Community on the Corner of 64th and Carlton

It’s hard to begin a sentence with “In West Philadelphia,” because well, you know. But that’s how this begins…

In West Philadelphia, Overbook specifically on the corner of 64th and Carlton, once resided an Italian restaurant called Lebano’s. I believe this place to be to be my first memory. My brother’s probably, too.

I was dismayed that I could find nothing online about this institution, as my family and I had been talking about it recently. With the ample amount of time now on my hands, I decided I would start writing about the restaurant. When I began this project, I simply wanted to record the memories my family and I had at Lebano’s. But the more I talked to people, I realized this was taking on a new life.

My family helped me piece together memories and facts about this restaurant. Nick Micozzie, former state representative and distant relative of mine, has been a great deal of help in putting this information together. It has been a labor of love compiling this together, and I’m grateful for my family for responding to my many texts and phone calls.

I would also like to thank the folks at Filitalia International, home of the History of Italian Immigration Museum on East Passyunk, for their help, and those from the Facebook group Growing up in Overbook. Thank you to all who participated.

I am no historian, but there was a brief time in college I was a journalism major, so I’m putting those journalism classes to use. This is vastly different than anything else I’ve done on my blog before, and I hope you enjoy a look into a community on the corner of 64th and Carlton.

I would also like to mention that this will be a two-part (or possibly multi-part) series, as I have more interviews and information coming soon.


Italy has been on my mind as of recent. I have never been. It is a place, that when I do visit, I want to do it right. When I say right, I mean visiting for an extended period of time, seeing where my relatives are from, indulging in every food and bottle of wine available. My dad’s family is from Sicily, and my mom’s family is from Abruzzo, specifically Chieti.

I have a bit of an obsession with the “Philly Italian”, something I talk about at ad nauseam. Perhaps it is the desire to continue with tradition. Yes, I did grow up in the land of Delco. But thanks to my grandparents and extended family, we were brought-up in a very “Philly Italian” atmosphere. If you’d like even better insight, Lorraine Ranalli’s book Gravy Wars provides understanding into Italian-American culture in Philadelphia.

From Gravy Wars. A ‘dictionary’ explaining the South Philly vs. Italian pronunciations


Photo by Larry Fadgen

What is important is to understand the community around this restaurant. It’s necessary in order to properly paint the picture. While we often think of South Philly of the mecca of Italian immigrants, West Philly also had a large population.

Lebano’s was the definition of old school. For example, only men were allowed downstairs at the bar area in the early years.

The name of the owner/founder was Camillo Lebano. Although they called him Tom, many times he was called Camille (imagine my surprise/delight!). Many recall waitresses named Carmella, Queenie (the cook), and Phyllis. My mimi would sometimes go into the kitchen and help Queenie.

During this era, many patrons lived in the same Italian neighborhood about a block away from each other. This includes the Abate (my mom’s family), Micozzi(e), Migatz families. My poppy (grandfather) grew up down the street from Lebano’s. His grandfather, father and most of his relatives were there often, and according to him, the owner’s were like family. It was a place my great-great uncles and great grandfather would frequent, and they called it “The Saloon”.  

My grandparents met in West Philly, when they were both teenagers. My mimi (grandmother) was Irish, and my poppy (grandfather) is Italian. They quickly fell in love and wanted to marry. Unfortunately, when seeking her permission to wed, the “strega” (Italian witch) of the neighborhood forbade them to marry, but they defied her orders. They were married for over 50 years, until she passed this winter. I think about her everyday.

My grandparents and my family introduced Lebano’s into my young, new life. From what my family tells me, we could always count on seeing someone we knew from the neighborhood, or a friend of a friend who was told they had to try Lebano’s food.

My grandparents <3

Nearby was and still is a Roman Catholic Church called St. Donato. This following information about St. Donato comes directly from Nick Micozzie:

The St. Donato story has its roots in the thousands upon thousands of Italian immigrants who came to the United States in search of better lives. As their numbers grew, the need for a parish if their own grew also.

