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Mama Palma’s to close for renovation and name change to Palma’s Cucina

One of the city's older brick-oven pizzerias will get a reboot that will yield fewer pizza choices.

Renato Russo tossing one up there in 2016 at Mama Palma's Wood Fired Brick Oven Pizza.
Renato Russo tossing one up there in 2016 at Mama Palma's Wood Fired Brick Oven Pizza.Read moreELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

Mama Palma’s, among the city’s earlier brick-oven pizzerias when it opened in 1996 at 23rd and Spruce Streets, will close after business Sunday, March 17 for a scheduled month of renovations, including a menu change and new name.

When siblings Renato and Brunella Russo reopen in April as Palma’s Cucina, they’ll have an extended foyer, a new service station and wine chiller, and a redesigned kitchen. Most notably from a food standpoint, the menu will include more composed Southern Italian dishes (think fettuccine Bolognese and linguine and clams) and fewer pizzas (the current menu has 30).

Palma’s Cucina will add beers on tap, including a rotating selection of seasonal local craft beers. While the restaurant will offer wines, customers can bring one bottle per every two guests.

The Russos are reacting not only to a desire to freshen their brand, but to react to competition. “It’s time, with so many restaurants opening,” Brunella Russo told me.

The former Tria at 23rd and Pine Streets, two blocks south, will open in about three weeks as Cotoletta Fitler Square, a branch of the Belmont Hills Southern Italian that specializes in cutlets.

Also nearby, the 30-year-old Rouge on Rittenhouse Square is fixing to reopen next week after a top-to-bottom renovation.

The Russos and their parents, Gaetano and Palma, emigrated from Santa Lucia di Serino, in Campania, in 1971. Here’s a backgrounder.