Izzy’s 33: a hidden gem

Life transitions spurred by the pandemic have become a common thread for many. The origin of Izzy’s 33, the recent addition to the East Passyunk breakfast/lunch scene, is one such story. The restaurant’s cozy digs at 1703 South 9th Street, just off the corner of 9th and Morris, are just a few blocks from East Passyunk Avenue but definitely off the beaten path.

First-time restaurant owner and chef Isrrael “Izzy” Romero and wife Brenda opened the restaurant in September 2020. Since then, they’ve crafted a menu that incorporates the different types of cuisine Izzy has worked with over the past 15 years. The result: a wide variety of dishes that will delight any palate—from sweet to savory, there’s something for everyone.

Born and raised in Puebla, Mexico, Romero immigrated to Philadelphia in 2005 when he was 18. He had studied computer science in his native country but discovered that there were more jobs available to him in the hospitality industry in America. Romero began his career as a dishwasher at an Italian restaurant in Old City, but quickly rose through the ranks to find his passion as a cook.

Prior to this experience, he didn’t have any knowledge of other types of cuisine besides Mexican. “I learned to make pasta and gained great appreciation for their culinary traditions. I then moved on to work in Greek, French, Caribbean and Thai food restaurants.  Each job turned into a culinary class where I was able to enjoy and gain appreciation for other cultures and their foods,” Romero explained. 

Romero worked for a popular local chain for about 10 years. He started as a line cook but soon became “second in command” as chef de cuisine, in charge of overseeing daily operations and training the kitchen staff for the company.

All of that changed in March 2020 when the pandemic hit and Romero was left unemployed for two months. When restaurants reopened, he found his hours were reduced significantly so he needed to find a way to provide for his wife and two children. A friend asked him to help open a new Mexican restaurant in the Italian Market, Alma del Mar, recently featured on Netflix’s “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.”

At the same time, Romero had his eye on a spot in South Philly that he’d driven past a couple of times. He discovered that the bright, airy space, which most recently housed the short-lived Bistro La Bête, was available. With his savings and the help of his family, he signed the lease in August 2020. He decided to name it Izzy’s 33 “to pay homage to all my culinary trajectory by creating 33 dishes that represent the experience I’ve gained in Philadelphia.”

The menu features an assortment of french toast, pancake, and waffle offerings, many egg options, and a variety of sandwiches and salads. Pair your selection with coffee, fresh-squeezed juices, or a fruity, creamy licuado.

Grilled ham and brie sandwich. Mayonnaise, strawberry preserve, brie, apple slices, and sliced ham on sourdough bread. Photo: Darren Fava.

When asked which of the menu’s 33 dishes are most popular, Romero said that people like the churro and the fresas con crema (strawberries with cream) french toast. 

Fresas con crema french toast. Brioche bread, granola crust, fresh strawberries, whipped cream, mascarpone cheese, maple syrup, and granola bites.

On the savory side, customers enjoy the chilaquiles (Romero’s favorite) and the Mexican breakfast stack—tostadas with a variety of tasty accompaniments. 

Mexican Breakfast Stack. Three tostadas, refried. beans, chorizo, peppers, onions, corn, sour cream, queso fresco, avocado, pico, and two sunny side up eggs over a salsa roja pool.
Prosciutto and provolone panini. Basil aioli, prosciutto, roasted red peppers, and provolone cheese on panini bread.

Romero is concentrating on breakfast and lunch for now but hopes to add dinner at the end of September. Potential dinner dishes include seafood paradiso (an assortment of seafood in a blush sauce over angel hair pasta), chicken Milanese, asado Mexicano (ribeye steak), and his wife’s favorite, red snapper with mango sauce.

Izzy’s 33 is currently open everyday from 8am to 3pm for breakfast and lunch with dinner hours to be announced in the near future. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram for all of the delicious developments.

Izzy’s 33

1703 South 9th Street
610 714 3908

Photos provided by Izzy’s 33 except where noted.