John's Roast Pork

June 13, 2011 1:35:10 PM PDT
Alicia Vitarelli is on the hunt for family food stories, where the tastes and scents haven't changed since the day the doors opened.

The latest search lands us at a South Philadelphia staple. In 81 years, one recipe has reigned at John's Roast Pork on Snyder Avenue, where the best seller still sizzles like it did in 1930.

The secret recipe? It's sealed as tight as the crispy skin guarding the juicy meat.

"This is my grandfather's recipe," says John Bucci, Jr. "It hasn't changed since 1930."

Today only 3 people know the recipe: John, his mom Vonda, and his niece Bethany.

"When my dad showed me he said, 'I don't care how drunk you are, I don't care how in love you are, don't ever give this recipe away.'"

Today he roasts 40 hundred-pounders in a week; 4 hours low and slow. People drive for miles to sink in their teeth.

When the Action News crew recorded this report, a man came from Rhode Island to try one!

The lines wrap around the door for the house specialty: Roast pork smothered with spinach (Bucci says broccoli rabe is too bitter for his taste), packed with provolone, snuggled in a scooped out, seeded roll, and ladled with a spoon of liquid gold.

The sandwich is such a stand-out, it earned the Buccis the big guy, the distinguished and prestigious James Beard Award.

"It is the Oscars of the culinary arts," says Bucci. "I had Emeril Lagasse on one side, Tom Colicchio on the other and I was like, 'I'm just a sandwich maker from Philadelphia!'"

If you're thinking about checking it out, you must know that John's Roast Pork is open only Monday through Friday from 6:45 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. That's it. John says while he's heard the moans and groans from folks looking for their pork fix, he says he nurtures his business like a newborn baby and insists a member of the family be in the kitchen at all times.

John's Roast Pork
14 E. Snyder Avenue (across from Snyder Plaza)
(215) 463-1951