A lovely young couple just launched their dream business – an homage to the traditional Napoli “Bar,” and a tribute to their Sicilian heritage.
The accepted definition of a “bar” in Philly is very different than in Naples, Italy. What we call a café or coffee shop here is called a “bar” in Italy. Most are nameless, family-run establishments that hang a sign and call it a day. For context, Gran Caffe L’Aquila was the closest thing Rittenhouse had to an Italian bar, and we were lucky to have it. Lucky for us, we’re getting more options.
This past week Vita Philly opened up on 17th Street between Latimer and Spruce, just south of Black Sheep, in the former Branzino restaurant space. While new to us, this beautiful new venue was the result of a meticulous plan 2 years in the making for Massimo and Ana Boni, a young couple who met while attending NYU Tandon School of Engineering.
As a former New Yorker, I’ve always been intrigued about what attracts other people to Philly. My husband and I moved here because of the proximity to our extended family, and since arriving, we have fallen in love with our new home. Since Massimo is from Naples and Ana is from Venezuela, I had to ask.
Massimo explained, “I’ve always loved Philly as it has a lot of similarities to Naples, where I was born. Like Naples, Philly is a passionate community with a love of sports. My wife and I lived in New York for 10 years, which gave me a good perspective in terms of what is important in life – and that was community. I’ve strived to find a way to make a meaningful contribution to the community and I hope that way is through the joy of sharing my love of authentic Italian desserts.”
The Bonis named the cafe after someone who has been his inspiration throughout his life: Massimo’s sister, Vittoria, whose nickname was Vita. He explained that the name Vita means life, and in their estimation, a good dessert is crucial for a good life. They had found the perfect moniker for their dream.
Like the ingredients to a great life, variety is a crucial component, and Vita offers a wide variety of gelato and sorbet flavors and textures. What makes them unique? Each one is made in-house DAILY, and their unwavering focus on pure, natural, and fresh ingredients makes each option rich, vibrant, and extraordinary in its own right. Combining these into creations of your own imagination takes the potential experiences to even another level.
The Bonis have spent their time building a team that shares their obsession and commitment to quality. “Our gelato maker, Matthew, is incredibly passionate about gelato. He comes in every day at 5 a.m. to craft our daily offerings carefully. He only uses natural ingredients and the least amount of sugar possible. He also loves to experiment, so you may see our gelato flavors change. Especially once we get the liquor license!”
The gelato and sorbet are available in cones and cups, and they even offer an edible spoon, which, I have to admit, is a new one for me, but can only add to the potential culinary experience.
Vita’s cafe and site feature baby angels, where one is holding a gelato spoon and the other a cocktail glass. Fun fact: Vita is waiting on their liquor license which will allow them to offer liquor-infused gelato and Italian cocktails.
For those who are craving a non-cold dessert, Vita’s also offers a selection of cookies, pastries, and personal cakes from Isgro’s. Which saves you a trip down to South Philly.
Vita’s also offers an assortment of caffeinated drinks and will have a high-top akin to those you see in Italy, very soon. For those who don’t know, Italians drink their coffee standing at a high top table and then go about their day.
The Bonis’ quest to launch Vita took 2 years and is still ongoing, because…it’s complicated.
“Honestly, I thought the hardest part was navigating the Small Business Administration. I like to think positive thoughts because I believe in having a positive culture and making sure I treat everybody with respect. However, getting a liquor license here has been a journey. And building permits. Oh, and the parking? Don’t get me started on the PPA.”
“So things took a bit longer than expected, but I obviously understand and I try not to be negative about the things that I can’t control. Because there’s always going to be those things, right?”
“I also never saw myself owning a business, or being an entrepreneur. But I’m so happy to be here. Life is about enjoying the highs and celebrating the little things. And this is something I’m still working on, personally.”
Honestly, truer words have never been spoken. The gelato flavors will rotate so be sure to check in with Vita regularly. Because you’re never going to find when you’re leading the good life.
Follow Vita on Instagram for updates here.