I went and explored the 9th Street Italian Market this morning. Wow. So much good food available. It was mildly overwhelming, actually. I started by just buying a cup of coffee from Anthony’s Italian Coffee House (and Chocolate House) and walking the length of the Market, which runs along 9th Street between Fitzwater and Wharton Streets. There were people everywhere, not to mention the folding grocery carts, strollers, bicycles and dogs. It made for a bit of an obstacle course, but the hustle and bustle was exciting at the same time. People from all over and speaking a variety of languages doing their shopping. I was not in a hurry (I scored a free 3 hour parking space in a municipal lot), so I could really just relax and wander. While walking and absorbing and enjoying the environment, I formulated my plan of attack for purchases.
My friend KS had given me some recommendations, and I trust her (she did clue me into the delicious peaches at the local farmers market), so I was looking for those stores on my walk. Almost all the stores are long-time local Philadelphia family owned stores, most still owned and run by the same family that opened them generations ago. Some of the vendors have been around for over 100 years! In addition to all the stores, produce stalls line the other side of the sidewalk. It created some narrow paths that got clogged with people and carts and strollers, but there was so much to look at so I didn’t mind. Everywhere is the smell of coffee, fresh fruits and veggies, fresh seafood, fresh meats, and cheese. OMG the cheese.
In addition to the various food recommendations, KS told me about Fante’s, a kitchen supply store. Anyone that knows me knows I cannot resist a kitchen supply store. They emit some sort of gravitational pull, much like a bookstore, that I can’t fight. I am compelled to go in and look around. I love getting lost in a kitchen store. So many neat toys and tools and gadgets. Some are laughable, but some are really cool.
After wandering around making a wish list in my head at Fante’s, I headed up the street to Sarcone’s Bakery for bread. I picked up some tomatoes from a “Jersey Fresh” vendor along the way (love love love local produce). The fresh bread selection at Sarcone’s was beautiful. I picked up some short French loafs, munching on one of them as I walked back down the street. Crusty on the outside, and soft on the inside…almost melted in my mouth. I stopped in at Orlando’s Meats for some homemade pork chorizo (so good!), and continued my walk down 9th Street.
Along the way, I picked up various fruits and veggies from the produce stalls. I made sure I grabbed some basil, and some fresh squash and lettuce for salads. Next stop: the cheese.
KS told me to check out Di Bruno Brothers for cheese. I walked in and was hit by the most incredibly delicious smell of all the cheeses. So many choices. If there’s a cheese you want, Di Bruno’s has it. Wow. It’s a small store, like all the others in the Italian Market, and there was quite the line. While I was waiting, I started to feel a little drunk from the cheese smell. Wow. Heaven. In addition to the cheese varieties, they do have some meats and general items like olives, olive oil, and various canned goods. They have samples everywhere, and if you ask for a particular type of cheese, say a sharp cheddar, they’ll give you samples of a few options and you pick the one you want. The cheese-mongers know what they’re talking about. I had a mission: fresh mozzarella. Their fresh mozz is homemade regularly, so you know you’re getting a really good cheese. I can’t wait to have it on a nice slice of my French bread with some fresh tomato and basil. The best sandwich in the world.
My last stop on the way back to the car was Talluto’s for fresh pasta. Again, a small shop, but they have olives and a small selection of various salads in a case as well. In addition to the variety of frozen pastas, they have a selection of fresh homemade pastas that are cut when you order. I chose the spinach pasta, and asked for a linguine cut. They even bundled it in two pieces so I could freeze one (they don’t sell less than a pound at a time), and the cooking directions are printed right on the package. I’m drooling just thinking about what I’m going to do with that pasta…so many possibilities.
Even if you aren’t planning on buying your groceries, I highly recommend a wander through the Italian Market just to look around. It is an incredible experience, and I can’t wait to go back.