By Phyllis Stein-Novack

Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 9 | Posted Nov. 29, 2012

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Salvatore and Chiarina Marra emigrated from Naples, Italy in 1920 and opened their East Passyunk staple seven years later.

Photo by Greg Bezanis

Two weeks after Edward and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary, we hosted our first Thanksgiving dinner. I did all of the cooking myself. 

We started a new tradition the night before. Edward and I set two tables and went to Freddy’s for pizza. To this day, I never cook the night before Thanksgiving. And the only comfort food I crave is pizza.

Freddy was an affable Hungarian who regaled us with stories of the Hungarian revolution and Hungarian food and wine. Although Freddy’s was a BYOB, he would always offer us a glass of white Hungarian wine. Frank, an Italian-American, was in charge of the kitchen. He baked marvelous pizza. 

Freddy and his wife married on Nov. 22, 1963, the day President Kennedy was assassinated. They thought about calling off the small, intimate ceremony, but decided some joy had to be celebrated before the next three dark days. 

After Freddy retired, we sought a new place for our Thanksgiving-Eve pizza. To this day, I don’t recall how we discovered Marra’s on East Passyunk Avenue, but it became our go-to spot for pizza and Italian-American fare.

“Let’s go to Marra’s,” I said to Edward. 

I instantly knew a floodgate of memories would overcome me because I associate Marra’s with years gone by. My mother loved its pizza.

The host showed us to a table by the window. Our server, the great granddaughter of the owners, offered us a sip of house pinot grigio, served in a wine glass straight out of the 1960s, before we told her it was tasty and ordered a half carafe ($13). We also received a loaf of Sarcone’s seeded bread. It was not crusty enough and the interior was cottony. But this is old world Italian-American food and there is nothing wrong with it.

We noticed two gentlemen tucking into a small antipasto. It was called antipasto rustico ($11) and some would find it ordinary, but this is what I wanted at Marra’s. The plate contained a bed of cold iceberg lettuce dressed in olive oil, some olives, a few tiny cubes of sharp provolone, a few thin strips of salami and roasted peppers.

“Remember that table over there?,” Edward asked as he nodded to a table for four a little bit away. “That’s when Berthe said she loved anchovies and we ordered a big anchovy pizza. It was much too much and realized a few anchovies with other ingredients would not make the pie as salty.”

We ordered mussels in white sauce ($10.50), which were very sandy and gritty. Another order arrived a bit better. The sauce needs pep like white wine, garlic, onions, hot pepper flakes, but this is how Marra’s has been making mussels for decades.

A small Margarita pizza ($8.50) was on order. Although I found the tomato sauce a bit sweet, it was fresh tasting and homemade. Small rounds of mozzarella topped the pie, along with a few basil leaves. Marra’s makes a thin-crust pie, so I was quite content.

I thought about all of the years spent at Marra’s on past Thanksgiving Eves. My younger niece sprung to mind. She lived with us on and off for a number of years and loved Marra’s pizza. She now lives in Idaho and was not here for Thanksgiving. Her older sister, who lives in northern Virginia, loved it too. 

During dinner and the ride home, Edward and I talked about those early Thanksgiving years of our marriage. My mom and his parents were at the table with us that first year. It is yet a memory, just like our first dinner at Marra’s.

Two tips of the toque to Marra’s.


1734 E. Passyunk Ave. 


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Comments 1 - 9 of 9
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1. ?? said... on Nov 29, 2012 at 02:05PM

“Why are you telling us where your nieces live? Why why why why why”

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2. ReallyNow? said... on Nov 29, 2012 at 04:44PM

“Someone please shoot Phyllis and her merry band of drunkards and put them out of their misery (and ours). Thank you.”

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3. Fred Goldstein said... on Nov 29, 2012 at 07:09PM

“This place needs a much more thorough review. First of all, there's a Sunset Menu where you can get one of many specials for $12.95, including soup or salad. The ravioli in blush sauce and the thin spaghetti in crab sauce are excellent. I can't wait to return and try the others. Second of all, the decor was barely mentioned. I happen to love the wooden booths in the front room and the overall Old World feeling. Third, the house Chianti wine and the very authentic pepper-laden Italian salad merit comment. I happen to love their bread and always take the remaining pieces home.

I know their specialty is pizza, but please review the rest of the entree options.”

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4. John McKenna said... on Nov 29, 2012 at 09:48PM

“Phyllis, thank you for the review. Unfortunately my wife and I have not been to Marra's for many years. According to the photo, the outside has changed but back in the day after we were married in '55 we would spend every Friday night at Marra's for a plain pizza. No meat on Fridays. I am looking forward to returning after seeing your review. Thanks. John McKenna 23rd&Snyder.

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5. Anonymous said... on Nov 30, 2012 at 04:20PM

“Thanks for spending 4 paragraphs of your review telling me more than i ever wanted to know about Freddy the Hungarian and another paragraph telling me about when cousin Berthe said she loved anchovies. How about an actual review of Marras?? And how about a recommendation that actually matches the comments?? I'm not sure how Marra's scored two tips of the toque when the bread was "cottony", the mussels were "sandy and gritty" and had to be returned and the sauce needed "pep", and the sauce on the pizza was too sweet. Based on the review, it sounds like the food was subpar to me.”

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6. George Soros said... on Dec 2, 2012 at 02:06PM

“I wonder if this Freddy's was the BYOB place in the basement just north of Chestnut Street on a numbered street (20th? 21st?). All I remember is that Freddy had a "foreign" accent and made WONDERFUL lasagne with sausage and egg among other ingredients. He reportedly retired to Florida some years ago and I miss his place terribly.”

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7. Ann said... on Dec 4, 2012 at 12:24PM

“I have always enjoyed the food at Marra,s and so glad to read this review.

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8. Luke Varga said... on Dec 5, 2012 at 06:33AM

“C'mon, Phyllis, Marra's rocks... best pie in south philly, old school all the way and always consistent. Sorry your old school memories left a bad taste in your mouth! A sucky review/reminiscience, yet still reading you for the entertainment value, for five years , jajajajajaja!”

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9. Anonymous said... on Dec 6, 2012 at 03:05PM

“Mara's sucks, just ask Craig LaBan.”


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