March 12, 2012 – As an American woman with an Irish/German heritage and a love for Italian food, I enjoy embracing all that is good about each culture. I’ve attended my fair share parades and drank many spirits in honor of St. Patrick, raised a glass of beer at more Oktoberfests than I can count, and dined at some of the best Italian restaurants around.
That’s why it’s incomprehensible that for someone who appreciates Italian food as much as I do, and who is a lifelong resident of the Philadelphia area, I visited the city’s famous Italian Market for the first time this past Saturday. I drove to the heart of Little Italy where the streets are narrow and there’s nary a chain store in sight, only mom and pop shops and outside vendors. It’s as if the area stood still in time, and visitors really get the feel for how it was back before Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks and Walgreens took over.
Advertised as one of the oldest and largest working markets in the United States, the 9th Street Italian Market is still predominantly Italian, but it now includes some of the best items from other cultures. It’s touted as an outdoor market, but it is actually a combination of outdoor stands and indoor stores along 9th Street between Christian and Wharton Streets. From cheese, pasta, baked goods, seafood and Italian Water Ice, to antique shops, herbal shops, jewelry and more, Philadelphia’s famous market strip has it all. There are also a variety of excellent Italian restaurants and pizza shops, and of course, the famous Pat’s Steaks and Geno’s Steaks at the southern most end.
Movie buffs may recall that it is the famous stretch, aside from the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum, that Rocky ran through in the movie of the same name.
Philadelphia’s 9th Street Italian Market may be considered off the beaten path as far as city attractions go, but if you’re looking for a unique way to spend an afternoon and a lot of good food, it’s well worth the trip.