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Tag Archives | Old School Spotlight

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:  Lower Moyamensing 

Old School Spotlight: Checking in on LoMo’s tomato pie treasures

NOTE: We at the Passyunk Post focus almost exclusively on what’s new in the neighborhood, but South Philly wouldn’t be such a great place if it weren’t for all that came before that. For that reason, we’ve decided to launch the Old School Spotlight, an occasional feature in which we demystify some of those places that have been around forever. Want to nominate a place for an Old School Spotlight? Email us at punk@passyunkpost.com.

Pic from Plan Philly's Eyes on the Street

Pic from Plan Philly’s Eyes on the Street

For this Old School Spotlight, we rely on the curious, helpful folks over at Plan Philly’s blog Eyes on the Street, which checked in last week with two of Lower Moyamensing’s tomato pie gems, New York Italian Style Bakery and Villari Brothers Bakery.

New York Italian Style Bakery and Villari Brothers Bakery are two classic Italian bakeries specializing in fresh breads and delectable tomato pie. Despite decades of neighborhood change and shifts in shopping habits and food production, both bakeries manage to anchor their respective corners by catering to locals and longtime customers drawn back to the old neighborhood for tastes of their past.

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What's Happening in:  East Passyunk Crossing 

Old School Spotlight: Mancuso & Son Cheese Importers on Passyunk

NOTE: We at the Passyunk Post focus almost exclusively on what’s new in the neighborhood, but South Philly wouldn’t be such a great place if it weren’t for all that came before that. For that reason, we’ve decided to launch the Old School Spotlight, an occasional feature in which we demystify some of those places that have been around forever. Want to nominate a place for an Old School Spotlight? Email us at punk@passyunkpost.com.

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Across the street from Adobe, Le Virtu, Fuel and Noir hides a little mom-and-pop store that most people don’t notice, despite that it’s been open for 70 years.

Lucio Mancuso & Son (1902 E. Passyunk) makes their own cheese (we got a delicious sampling of ricotta, mozzarella and baked mozzarella on our visit) and stocks a large array of imported items from Italy. The store is packed to the gills with coffee, biscotti, olives, bread, meats, olive oil and pasta. And the cheese is top quality.

Basically, we’re saying you don’t necessarily have to schlep up to DiBruno Bros. We got this.

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What's Happening in:  Queen Village 

Old School Spotlight: Famous Fourth Street Deli

NOTE: We at the Passyunk Post focus almost exclusively on what’s new in the neighborhood, but South Philly wouldn’t be such a great place if it weren’t for all that came before it. For that reason, we’ve decided to launch the Old School Spotlight, an occasional feature in which we demystify some of those places that have been around forever. Want to nominate a place for an Old School Spotlight? Email us at punk@passyunkpost.com.

It’s easy to forget that amid all the Italian, Mexican, New American, and even Nordic (soon) restaurants around here, we also have one amazing New York-style deli, the Famous Fourth Street Delicatessen, which has been serving  Jewish delicacies at the corner of 4th and Bainbridge since 1923. They serve sandwiches in two sizes: regular and zaftig. Zaftig is a Yiddish word  that means “bigger than your head”*.

We can attest to the deliciousness of the food (especially the potato latkes), the generous portions and the complimentary pickle bowl that is bestowed on each table. And don’t forget the warm chocolate chip cookies you get with your bill!

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