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Eat like an Insider: Rocco Cima

The founder of Fuel dishes on his favorite places to eat in Philly.
Rocco Cima of Fuel Philly tells us about his favorite places to eat in the city. | Provided
Rocco Cima of Fuel Philly tells us about his favorite places to eat in the city. Provided

You may know Rocco Cima from his work as a DJ on Q102 but he’s also a successful restaurateur, and credits his career in food to his Italian family. “Cooking was everything,” he says. “Food brings people together and makes them smile.”

At the age of 13, he got his first job at a restaurant at Medora’s Mecca in South Philly, first as a busboy and then as a line cook.

He then went on to study at The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College and opened the popular healthy local chain, Fuel, in 2009, which is famous for their menu of meals under 500 calories.

So where does Cima eat when he’s not busy building his restaurant empire? He gives us the lowdown on his top picks that include everything from tacos to chicken cutlet sandwiches to brussel sprouts.

Best late night meal
The best late night meal is definitely from David's Mai Lai Wah (1001 Race St.) in Chinatown. The Black Pepper Shrimp is my go to to soak up the alcohol. They batter the shrimp and toss them with fresh jalapeños which all pop in your mouth.

Best meal under $10
Pastificio Deli (1528 Packer Ave.) in South Philly has a chicken cutlet sandwich called the concetta. It’s loaded with broccoli rabe, prosciutto and provolone. I only wish the meal came with a breath mint for when you are done.

Best hidden foodie gem
Tres Jalapeños (901 S. 8th St.) in South Philly probably has the best tacos in the city. The great guacamole, spicy salsa and banging chicken tacos keep me ordering from there multiple times a week.

Best place to dine alone
Black and Brew (1523 E. Passyunk Ave.) on East Passyunk is where I go if I’m grabbing a bite alone. I grab a La Colombe draft latte and a spot at the counter. It’s a great place to people watch while having a convo with the staff.

Place you always recommend for out-of-towners
Parc (227 S. 18th St.) in Rittenhouse is my favorite place to take or recommend for out-of-towners — it’s a real show stopper. Make sure you spring for the seafood tower. It's my go to on a nice spring or summer day while sitting outside people watching.

Go-to date spot
If you want to impress a date, it doesn’t get better than Delfrisco's (1426-1428 Chestnut St.). You can’t go wrong with their tuna tartare appetizer and a nice steak. Make sure to check them out during stone crab season. You don’t want to miss it.

Best place to catch up with friends
City Tap House (3529 Walnut St.) is always fun and a great place to catch up with friends. There’s plenty of TVs to watch the game while grabbing some of their awesome wings. You also have to try their brussel sprouts. Don’t sleep on them.

Most Instagrammable restaurant
Vernick (2031 Walnut St.) in Rittenhouse has dishes that are always Instagram-worthy. I enjoy sitting at the chef’s table because you can watch them make the masterpieces plus the chefs give you suggestions.

For more information on Fuel, visit: fuelrechargeyourself.com