Loving the Italian Market


The annual Ninth Street Italian Market Festival — taking place 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday — carries some extra meaning this time around as the Philadelphia landmark is celebrating 100 years. The yearly tradition brings young and old from all parts of the city for two days of music, speeches and good food. The Italian Market is one of Philadelphia’s finest treasures.

I have been shopping and dining there for many years. I took a trolley to Center City, hopped on a bus and enjoyed going in and out of stores looking for ingredients that I would turn into dinner for my roommates and me. DiBruno Bros., 930 S. Ninth St., and Claudio’s, 924 S. Ninth St., provided bread and cheese.

The market has evolved to include immigrants from China, Korea, Vietnam, Laos and Mexico. I can grab a taco, enjoy coffee at Anthony’s Italian Coffee & Chocolate House, 903 S. Ninth St., and head over to Isgro Pasteries, 1009 Christian St., for a cannoli.

I frequent reliable butchers, bakers and specialty stores because ordinary supermarkets hold little interest for me. I also enjoy the neighborly personal service that family-owned stores offer.

I enjoy discovering new cheeses and charcuterie from around the world. I also like the wide variety of olive oils and vinegars available. I have been buying red and white wine vinegar and sherry vinegar from Claudio’s for a number of years. I find homemade fresh ricotta and mozzarella, which is second to none. I clearly recall becoming immediately hooked the first time Sal at Claudio’s gave me a taste of ricotta salatta.

Then there are the restaurants, old and new. Ralph’s Italian Restaurant, 760 S. Ninth St., opened its doors 115 years ago. I remember the first time a piping hot bowl of mussels and the finest lasagna made with fresh sheets of dough was placed before me at Dante & Luigi’s, 762 S. 10th St. As with the ricotta salatta, I was immediately hooked.

The newcomers have made their mark as well. Sabrina’s Cafe, 910 Christian St., was an instant hit. There is always a line to get in, but the brunch and the burgers are among my favorites. I enjoyed brunch at Monsu, 901 Christian St., a few years ago, and now I want to try dinner.

Just last week, I sat down at the bar and enjoyed Anastassi Seafood, 1101 S. Ninth St., happy hour buck a chuck. Blue Point oysters and clams, including little neck, top neck and cherrystones. Just be careful of the horseradish, as it is really hot, but oh so good.

My favorite place for dinner is Bibou, 1009 S. Eighth St. Charlotte and Pierre Calmals have made renovations to this shoebox gem that features some of the finest French cuisine anywhere in the city. Calmals, who had been spending his time at his Rittenhouse Square-based Le Cheri, is back in the kitchen at Bibou where he is offering a fixed-priced dinner. Patrons can be sure the finest local ingredients will turn up in all his dishes. Bibou is still BYOB.

When I need something for my kitchen, I head over to Fante’s, 1006 S. Ninth St., where Mariella Esposito answers my questions and we have a good chat. My favorite butcher is Sonny D’Angelo, 909 S. Ninth St. His sausages are the finest around. I also know the veal I purchase from him for osso bucco is humanely raised on local farms.

May the Italian Market prosper and flourish for another 100 years. 

Italian Market Visitor Center
919 S. Ninth St.

Contact the South Philly Review at editor@southphillyreview.com.