On a recent trip to Philadelphia, I’d identified three food-related activities that I wanted to do: The Night Market at Point Breeze, Reading Terminal Market and the Ninth Street Italian Market. In the end, we only had time for two. Which one to skip?
While we were looking forward to shopping at Reading Terminal Market, a friend explained that many produce vendors are Amish and don’t work Sundays, the day we planned to go. Also, she explained, the market was almost 50% prepared food. Our intention was to shop for fresh ingredients and groceries: bread, cheese, fish. Based on that, we decided to skip Reading Terminal Market.
THE ITALIAN MARKET ON THE SOUTH SIDE
According to their website, Ninth Street Italian Market is America’s oldest continuously operating outdoor market. It isn’t a single business or a single location. It is a collection of nearly 200 individual businesses spanning over 20 city blocks: 8th, 9th & 10th Streets from Fitzwater Street at the north thru Wharton Street at the south. In all practicality, most of the action is on Ninth Street.
Block after block is all manner of food for sale. Produce is sold out of boxes, stacked on tables along the sidewalk. Huge well-worn red, green and white awnings are suspended off the buildings, overhanging the sidewalks. You can see the awnings and the shadows they cast for blocks. Workers stand street-side weighing produce and taking money, while the public stands on the sidewalk, in front of the tables.
In addition to produce and other products sold on the street, there is an amazing variety of shops: butchers and fishmongers, florists, bakeries, cheese shops, and restaurants. This is an exceptionally multi-cultural neighborhood. In addition to historically Italian businesses are those that are Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Mexican, and South American run.
NOTABLE SHOPS AT THE ITALIAN MARKET
Fanty’s Kitchen Shop. Stepping inside this family owned and operated kitchen store is a bit like stepping back in time. The store first opened in this exact location in 1906. The building has that unmistakable feel of an old-fashioned hardware store. There are large display windows, marvelously well-worn wooden floors and big, old doors. Individual rooms fall one into the other, like a cascading waterfall. Whatever your interest, you are likely to find an appliance, tool or serving dish that you absolutely must have.
Di Bruno Brothers. Few things get me more excited about cooking and eating than a really good food store. Di Bruno Brothers ranks high on my list. The store isn’t big. According to their website, it’s just 400 square feet. But they make the most of every square inch. Specialty groceries are stacked and displayed from floor to ceiling. Huge reach-in and serve over counter refrigerators display gourmet cheese and cured meat.