Sunday, June 12, 2011

Taste of Philly: The Italian Market

The Philadelphia Italian market began in the late 1880s and was organized in 1915.  They are the oldest and largest continuously working market in the US. It all started when Antonio Palumbo, an Italian immigrant, opened a boarding house for other Italians.  They came, they started businesses in the area and the rest is history, literally.

At first look, you might think what is the big deal with this market.  Right away you see venders selling produce that most you can find in your local grocer, probably cheaper along with a couple of hard-to-find items.  But if you are disappointed at first glance and walk away, you will have seriously missed out.  Seriously.

 9th Street and Washington Ave.,   Italian Market, South Philly, PA

When you venture in, you will first notice the produce on the streets.  Some of the produce is interesting like tamarind pods and fresh tomatillos, but this is not what the Italian market is best known for.  It is the butcher shops, cheese shops, bakeries and specialty shops along ninth street and the surrounding area that sells fresh meats and sausages, poultry and fresh fish.   Thin crust pizza is sold along side freshly made tortillas which were both irresistible, so of course we had some of each.   The market is fundamentally Italian but you can also find Korean barbecue, Vietnamese Pho, a Chinese apothecary and a Mexican tortilla shop among them.  We bought a kilo of fresh, hot tortillas and a lovely green salsa at one shop and a slice of thin crusted cheese pizza at another.  Both delicious.
Philly may be a little rough around the edges but has a heart of gold.  It is an authentic market that may not look like some of the modern day standards on the outside but once you step inside, you will understand the allure.
 One excellent example is stepping into Claudio's.
We tasted cheese until we were full and couldn't take one more bite.  I asked to try some of the different kinds of goat cheeses they had other than the standard soft chevre and Claudio's did not disappoint.  We eagerly tried several kinds and walked out with an artisanal Spanish goat cheese from Monte Enebro, a Californian goat cheese from Humboldt Fog, a  roquefort made from goat cheese mysteriously labeled miscellaneous and Claudio's own sharp provolone and pancetta.  Not a bad haul.

I am planning on pairing these cheeses with a crisp Sauterne, pears, toasted walnuts and a good quality bread or crackers.  A nice end to a hot summer day. 

If you are not interested in cheese and imported meat shops, take a gander in these shops.  I believe there is something for everyone.
My dogs are tired (that is my feet) and it is really hot so it is time to go.  There really is so much more to see, but we will have to do that on another day.  If you happen to be too tired to carry your goods back to your car or need a shopping bag then there is a "street entrepreneur" that is ready to help you out!  Now if I could just find who runs this cart.

A few links of other places that deserve being mentioned for that true Philly experience:

For Philly cheesesteaks:
Geno Steaks 
Pat's King of Steaks 

For Hoagies:
Sarcone's deli

An awesome kitchen shop:


  1. What an awesome glimpse inside the Italian Farmers Market. You have inspired me to visit next time i am home visiting my mom.

  2. Ohhh I love it! Markets are my favourite places to feel a culture, I hope I can travel to Philadelphia one day to experience this - being Italian myself, I think it'd be fantastic! Thanks for the sneak peak!

  3. Maris - I hope you do. Beside exploring the market there are excellent ethnic restaurants.

    Jess - I completely agree with you. Markets are a great place for culture and food is an integral part of that.

    I am so glad you both enjoyed this little taste of Philly, and it really is only a tidbit of the market. Thank you for the lovely complements.

  4. I was in Philly about 5 years ago and we visited this market. Thanks for bringing back memories. I love Philly it is a great food town.


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