Cucina Maria continues legacy of originator, with protégé at the helm

SOUTH PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Chef Maria Forte grew up in Italy, where her mother had a restaurant for years.

In Philly, she was a fixture on the Italian restaurant scene, opening a few noted spots before retiring during the pandemic with Cucina Forte in Bella Vista.

At every stop along the way, Mexican immigrant Juana Franco was with her, for more than 20 years - starting as a dishwasher, then becoming a cook, and eventually running the kitchen.

When Maria left Cucina Forte, Franco bought the restaurant from her and changed the name to Cucina Maria.

Today, Franco continues to cook the classic Italian dishes she learned under the tutelage of Maria, and says she is excited to be moving into the next phase as owner-chef.

Cucina Maria owner-chef Juana Franco with her culinary creations, and husband Angel Ayala.

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768 S. 8th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19148
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