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What's Happening in:  South Broad Street 

How Sweet It Is: Four Generations of Chocolatiers in South Philly

We enjoy bringing you news about the latest restaurants and retail “opening soon” across South Philly.  In “Old School Spotlight” we take a look at a business that’s been around a while but is still vibrant and ready to serve you.  


John Lerro Candy has been satisfying South Philadelphia’s sweet tooth for more than 100 years from their shop at 2434 South Broad Street. The family-owned and operated business sells chocolate in many and varied forms. There are milk and dark chocolate-covered butter creams, caramels, jellies, nut clusters, pretzels, sponges and bark. From fruit to nuts it’s here, freshly hand-dipped in chocolate – and preservative free to boot! You’ll also find chocolate novelties such as the letters of the alphabet (spell your sweetheart’s name in chocolate!) and mini-baby carriages (baby shower gift!).

Founder Giovanni (John) Lerro arrived in America in 1900. He learned candy making while working at Willow Grove Park north of Philadelphia. With his savings, he traveled back to Italy and later returned to America with a new bride, Anna. By 1912 the newlyweds were selling homemade candy and ice cream at 15th and Shunk streets. Anna coated every chocolate by hand.

They opened the Broad Street shop in 1916. A movie theater located nearby created a brisk ice cream business. With the rise of supermarket ice cream, the shop switched to selling candy exclusively in 1960. By that time production had been moved out of the shop to a facility in Darby, PA.

Pasquale Lerro (far right) stands with friends outside the store, circa 1930. Pasquale took over the business from his father, Giovanni (aka John). Courtesy of the Lerro family.

For four generations the family has proudly passed down chocolate recipes as well as first names. John the founder named his son Pasquale. Pasquale named his son John, and John named his son John Pasquale. Anna is named after her grandmother, Giovanni’s wife.

The business is truly a family affair. Carmela and daughter Anna operate the Broad Street shop. Father-and-son John and John Pasquale run the chocolate production in Darby. Carmella’s daughter Patricia and son Michael help with the business during busy seasons.

Carmela, née Pietrolungo, began working as a sales clerk at the shop in 1943. Five years later she married Giovanni’s son Pasquale. She has worked in the shop, and lived above it, ever since. “She’s 89 years old and she’s been working the same job for 70 years,” marveled grandson John Pasquale. Asked if she plans to retire Carmella emphatically exclaims, “Never!”

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Three generations of Lerro family members: matriarch Carmella (Pietrolungo) Lerro, seated, flanked by daughter Anna and grandson John Pasquale.

 

John Pasquale, 28,  a graduate of Penn’s Wharton School, is proud to be carrying the company into its fourth generation, “My utmost desire in this business is to uphold the values that were instilled in me by my father and my grandfather before him.” Everything in the shop, proudly referred to as “Our Own Make,” is made fresh to order without preservatives. “We don’t skimp on ingredients, and we always use high quality ingredients,” John Pasquale stressed. His future plans include wholesale distribution of the company’s chocolate novelties.

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What's Happening in:  All over South Philly 

Calling all ‘newsy’ people!

Readers!

  • Do you peer behind the paper covering shop windows to see what’s going on?
  • Do you read the fine print on work permits to decipher what might be coming next to an empty space?
  • Do you step into open doorways when a place is under construction to see what you can see?

If you answered ‘yes’ to one of more of these questions…then you’re “newsy”! That’s what long-time South Philadelphians call someone who’s trying to keep up on the latest scoop, but not necessarily in a negative, gossipy way.

We here at Passyunk Post LOVE newsy people. We love it even more when newsy people SHARE their news with us so we can share it with everyone.

We can’t be everywhere. But YOU can be our eyes and ears on the street! Here’s the news we hope you’ll share with us:

  • restaurant and retail comings & goings
  • photos of building permits or zoning notices
  • new development rumors you’d like to confirm (or squash)

Send everything to: tips@passyunkpost.com.

If you’d like to contribute by writing a piece for us, or if you have ideas for a story or regular ‘column,’ please send an email to editor@passyunkpost.com

We look forward to hearing from you!

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What's Happening in:  Whitman 

Lipkin’s Bakery returns to South Philly

by Sandy Smith

When the Lipkin family started their kosher bakery at Fourth and McKean streets many decades ago, the neighborhood surrounding it was 90 percent Jewish.

Photo from www.lipkinsoriginalbakery.com

By the time Mitch Lipkin moved it to Northeast Philly’s Rhawnhurst section in 1975, most of those Jews had moved elsewhere.

“I think Mitch figured that only Jews would eat their products, so he moved it up to the Northeast, which was heavily Jewish then,” said Lipkin’s current owner, Steven Nawalany.

Nawalany had been a Lipkin’s customer for 50 years, and he liked it so much, he bought it from Mitch in 2016. Now he’s returning the bakery to its South Philly roots because he discovered to his delight that Mitch Lipkin was wrong: you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy kosher baked goods.

 Lipkin’s return to South Philly, with a retail store at 2153 S. Hancock St., has generated an enthusiastic response from the bakery’s many fans, Jewish and otherwise, and it hasn’t even opened yet. Nawalany is awaiting final inspection from the Health Department and expects to open the store’s doors in the next few weeks.

