May 29, 2024 - Food and Drink

Philadelphia's newest Italian restaurant is hidden inside a gelato shop

A sign that says "Vita" hanging above the Rittenhouse Square gelato shop.

Vita gelato shop in Rittenhouse Square. Photo: Courtesy of Lauren DeSouza

Rittenhouse Square gelato shop Vita is opening a secret Italian restaurant this Thursday, hidden behind its red refrigerator door.

Why it matters: The debut is one of the hottest tickets in Philadelphia's red-hot dining scene.

State of play: After opening the gelateria last fall, co-owners and college sweethearts Ana and Massimo Boni started quietly expanding their shop to a full-service restaurant (take a peek at some menu items via their Instagram account @morebehindthedoor).

  • Reservations are already booked through the end of June.

Between the lines: The couple told the Business Journal that opening the gelato shop first allowed them to make money and cultivate a loyal base of customers while they built out the 100-seat dining room and bar.

What to expect: The menu includes house-made pastas, drinks and an all-Italian wine list.

  • Prices range from $8-$18 for starters to $32-$42 for entrees.
A Ferrari red door that says "Vita" that leads to the hidden restaurant inside the gelato shop.
Take a peek behind the red door. Photo: Courtesy of Lauren DeSouza

The intrigue: Massimo is a former engineer and construction manager who did a "career 180" and enrolled in culinary school during the pandemic, per the Inquirer.

  • Ana conceived the "gelato speakeasy" concept, but dozens of banks turned them down before they finally secured a loan for 261 S. 17th Street, the former home of Branzino Italian Ristorante.

What they're saying: The restaurant bills itself as "life's best kept secret," and the couple have held true to their word.

  • They haven't allowed the bar and dining room to be photographed before it opens, and diners invited to a preview dinner must switch off their phones.

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