From the team behind Ralph’s, this new culinary space is fusing old and new.
In Bella Vista, evidence of transition is quite prevalent through demographics, construction and of, course, cuisine.
And while new merchants migrate into the city, established ones are taking their own stabs, as well.
With its roots tracing back to Ralph’s Italian Restaurant, visitors of South 9th Street may assume that Market on Ninth, the latest installment of the Dispigno and Rubino dynasty, will offer a menu bombarded with bruschetta and broccoli rabe.
But, this is not the case.
“The reason we started the focus here is because all of the redevelopment,” said Ryan Rubino, the fifth-generation and current manager of Ralph’s and co-owner of the Market on Ninth. “The thought was that you can only eat old school Italian red sauce so many days a week.”
For Rubino and his partners, this newly opened space, a coffee shop/specialty market by day and BYOB restaurant by night, was intended to serve as a “non-Italian opportunity” since the project’s conception a couple years ago.
Shortly after the team opened Bar One, a taproom featuring Italian-oriented delights also on 9th Street, they shifted their visions away from the nearly 120-year-old Ralph’s establishment, which has allured larger-than-life celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Taylor Swift and even Joe Biden.
Inspired by multicultural vendors who have made their marks throughout the Italian Market in recent years, the team dedicated the last several months drawing ideas for new dishes from the immediate bustle.
“What are the butchers to our right and left offering? So, it’s all very influenced by the Italian Market itself ,and we’re trying to showcase that on a dinner menu,” Rubino said. “We tried the hardest at what the market has become, and show that through a dinner menu. It’s a little bit eccentric because the market is today.”
After signing the lease on the vacant property in March, Rubino and the chefs, including Anthony Barone and Chris Miller, who are also affiliated with Ralph’s, dabbled with new pastas, meats and sauces.
And while the experiment, Rubino says, involved much trial and error, the group came out on the other side with a culinary gamut of Asian, Hispanic and Greek-influenced creations.
From sautéed kale and arctic char to tempura string beans and piranha ribs, the menu revamps and revives the traditional Italian Market platter.
“We kind of looked at it as, for the first time as a group, we had a completely clean slate, so no pressure to come up with a meatball,” Rubino said.
This revision also surpasses the parameters of the plate, as Market on Ninth’s decor features a fusion of old and new.
While techno music resounds throughout the space, historic photos of South Philly from the 1940s and 1950s hang splendidly on the walls. Classic black-and-white tile floors complement more rustic elements like exposed air vents.
The scene was devised by local architect Josh Otto, a 2014 James Beard Finalist for Restaurant Design.
Aside from Otto’s influence, Market on Ninth features the crafts of other city-based retailers, as 90 percent of the specialty products sold are made by Philly hands, including hot sauce, pickles, pastries, teas, coffees and even powered protein.
“It’s all about Philadelphia,” Rubino said. “And we’re in this one little part of it, but we just want to support this city and this area as much as possible. It’s just cool making new partners and meeting new people who are, in theory, doing the same thing as you are — running small businesses in Philadelphia, so why not support each other?”
And although, as Rubino explains, his grandparents may not know what to order glossing over Market on Ninth’s menu, the new shop echoes the business values his family has followed since 1900.
Rubino says it all boils down to embarking on progression while honoring tradition.
“Just by staying here, doubling down, tripling down in this area is kind of what (my ancestors) would have done, as well,” he said. “Just continuing to serve the people of this area, offering them new stuff, I think, is what they would have wanted.”
Market on Ninth is located at 943 S. 9th St.
For more information, visit www.marketonninth.com/