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History lesson and a deal: La Famiglia in Old City

Two-course lunch is $17.95.

Every time we lose one of the old-time restaurants - e.g. Le Bec Fin, now in its final weeks - I think about the other white-tablecloth spots still carrying on after several decades under the same owners.

That invariably sends me back to what I consider to be my first dress-up meal, as a teenager, with my world-traveling aunt and uncle, at what was then the hot, new Italian newcomer, La Famiglia in Old City.

Too young to appreciate the grappa selection on the fireplace mantel, I nonetheless enjoyed both the sofficini I ate and the impromptu tour of the wine cellars that Papa Sena gave me. He led me downstairs to a brick-lined pit covered with a steel grate and told me to look down.  It was a colonial well that workers uncovered as they were constructing La Famiglia. In the 1700s, when the Delaware River stopped near Front Street, this was a house built for Benjamin Franklin's daughter. We were standing atop history.

The cellar is now legendary for its collection of 10,000 Californians and Italians. Papa Sena died two years ago, so ask son Giuseppe for a tour of the cellar.

Back in 1976, lunch was something like $10. But so much for inflation.

Giuseppe Sena is offering lunch for $17.95 Tuesday to Friday. It's not a panini and salad. It's two courses of solid, old-school Italian fare that will send you back to the office craving a nap.

The 13 first-course choices include mussels, spaghetti alla puttanesca and linguine Bolognese, while the eight main courses include osso buco, veal Parm, and a bowl of mussels, clams, calamari and shrimp in a tomato-white wine sauce.