after it, which featured an autographed photo of Pavarotti and Giuseppe Giuliani.
Giuliani’s death at the age of 83 in 2017 cast doubt on the restaurant’s future and the space was brought to market. But family members, including Giuliani’s son Anthony, continued even during the pandemic. Although eclipsed in recent years by newer establishments, La Buca still had a devoted following.
Son Richard said: “It was a tough decision as we had a great staff and great customers, but my brother decided he wanted to take a break. He received several offers to go elsewhere, but he just didn’t want to do it anymore.
(If you’re wondering about downtown’s oldest Italian restaurant, it would be the Sena family’s La Famigilia at 8 S. Front St. in Old Town, which debuted in 1976. South Philadelphia is home to two Italian restaurants which are much, much older, Ralph’s and Dante & Luigi’s.)
Moonstruck on Oxford Avenue near Rhawn Street has been for years, arguably, Northeast Philadelphia’s best-known destination Italian restaurant. A sale is pending for Moonstruck and its adjacent pizza Joseph, both of which will be open at least in early September, owner Antonio “Toto” Schiavone said.
“We’re not getting any younger,” Schiavone said, explaining the decision to sell.
The story began in 1966 when Joseph DiLullo, a hardworking and resourceful high school student at Cardinal Dougherty, purchased a pizzeria in Rockledge Borough with the help of an elderly man he had met at a retirement home while he was was visiting his sick mother. The man, whom DiLullo only knew as “Mr. Simpson,” showed up at the opening of Joseph’s Pizza in a black limousine with a driver. DiLullo told interviewers he never had it again. heard of him.
He then moved the pizzeria to 7947 Oxford Ave. at Fox Chase.
In 1979, DiLullo, his childhood sweetheart, Claire, and Schiavone became more chic next to Joseph’s, opening Ristorante DiLullo, a white-tablecloth restaurant with a greenhouse, glass-fronted pasta room, wine cellar and – now we are really dating – an upstairs nightclub called Ciao.
In 1985, the DiLullos and Schiavone opened the luxurious DiLullo Centro in the former Locust Street Theater at 1407 Locust St., opposite the Academy of Music. (It was renamed Toto in 1998 and closed for the good New Years Eve 2004; it is now Estia.)
Then the story takes a surreal, almost Hollywood turn. Joe DiLullo died of a heart attack at the age of 45 in 1994, and Claire and Toto fell in love. They married three years later in front of 300 people in their Montgomery County backyard.
In 2010, the Schiavones opened Radice, a more casual Italian restaurant, in Blue Bell. This is where they hope to entertain their Moonstruck customers after the sale. “You have no idea how many people we have become friends with, even outside of the restaurant,” Toto Schiavone said. “It is the most beautiful thing that we will take with us.”
The potential buyers, choosing to remain anonymous while awaiting filing of license documents, are restaurateurs linked to Fox Chase. They plan to run an upscale restaurant in Moonstruck and an upscale pizzeria in Joseph’s, Schiavone said.