America’s oldest outdoor market can be found not all that far from the centre of Philly. Running along 9th Street from Wharton to Fitzwater Streets, the inception of the South 9th Street Market can be traced back to a time in the late 19th Century when an Italian immigrant opened a boarding house for his fellow Italians.
I guess it didn’t take long before a community was created. These enterprising Italians did what came naturally, by starting up their own small businesses selling curb-side produce such as fruits and vegetables, meats, cheeses and seafood.
You could imagine how it looked back then. A cobbled street lined with food-centric shop fronts, make-shift stalls and wooden carts laden with produce; boxes, crates and possibly even the odd vendor fire-roasting joints of meat beneath plumes of smoke.
Loads of providores line 9th Street, one of which is a magnet by default. Claudio Specialty Foods. Anyone that gets the tingles at the mere mention of cheese ought to prepare themselves. Not only is Claudio’s a bit of a mozzarella-galore, it’s home to a dazzling array of other cheeses. The smell alone is enough to get you going.
Then there’s all of those glorious cured meats, hanging from hooks and ready for the slicing in the cabinet. There are also very well stocked shelves offering Italian dry goods like pasta, preserves, pickles, sweets, grains, you name it. It truly is a one-stop shop.
Similarly, there’s Di Bruno Brothers not all that far away. They may be smaller, but they offer hundreds of cheese varieties, a bunch of charcuterie, olives, pastas and pantry essentials. Some may already know this place as being the home to Stichelton, the unpasteurised version of Stilton. So it goes without saying they know what they’re doing.
We merely scratched the surface at the Italian Market, as there’s a lot more to be seen and tasted in the precinct. Mexican, Korean or Vietnamese, anyone?