Salvatore Virgi’s restaurant is thriving at its new Bella Vista location thanks to a wide array of pizza and pasta selections, and much more.
Hard times, in part goes a quote by author G. Michael Hopf, make strong men. Owing to the pandemic, difficult days transformed Salvatore Virgi from a polished pizza maker into someone eager to give patrons numerous options. Having moved his brainchild O Sole Mio from Third and Catharine streets to its new 824 S. Eighth St. home in April, the proprietor has built on the last two years of survival instincts and a lifetime of passion for food to make his site a thriving spot.
“I love to serve people, I love to cook, and I love to create fresh food,” the Northeast Philly resident said of his three-part creed as a businessman. “I put them together to be the best that I can because I’m fortunate to have this as my passion.”
The Naples-born and South Philly-bred connoisseur has helmed O Sole Mio since 2017, making to-die-for pizzas his initial endeavor. A brick oven cranks out those goodies along with burgers, pasta dishes, seafood selections, strombolis, calzones, wings, paninis, veal creations, hoagies, chicken entrees, and sandwiches. The 100-seat haven is reaffirming a culinary identity that Virgi has honed for the last three decades.
“I’ve been making pizzas for 30 years,” he proudly said. “There’s just something about putting my all into them that makes me happy.”
Red and white choices have made those delights a constant at O Sole Mio, but Virgi, who first tried his hand at winning South Philly dwellers’ favor by overseeing Salvatore’s at 10th and Tasker streets, eagerly lets the other items grab their share of the limelight. Thirty, yes, 30, pizzas are available, with the owner touting the margherita, buffalo margherita, spicy diavolo, and crab diablo offerings.
“As you can tell by that number, pizza is still important to us, but it’s not everything that I am,” Virgi, particularly giddy over his brick oven’s efficiency, said, adding how popular pairing pasta with seafood has become, with special praise going to salmon alla puttanesca, linguine and calamari in marinara, and Tuscany fettuccine that calls on shrimp to be the star.
As the spring has unfolded, the overseer has welcomed many of the customers from O Sole Mio’s old stomping grounds, which he had simply outgrown, and has acquainted himself with other guests who have been very receptive to the stacked menu.
Given the location’s size, Virgi is generating interest in holding gatherings and celebrations there and has also started to fill the calendar with events, such as the celebration this Saturday, June 4, 2022 from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. in recognition of National Cheese Day.
“I learned very early on about the importance [of making good food],” he said. “If you come here, you’ll get a family feel and fresh ingredients that are going to make you happy when you see how we put them together.”