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What's Happening in:  East Passyunk Crossing 

A new taste of old South Philly

Junior’s Beef & Pork set for grand opening on April 29.

By CT Liotta

Stepping into Junior’s Beef & Pork, 1840 E Passyunk Ave, something feels different. On an Avenue revitalized with swanky eateries run by top-tier chefs, Stephanie and Gino DeJesse, and their son Gino, are keeping a foot in Passyunk Avenue’s Italian past.

Gino DeJesse and his mother Stephanie DeJesse outside their East Passyunk Avenue shop which opens Friday.

 

You won’t find the cigarette smoke and sticky-floor feeling of a classic South Philly roast-beef-and-pork den – but the food will be old-school fresh. In a colorful dining area behind an inviting storefront, Gino points out the newness of the kitchen. “There’s no range hood. There doesn’t have to be because there’s no grill. We serve everything the old way, from a steam table.”

Stephanie adds, “we use old recipes, like our grandparents used. The sausage, peppers and onions taste like what grandma used to make.”

The old-style food will meet the younger Gino’s abilities to stay current. “We’re working with Grubhub and Uber eats, and should be up and running with them soon. We’ll take plastic, because most people don’t carry cash. We’ll also sell and deliver beef and pork by the pound, for people who want it.”

The ingredients are remarkably fresh, with daily deliveries from Liscio’s bakery and pork from Esposito’s. “We want to attract a crowd of both old and new people on the Avenue,” says Stephanie. The classic South Philly menu includes roast beef and pork, meatballs, sausage, long hots and sharp provolone, but also newer vegetarian options – salads, and an eggplant sandwich with roasted peppers, rabe and sharp provolone.

Both mother and son are especially excited about the Caesar dressing. “It’s my husband Gino’s secret recipe,” said Stephanie. “People rave about it. We may sell the dressing by itself.” The elder Gino also oversees the meatballs. The younger Gino is responsible for one of the most popular menu items. “The chicken parm fries were something I made up one night. They became a hit, and now they’re on the menu. Fries, tomato gravy, cheese, and chicken parm.”

The DeJesse family, from 11th and Moore Streets, has been in the catering business for 20 years. In 2017, they opened the first Junior’s Beef & Pork in North Wildwood, New Jersey. It’s named after Stephanie’s father, who passed away in 1997 and whose silhouette has become part of the signage and brand. “It’s in honor of him,” said Stephanie. “He brings us good luck.”

The shop will open on Friday, April 27 and hold its grand opening on Sunday, April 29.

http://www.juniorsbeefandpork.com/

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What's Happening in:  All over South Philly 

Meet the Publisher

Joseph F. Marino, Passyunk Post Publisher

Joseph F. Marino is the new publisher of the Passyunk Post. We took a few minutes to speak with him about his role and hopes for the website and its associated social media. 

What prompted you to purchase the Post?

I always believed that there was a great value in the timely information provided by the Passyunk Post. However, I also wanted it to have a wider focus for all of South Philadelphia’s neighbors – old and new. When I learned it was for sale, I checked with my friends and professional advisers. Everyone felt I was the perfect person to move the Post in that direction.

What are your plans for the Post?

When the Post was conceived in 2012 its principal focus was the East Passyunk corridor and its adjacent neighborhoods. Gradually, the  coverage area expanded. Our focus is now all of South Philadelphia south of South Street, from river to river. Although my home is in East Passyunk, I’ve been fortunate to be active in the Whitman and Packer Park neighborhoods. Through my work organizing the civic associations of South Philadelphia I’ve come to know people from every corner of our wonderful neighborhoods. I hope to use these connections to create a rich source of information for all residents. I want the news we offer to increase people’s connectedness to the neighborhood and improve their quality of life.

What will your role be at the Post, and what do you bring to the website?

While I’ll be the public ‘face’ of Passyunk Post, the ‘voice’ of the website, and its social media, will be the editors, reporters, and contributors.

I see myself as a great connector. I want to leverage my relationships with business owners, clergy, civic, and political leaders to connect neighbors to information and events that will keep them well-informed.  

I also want to connect reporters to stories, and connect residents to some of the finest businesses, restaurants, individuals and nonprofits in the city…if not in the country! Continue Reading →

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What's Happening in:  All over South Philly 

It’s been a while…

We’re happy to report (pun intended) that the Passyunk Post has returned.  And, boy, do we have a lot to tell you!

We’re re-establishing our crack team of reporters to connect you with the latest news on developments, real estate, restaurants, events and other news from across South Philadelphia.

We plan to bring you some new features and introduce some fresh voices from our diverse communities in the weeks ahead.

Please spread the word that we’re back.  Share a link to one of our stories, give folks a heads-up on Twitter and Facebook, tell your friends and neighbors.

If you’ve got a tip for us, are interested in reporting, or have a burning question about a new business, project or issue, please email:  punk@passyunkpost.com, and we’ll be sure to get back to you.

Excelsior!

 

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