I’ve mentioned many times that I regularly check in on Facebook’s cheesesteak boards for tips on where to find good ones. Since I began doing that in 2021 there has been a distinct pattern of a new steak shop – or at least new to the attention of most of the boards’ members – creating a tremendous amount of buzz and becoming the in-place to try roughly every 4-6 months.
Going back to some time during this past autumn, the hot spot was Gazzos, which I raved about in a January post. More recently, Loretta’s Cafe in Bristol, PA, has begun to draw that spotlight.
My wife and I had plans to visit an old-school luncheonette in Philly’s western burbs Sunday. But when I saw yet another in a series of raves with great-looking photos of a Loretta’s steak on Facebook Saturday, I felt a sudden need to get there sooner rather than later and called an audible for the following day. On top of being extremely eager to try that cheesesteak, I thought my wife might enjoy Loretta’s more than the place we had planned to visit.
The restaurant, which opened this past summer, is on Bristol’s beautiful little downtown strip and only a block or two away from the Delaware River in Bucks County. We’ll be back there next week to meet up for lunch with friends at a historic inn that I’ll be reporting on.
Loretta’s has the atmosphere of a coffee shop along with a nice array of sweets behind the ordering counter. But while there are plenty of cafes with pastries all over the area, not many of them offer South Philly-style Italian sandwiches on semolina rolls delivered daily from New York City.
I went with my usual cheesesteak with fried onions. It came on a seeded roll with Cooper Sharp cheese by default. My wife ventured off the printed menu and ordered the special sandwich of the day, “The Carbone,” which featured a spicy chicken cutlet with vodka sauce, cherry peppers, long hots and Mozzarella on the same seeded roll.
After ordering we grabbed cans of soda out of their refrigerated case and settled at a corner table. The wait for our sandwiches to arrive was a fairly short one. Both were extremely impressive to behold.
My wife seemed extremely pleased with her special from a taste standpoint as well. I forget her exact words, but she made it very clear that she had no regrets about ordering that chicken sandwich.
My cheesesteak was also top notch. The New York roll was a little on the crusty side, with a nice bit of crunch when I bit into it. But the dough inside of that crust was light and pressed down to a very thin layer after I had taken a few bites. It was more flavorful than most sandwich rolls too.
The other notable thing about the roll was its width. In the blurb on second-ranked Goomba’s that I included on my Top 10 Cheesesteaks list, I pointed out that because their rolls are wider than most others of the same length, they can hold more meat while still maintaining a good meat-to-roll ratio. The same thing can be said about the rolls at Loretta’s. In fact, if I were to revisit my top five rolls post, this one would be on there. It may not be quite the equal of those from Angelo’s Pizzeria, Mama’s Meatballs and Sarcone’s Bakery, but it’s probably as good as any other steak roll I’ve had.
An abundance of juicy chopped ribeye was coated throughout by a healthy portion of Cooper Sharp cheese. It got close to the line of being too cheesy for my taste, but it wasn’t as extreme in that regard as the one I had at Curly’s earlier this month.
Taken individually, every element of it was top notch – the roll was great and the meat, cheese and onions were blended beautifully. Yet for some reason, I didn’t find the overall flavor profile to be quite as impressive as some of my past favorites. I’m not sure why that was the case, but my best guess is that it had something to do with how it was seasoned. And I’m not saying it was under-seasoned. It just didn’t elicit the “wow!” that a few of my favorites have when I bit into them – or that I expected based on what I had read and how good it looked before I took that first bite. It’s also conceivable that the amount of cheese played a role.
Nonetheless, there is virtually no doubt it will wind up somewhere in the revised top 20 list that I intend to put out during the second half of this year along with a couple of the other new ones I’ve tried since posting the original top 10 in September. Anyone who makes a habit of driving some distance to try elite cheesesteaks in the Philly region will want to head to Loretta’s. My one issue notwithstanding, it’s easy to see why their steaks are quickly gaining a reputation for being among the area’s best.
My wife was so impressed with their semolina rolls that she grabbed one to go on our way out.
4 thoughts on “Trying the Philly Region’s Hot New Cheesesteak”
Remind me again what “long hots” are.
A type of pepper that is popular on Italian style sandwiches in this region.
Loretta’s has a lot of other interesting sandwiches on the menu…I wonder what’s in “meatball salad”!