Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

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Singing Waiters


There was a time when the Victor Talking Machine Company in Camden had not been absorbed by RCA, and so there was a Victor Records Store in South Philadelphia, run by the Di Stefano family. In 1933 after Prohibition was repealed, the record store obtained a liquor license and became Victor's Cafe. Nobody named Victor has ever worked there, and ownership has remained in the hands of the DiStefano's. The record store used to be filled with the sound of operatic arias, and now the Cafe continues with opera-singing waiters. They are susceptible to requests for favorite arias, but they also spontaneously break into song when pauses in the demands of customers give them moments of rest. The walls of Victor's Cafe are covered with autographed photos of operatic visitors; the bartender is particularly proud that Pavarotti visited there, twice. The Italian food served there is quite good, and moderately priced; the Chianti wine comes in minimum-size two quart bottles.

This isn't an advertisement, it's a review. But there is really lots of fun in trying out what is essentially a South Philadelphia hangout at 13th and Dickinson. It's Italian, all right, but it is also a Philadelphia tradition.

Originally published: Wednesday, May 20, 2009; most-recently modified: Wednesday, June 05, 2019