Pizza meets Mexican at Tonali

Situated on a quiet, tree-lined block at Entrance and Morris Streets, Tonalli is the latest addition to South Philadelphia’s vibrant restaurant scene. In a neighborhood identified for its pizza and Mexican meals, Tonalli actually stands out. Co-founded by lifelong associates Odilon Sandoval and Israel Cortes, BYOB skillfully blends conventional pizza recipes with the colourful flavors of their hometown, San Mateo Ozulco, Mexico.

Passers-by are drawn to the restaurant’s cute out of doors seating, below the festive picados fluttering between the branches of historical bushes. Simply step contained in the restaurant, and the heat and fervour of the house owners is clear. When photographer Victoria Navarrete-Ortiz and I walked by means of the doorways, Sandoval, who works on the entrance of the home, welcomed us inside. Surrounded by stay music and the inviting aromas of roasting trompo al pastor and signature house-made adobo sauce, we take our seats.

Sandoval explains that over the previous 20 years in Philadelphia, he and enterprise accomplice Curtis have labored their manner into the town’s restaurant scene. After engaged on pizza, combining these Italian classics with flavors from their hometown appeared like a pure step for the duo. With the latest marriage of Sandoval’s sister and Curtis’ brother, what started as a partnership between childhood associates has advanced right into a household affair.

The phrase “tonali” interprets to “sunshine” in Nahalt, the language of Sandoval’s mom. When he advised her about his plans to open the restaurant, she advised him, “It’s time for the solar to shine,” and her phrases grew to become the inspiration for the restaurant’s identify. It is a correct dish, as taste and love shine by means of each dish at Tonalli.

The menu options traditional pizzas like margherita and buffalo rooster, in addition to conventional dishes from southern Mexico, like borrego en adobo artesanal, which is lamb in a candy and spicy sauce. However what units Tonali aside is her collection of pizzas with southern Mexican flavors, like Tonali’s pizza, topped with refried beans, chorizo, candy corn, and poblano peppers. Sandoval recommends making an attempt the Borrego en Adobo artisan pizza, tacos de camarone, Borrego en Adobo artisanal pizza, and nachos.

I begin with the artisan borrego en adobo pizza, topped with braised lamb, agave sauce, house-made adobo sauce, and mozzarella cheese. Skinny-crust pizza embodies what Tonali does finest, mixing the flavors of southern Mexico and Italian pizza seamlessly. The pizza is generously topped with tender lamb and adobo—a candy and savory sauce comprised of chili powder, vinegar, and sugar—that pairs nicely with the mozzarella cheese.

Transferring on to the tacos de Camaron, and as somebody who orders shrimp tacos after they’re on the menu, I can attest that these are the very best I’ve had in Philly. The shrimp are tender and juicy, tossed with recent chopped pico de gallo and a chipotle mayonnaise sauce. Subsequent, I pattern the nachos, a must-order facet dish when visiting Tonali. It is piled excessive with three varieties of cheese (Chihuahua, Oaxaca, and queso fresco) plus refried black beans, pico de gallo, and guacamole.

Photograph: Victoria Navarrete-Ortiz


On the finish of the meal, I dug into the artisanal borrego en adobo, a shank of lamb in adobo sauce served with agave slaw and guacamole. The recipe comes from Cortes’ mom, and Sandoval explains that of their childhood city of San Mateo Ozulco, it’s served on particular events. The lamb is cooked to perfection, falling off the bone, whereas the facet of cooked guacamole and agave reduce down on its richness. I’d order the lamb shank if you’re within the temper for a flavorful dish and have a robust tolerance for spice. Conversely, the artisan pizza borrego en adobo balances the spices of the lamb and the crust, and is a better dish to portion family-style.

Tonalli is undoubtedly finest loved with others, permitting everybody to expertise its many flavours. By the top of lunch, I am glad I got here with a buddy. We spent the meal passing plates forwards and backwards, marveling on the scrumptious and surprising taste of the meal.

After you allow Tonalli, the heat of the restaurant’s environment and the flavors of lunch linger for the remainder of the day. The care Sandoval and Curtis carry to their restaurant is current in each chunk. Now I am keen to inform everybody I meet about this gem, and with the remaining menu objects to strive, just like the trompo al pastor pizza topped with slow-roasted pork, pineapple and pink sauce or the memeles full of beans and agave. Salad, I do know I will likely be again.

tl;dr: Tonalli provides a unique mix of Italian delicacies with the flavors of Odilón Sandoval and Israel Cortes’ Mexican childhoods.

location: 100 Morris Road

hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 12 midday to 10 pm

value: $$

(Marks for translation) The thirty-fourth fashion

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