It was Bishop John Neumann (1811-1860), named Bishop of in Philadelphia in 1852, who in 1854 set in motion measures that addressed the pressing needs of growing numbers of immigrants from my nations. His actions led to the creation of St. Mary Magdalene de Pizza in South Philadelphia in 1855 – the first national parish for Italians in America. The building had been a Methodist Church that Bishop Neumann purchased. He was canonized St. John Neumann by Pope Paul VI on June 19, 1977.

Ultimately, the steps initiated by Bishop Neumann were further by Archbishop Patrick J. Ryan in 1906. It was he who authorized the creation of St. Donato Parish as a national parish for Italians in 1910. Upon that decree, Rev. Pietro Michetti, who became a Monsignor years later, the parish’s first pastor, born and educated in Italy and who with the aid of thousands of fellow Italians, among many experienced builders, such as stone masons, skilled artisans, was charged with beginning construction of St. Donato Church, the structure we know today as the lower church of St. Francis Cabrini Chapel, since she worshipped there.

Immediately before being named pastor of St. Donato, Father Michetti had been pastor of Our Lady of Angels Parish in West Philadelphia. Construction of St. Donato’s began on May 24, 1910 on land whose history can be traced to 1877 and that was acquired from the heirs of William Keichine by Archbishop Ryan for the sum of $1.00, but encumbered with a mortgage of $3,300. The Lower Church was completed remarkably by the middle of July of that year at a cost of $7,000 and founded officially on July 16, 1910, the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.

St. Donato Church via Philly Church Project

My memory…

I remember it always being loud and full of life. This was most likely the first place and time I ever heard, “Look at that faccia bella!

Cocktails were served on the first floor downstairs, and dinner on the second floor upstairs. The second floor was pure magic. I remember hues of the restaurants – blues and browns, like the color theme of 500 Days of Summer. At least that what my memory tells me. Also, the wooden chairs, and of course, the red-and-white, checkered table cloths. I can still picture three-year-old me walking into the restaurant. Past the downstairs bar, with the men sitting on their high stools. Was it musty? No, perhaps not. I can’t be certain of that. That’s the thing about memory, it’s fickle.

And then there was the dumbwaiter. The dumbwaiter was mystical, as it brought wine up from the bar. I can still vividly picture it, and dreamt about where it was going. The stories that dumbwaiter could tell, from hearing gossip on the first floor, and transporting it upstairs. When I asked my family for their Lebano’s memories, they all mentioned the dumbwaiter. In fact, everyone I spoke to remembers the dumbwaiter fondly.

Photo of Lebano’s, allegedly from 1917 or 1918. My poppy tells me at the bottom of the bar was a trough where the men would spit in (and supposedly urinate in).


I’m sure by now you’re wondering about the food…

The menus were photocopied and were changed each night. While the menus were different every night, you could always get spaghetti or “short macs” – ziti or rigatoni. They served macaronis and meatballs, delicious chicken cutlets (my aunt declares ‘the best I have ever had in my life’), and a salad with oil and vinegar dressing, Italian tuna, pieces of sharp provolone, oil and vinegar. My pop-pop (great-grandfather) always enjoyed their rice pudding. My dad said after his grandmother (my nana) who came off-the-boat from Sicily’s cooking, this was the best Italian food he’s ever had (it’s certainly worth nothing mom’s cooking is incredible, too).

I remember playing with the salt and pepper shakers, the parmesan cheese, the cracked red pepper. I can still taste the spaghetti and gravy. I can’t think of it too hard though, or I’ll forget. I need to let it rest on the tip of my tongue.

My poppy describes it as, “Everyone was like family and the food was like your mom was in the kitchen.” It was perfect.

The memories of others….

In search of even more information, Filitalia pointed me to the direction of an Overbrook Facebook group. I asked if anyone in the group had any memories, photos, or stories they would be willing to share. I was not prepared for the response (at time of publishing, the post is currently at over 80 comments). You’ll notice that the dumbwaiter is a reoccurring character…

Keeping the tradition of Sunday gravy alive

Tradition and Community

Restaurants come and go, and are forgotten, but Lebano’s is still on the mind of many. I will continue doing Craig LaBan-level research to uncover more. If you have any additional information or edits to this story, please feel free to reach out to me at camillemariemola@gmail.com

25 responses to “Community on the Corner of 64th and Carlton”

  1. Sandi B. Avatar
    Sandi B.

    I love your article about Lebano’s at 64th & Carlton, I have such great memories! What a great community to have grown up in with warm and loving people!!

