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Author Archive | CT Liotta

What's Happening in:  Passyunk Square 

Ippolito’s Seafood: they’ve gone south for the winter

Need seven fishes? They’ve got that and much more at Ippolito’s wholesale cousin — Giuseppe’s Market at Samuels and Son

Every Christmas Eve, Lydia Sarson of Warnock Street maintains a family tradition. “I make fish stew from fresh red snapper while my husband makes clams. The stew is good. The clams are the best you’ll ever eat.” She buys locally whenever she can. “Ippolitos,” she says in a word.

Lydia Sarson makes her fish stew

Sarson’s story is like that of many families who live in South Philadelphia, but in July Ippolito’s Seafood – the venerable seafood purveyor at 13th and Dickinson – closed for renovations. Owners expected a late-2018 re-opening. When construction continued through the fall, customers and neighbors questioned the fate of the hundred-year-old family-owned business.

Bill Bradford, marketing and communications manager at Ippolito’s, reports the retailer is fine – it will return in 2019. In the meantime, customers who depend on Ippolito’s for their holiday table have an exceptional alternative in Giuseppe’s Market at Samuels and Son Seafood, 3400 S. Lawrence Street.

“Giuseppe’s has all the customer favorites from Ippolito’s, but on a bigger scale,” says Bradford. “And, we have a huge parking lot.”

Bill Bradford holds tube squid at Giuseppe’s Market. 

For those unfamiliar with the Philadelphia store, it began in 1919 when Giuseppe Ippolito started a pushcart seafood sales business with his father-in-law. By 1934, Ippolito was the sole proprietor. He replaced his pushcarts with horse-drawn wagons. In 1945, he opened Ippolito’s – a business that expanded through the ‘50s and ‘60s under the helm of his daughter and her son, Rose and Samuel D’Angelo. In 1989, the family opened Samuels and Son and entered the wholesale and commercial market. They now have 400 employees and handle 400 million pounds of seafood yearly. Continue Reading →

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What's Happening in:  Dickinson Square West 

Dickinson Square Decorating Contest & Caroling

Contest ends tomorrow, Dec. 18 – enter today or vote on the current entries.

Dickinson Square West Civic Association (DSWCA) is hosting the neighborhood’s second annual holiday house decorating contest – and you have one day left to enter and/or vote on your favorite entry.

The group invites neighbors living between Washington and Snyder, 4th and 6th Streets to enter by sending a clear, evening photo of their decorated house, along with their name and address, to

DSWCA will post all submitted photos on the Dickinson Square West Facebook page in a photo album titled “Holiday House Decorating Contest 2018.” 

On December 18, DSWCA will select winners based on the number of likes each entry receives on Facebook. Winners will be announced on their Facebook page. The top three houses will receive prizes

Beginning at 6:30 pm on Dec. 18, the Dickinson Square West Carolers will stop at 
each winning home to sing songs and hand out cookies and hot chocolate. 

Those interested in taking part in the caroling group should meet at the Parson building in the center of Dickinson Square Park at 6:30 pm.

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What's Happening in:  East Passyunk Crossing :  Passyunk Square 

2018 East Passyunk Avenue Tree Lighting

On Thursday, November 29 from 5 to 7 p.m. the East Passyunk Avenue Business Improvement District (EPABID) and Passyunk Avenue Revitalization Corporation (PARC) will host the annual tree lighting party at the Singing Fountain, Tasker St. and East Passyunk Avenue. The event is free and families are welcome.
The celebration will include live music, carolers, holiday treats from Avenue businesses, shopping, and a visit from Santa Claus.

The 2017 tree at the Singing Fountain. Photo courtesy East Passyunk BID.

