The loss of 'a fixture': Ralph's Italian Restaurant restaurateur dies at 93

Ralph's on South 9th Street has been in operation since 1900 and is America's oldest Italian restaurant.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2022
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He spent over 75 years in the family business.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Ralph Dispigno Jr., the patriarch of a well-known, classic Philadelphia restaurant, has died at the age of 93.

Ralph's Italian Restaurant shared the news of its owner's passing on social media earlier this week.

"It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Ralph Dispigno Jr, or as we called him, Uncle Ralphie. Named after his father Rafael for whom the restaurant was named, Ralph Jr. spent the vast majority of his 93 years on this earth inside the walls of the restaurant, for years working seven days a week," the post read.

Dispigno passed away Saturday. He spent over 75 years in the family business.

"An incessant jokester, Ralph was always smiling. Known for his gentle teasing, he was almost never serious. His devotion to Ralph's is unparalleled as he truly loved it, and everyone inside loved him," the restaurant's post said.

Ralph's on South 9th Street has been in operation since 1900 and is America's oldest Italian restaurant.

"Ralph was a fixture here, typically found in the kitchen shucking clams or visiting with beloved friends in the service bar. To have known him was to love him. And if you were ever fortunate enough to have met him, you just know," the post said.

The restaurant said Dispigno was a dedicated family man and gifted musician. He loved playing the saxophone, flute and clarinet in his youth.

"Ralph is predeceased by his lovely wife Mildred, and is survived by his daughter Karen and her husband Doug, and their beautiful daughter Courtney whom Ralph cherished with all his heart. He will be greatly missed," the post said.