    1. Krista Palmisano Avatar
      Krista Palmisano

      Hello All, my twin sister and my father used to eat at Lebanos all the time. The food was always so fresh and delicious. When we were babies my father was embarrassed to pay the check as it was only 7 dollars. Phyllis and her husband were so kind to us and always gave us Christmas gifts. We always ate there until they closed. I remember calling up one day and Phyllis said they were closed. I was so upset. Loved Angie and Carmella. If anyone has their receipt of which olive oil, vinegar and tuna fish they used I would appreciate it. I loved the taste of the dressing thry used. The best Italian restaurant and portions were large. Thanks

      1. Camille Avatar

        Thank you for sharing!!

      2. Susan Murphy Avatar
        Susan Murphy

        It’s so nice to hear how much you & your family enjoyed eating at Lebano’s. Jean Lebano, my grandmother, was 23 when my grandfather, Charles, asked her to move to 6400 Carlton St. to run the restaurant to help out his brother for “a few years”. She lived there until she died there at the age of 78. Charles had passed in 1952. She ran the place pretty much by herself. She was self taught & in my opinion, was one of the best chefs in Philly. All of the soups, spaghetti gravy, meatballs, etc. were her creations. My parents, Phyllis & Pepsi, left their jobs as a school teacher & Inquirer press photographer, to help her run the place in 1958-59.
        Her antipasto was so delicious. It was due to Ali D’Italia peanut oil, Cento wine vinegar, salt & pepper. I don’t think that Ali D’Italia is still in business, but, any peanut oil will do. She always used Italian tuna.
        Thanks again for remembering Lebano’s.

  2. Anthony Bellano Avatar
    Anthony Bellano

    My dad used to bring home raw claims on Friday nights when I was a kid living on Carlton Street. In later years I had dinner with friends there. The veal cutlets were huge and outstanding. Susan was a very special friend of mine.

    1. Camille Avatar

      Thank you for sharing!

  3. Susan Murphy Avatar
    Susan Murphy

    I really don’t go on facebook that often, but, since I’m on a leave if absence from work, I find myself frequently visiting the site. I just can’t believe that after all these years that people are still talking about Lebano’s. Lebano’s was my home for 21 years. Jean was my grandmother & I was her little “duckie”. Pepsi(Joe) was my dad & Phyllis was my mom. She, especially, would have loved all of this hoopla about Lebano’s. Unfortunately, most of pictures that the family had of the restaurant were destroyed in a flood in the basement of the house part of the place. But, I do have some that I could share with you. It was a great place to live. I would not have traded it for anything.
    Jean Lebano would have NEVER let anyone put a piece of Italian bread in her gravy😂

    1. michael quinn Avatar
      michael quinn

      Do u have a brother that works for Sherwin-Williams? I grow up overbrook and got in a conservation with him at his job. Small world.

      1. Susan Murphy Avatar
        Susan Murphy

        I’m an only child, but, I have a son that works for sherwin Williams at 9th & springarden.

    2. Camille Avatar

      Love your comment! Thank you so much for sharing!

    3. Krista Palmisano Avatar
      Krista Palmisano

      Hi All..this message is for Susan or anyone who has the receipt for theirvolive oil and vinegar salad dressing. I specifically want to know what oil what vinegar and what tuna fish they used. If anyone knows please let me know. I used to take out the salad all the time and have ot for breakfast. Thanks so much.

      1. Susan Murphy Avatar
        Susan Murphy

        It’s peanut oil, Cento red wine vinegar, salt & pepper. Italian tuna (can’t remember which brand)

      2. Krista Palmisano Avatar
        Krista Palmisano

        Hi Susan, so nice to hear from you. I miss that place so much. I would eat at Lebanos everyday if I could. I drove down there once and told a neighbor I wanted the Lebanos sign. I went back and it is gone now. I offered to pay for it. My father had moved to California and every time he came in he wanted to go there. When Queenie went ro work for an Italian restaurant in Havertown I called ahead to let them know he was coming in from California and wanted a Lebanos salad and they made it for him. Special place. Do you also have the recipe on how she made her sauce. The food was to dir for. Thanks so much.