“We’re very excited to have CBS 3 joining to us to emcee the event once again,” said Adam Leiter, executive director of EPABID, “along with our neighborhood youth from Alphabet Academy and the Andrew Jackson School’s HOME Band to ring in the season with festive performances. Meteorologist Lauren Casey will collect unwrapped toys for the Toy Fest holiday toy drive sponsored by CBS 3 and CW Philly 57.”
After the party, revelers can strut down the Avenue with the Pennsport String Band for extended shopping hours as the Deck the Ave campaign kicks off with shopping, sales, and other festivities which will run through December.
“The tree lighting began in 2011 as a way to celebrate with the neighborhood in partnership with PARC, EPABID, East Passyunk Crossing Civic Association and Passyunk Square Civic Association,” said Leiter. “Originally it brought the neighborhood together around a decorated “tree” version of the Singing Fountain, though this will be the second year we will decorate a live tree at the fountain area.”
According to Bryan Fenstermaker, executive director of PARC, this year’s tree will be a 16-foot Frasier Fir born-and-raised in North Carolina. Urban Jungle at 1526 East Passyunk will deliver the tree on November 21. PARC hires John McClenny of Yes Dear! to install the lights and decorations in the days leading up to the event.
“The transition from the tree over the Singing Fountain to the stand-alone live tree has received positive feedback,” says Fenstermaker. “It’s a welcome change for our diligent cleaning crew. The old tree left lots of needles inside the fountain and caused the potential for drainage issues in the spring. It’s now much easier to keep the fountain clean during the holiday season.”
Fenstermaker says he’s gained experience in maintaining an outdoor tree in the past years. “At home you don’t have to tether ornaments to the tree, or keep dogs from using it as a bathroom post. In the wild it’s one thing, but we don’t want it to happen at this gathering spot.”
You can donate $10 to the CBS 3 and CW 57 Philly Toy Fest toy drive by texting JOY to 41444. EPABID and PARC would also like to thank their sponsor, Univest.

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Sermania Jewelry: A Gem on the Avenue

By CT Liotta

Artisan jeweler Joseph Sermania, wearing magnifying glasses flipped to his forehead, turns to his wife, Janice. They stand in their small jewelry store at 1719 E. Passyunk Avenue and try to complete an impossible task: recalling the most memorable experience they’ve had since setting up shop 14 years ago.

“I’ll give you one,” Joe grins. “There was a guy who was shopping at the men’s clothing store next door. His wedding was that day, and he was finally buying his suit. When he finished, he came to me and asked, ‘do you sell wedding bands?’”

“Wasn’t he a size 13?” Janice added.

One gets the impression that Joe and Janice could tell a story for every week they’ve been in business, bouncing memories off one another as they recall names and projects and dates.

The storefront is intimate. Small cabinets house curated collections of rings, necklaces and bracelets. Behind the sales counter is Joe’s bench, where customers can watch him fire his torch and perform delicate, precise work.

Joe Sermania at work. Courtesy Sermania Jewelry.

In 1981, when Joe was 24, he opened his first business on Jewelers Row. He had watched, worked with, and learned from master jewelers—including his older brother Sal—since age 11. He already had 13 years of experience to his name. “I don’t think I ever told my kids, but when I was a student at St. John Neumann, I’d arrange my schedule so I could finish class early and go work in the afternoon.”

Janice Sermania, a self-declared “Goretti Girl”, married Joe a year earlier, in 1980. While their children were in school, Janice would string beads and pearls and show jewelry at home. “In those days, we’d bring jewelry to people’s houses and do shows,” she added. “They’d cold call us, and we’d show up with gold at their dining room tables.” Continue Reading →

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What's Happening in:  Pennsport 

Mifflin Tavern – a place for everybody

Two years ago, IBEW Local 98 boss John Dougherty sold his bar, Doc’s Union Pub, on 2nd and Mifflin Streets. New owners Bill McKeever and Anthony Giordano re-branded it the Mifflin Tavern. In August, the Lamplugh family – brothers Russell and Joe and wives Megan and Kelli – took over daily operations.

The Mifflin Tavern burger.

“Walk with me while I talk,” says manager Russell, a high-energy GenX-er who grew up only a few blocks from the bar. He shows off new furnishings, distressed wood fixtures, and a lighter, brighter atmosphere. He also stresses the singular word that defines the new Mifflin Tavern: “Everybody.”

Blackened Tuna Bites with spicy remoulade and seaweed salad.

Prosciutto Fondue Fries.

It’s tough not to enjoy Russell’s tour. He’s smart but humble. He talks fast but speaks carefully. He hates any label that may exclude somebody from feeling welcome. The Mifflin Tavern is a place for everybody, past and present, in a dynamic neighborhood.

“I don’t care if you’re 25 or older than 60. We want our level of service to make you feel appreciated. You can see it when you look at the menu,” he says. “If you want a burger and a domestic bottle at an economical price, we’ve got you. We also have ten craft brews on tap from smaller local breweries.”

Buffalo chicken tenders. Made in house.

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