      3. Krista Palmisano Avatar
        Krista Palmisano

        Hi Susan,

        Did Phyllis use red wine vinegar or balsamic. Also which peanut oli is closest to the one you mentioned? I tried some and it never turned out as good as Lebanos and do you have a specific Italian tuna. Thanks so much. I appreciate it.

      4. Susan Murphy Avatar
        Susan Murphy

        The vinegar was always red wine. Cento or Progresso. Planters peanut oil is probably one of the best. I’m not sure about the brand of the Italian tuna. Unfortunately, nothing stays the same. I’d love to get in the “way back machine” to enjoy one more great meal at Lebano’s. Joni Mitchell said it best “you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone”.

  4. Valerie DiEgidio Slaughter Avatar
    Valerie DiEgidio Slaughter

    Your whole article was warm hearting, it made me smile seeing all the responds. I basically grew up on that street when I was little girl, my moms side of our family lived on Carlton street for many many years. Wonderful neighborhood with world class people.

    1. Camille Avatar

      Thank you so much for this beautiful comment <3

  5. George Luciani Avatar

    I used to serve the Philadelphia Bulletin to Lebano’s Bar in the 1960s. They always gave me a tip when I got paid on Saturday- nice people. I also served papers to the Bellano’s and the Abate’s on Carlton Street. Andy Bellano eventually became my cousin when he married my cousin Rosemary Macchia.
    George Luciani

    1. Camille Avatar

      The Abates are my family 😊

  6. Jim Laurence Avatar
    Jim Laurence

    My family found out about Lebano’s from my mother’s cousin, a Dr. at Misericordia Hospital (I assume someone there told her about it) and so we all went many times in the mid 90’s. I guess you would call it old school eating upstairs in what seemed like someone’s own living room so to speak…it was a great laid back place to go and the food was terrific…much better than what you get these days. We brought a Japanese exchange student there once and he said they had similar small places like that in Japan….while I like going to Outback and other chain restaurants….I still prefer the ‘hole in a wall’ places because of my time at Lebano’s.

    I don’t know when the building closed but I drove by it over 10 years ago and it sadly didn’t look too good. I have seen Lebano’s Catering (https://lebanoscatering.webs.com/) in Media, PA when they have various street events and mentioned to them how I used to go to the old restaurant…anyway thanks for posting this it brings back great memories.

    1. Camille Avatar

      Thank you so much for your comment Jim!

  7. Victor J Maggitti Jr Avatar
    Victor J Maggitti Jr

    Vic Maggitti

    My Friends And I Really Enjoyed Going To Lebano’s Anytime We Could.
    We All Lived On Simpson, Carlton And 64th Street
    My Best Friend Tony Moffa Lived Right Across The Street From Lebano’s.
    At The End Of Carlton Street And 64th Street.
    So It Was Always Easy To Visit Lebano’s.
    I Am Writing About The Years In The 40’s, 50’s, 60’s. Half Of The 70’s .
    We All Graduated Saint Donato’s School In 1948. Saint Thomas More 1952.

    After Graduating Villanova College In 1956 I Went To Work With My Dad,
    Who Had A Building Supply Yard At 63rd And Market Street.
    My Dad And I Use To Go To Lebano’s For Lunch, As Often As Possible From Work.
    Many Times I Went Alone And Ate Lunch, And Then Took Lunch To My Dad.
    Obviously, I Knew Everyone Working At Lebano’s , Whom Were All Terrific.
    I Use to Enjoy Going Upstairs For My Lunch.
    This Posting Brings Back To Me MANY Memories Of LEBANO’S.

    1. Camille Avatar

      Thank you so much for your comment! This made my day!

  8. Joey Ricciardi Avatar
    Joey Ricciardi

    I was very little but I remember the soup coming down the dumbwaiter! That’s the one memory that stuck with me.

    1. Camille Avatar

      Me too! I’ll never forget the dumbwaiter.

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