Everything You Need to Know About This Year’s South 9th Street Italian Market Festival – May 16 & 17, 2015

Curbside vendor selling fresh produce on 9th Street across from Villa di Roma. (Photo/Catherine DeMuro)

Curbside vendor selling fresh produce on 9th Street across from Villa di Roma. (Photo/Catherine DeMuro)

The scents of summer wafting through the air, the taste of a fresh pina colada on your lips, the promise of a hearty cheeseburger if you can just wait in this line for five more minutes… There is nothing like a summer festival!

This year, the South 9th Street Italian Market Festival will take place on Saturday May 16 and Sunday May 17 from 11 am – 6 pm. In addition to the everyday retail offerings on 9th Street, including, of course, its world-class cheese shops, butcher stores, and Philly sandwiches, many merchants will be selling all kinds of foods and beverages curb-side for guests’ enjoyment.

In addition to the food – although, let’s face it, that’s one of the BEST parts – expect to find live music, craft vendors, and even games around every corner!

While you’re on 9th Street, don’t forget to say “Happy Birthday.” 2015 marks a particularly special year for the Festival and the Italian Market, as it is the district is celebrating its “Cent’anni” – its 100 year anniversary!

What better way to celebrate 100 years of incredible food, multicultural heritage, and amazing, dedicated people than the Italian Market Festival?

As someone who is intent on exploration, indecisive about snacks, and has waited in plenty of lines – I think I can share a tip or two. Here is everything you need to know about this year’s festival.

HISTORY

9th Street has deep roots in history. The South Philly gem is the nation’s oldest operating curb market, having originated through Italian immigrants who worked and boarded in the area. (Read more about this and some other miscellaneous cheesesteak trivia here!)

Though the market has grown to be a melting pot of various cultures besides Italian, including Korean and Mexican, it still honors its Italian roots. The second day of the Italian Market Festival begins with the Procession of Saints to St. Paul Parish, which is a Roman-Catholic tradition where people process through the local neighborhood with statues of saints. You are likely to see children in their first communion attire, and ornate statues of the Blessed Mary.

The Procession of Saints takes place on the third Sunday in May, which will be May 17.

In the Italian Market, the procession begins at Saint Mary Magdalen Church (7th and Montrose), stops for the Blessing of the Market at 9th and Washington, and ends at Saint Paul Parish.

YOUR ARRIVAL

All of the Italian Market Festival action can be found on South 9th Street from Fitzwater street to Federal Street. This technically encompasses both the Bella Vista and East Passyunk neighborhoods.

All of the retail shops remain open throughout the festival, but the focus is on the typically on the lively outdoor happenings.

Over 70,000 visitors are expected to attend, so taking public transportation or parking at a distance and walking to the market is highly recommended.

9th Street is closed to vehicle traffic throughout the weekend. Make a note of where you park in case you have to walk a distance!

THE FOOD

Oh, the food! There will be indulgences everywhere you turn, and you’re in great shape whether you like to sit down for a meal or try a little bit of everything! (Personally, I’m a fan of the latter.)

Take a word from the wise, 3-year Italian Market Festival veteran Christopher Menzinger: “This isn’t a place where you go after stuffing yourself with a diner breakfast. Come hungry and come with an open mind. There are really just a ton of amazing things to try, so you shouldn’t limit yourself to one area or one thing.”

My mouth is watering already!

Here are some highlights to check out. Click below for a map of these top spots on 9th Street!

https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zAYkPLmryN2g.kIBdHjBUpIQA

  • Anastasi Seafood (1101 S. 9th St.) – soft shell crab sandwiches
  • Los Taquitos De Pueblas Taqueria (1149 S. 9th St.) – pork tacos
  • Esposito’s Meats (1001 S. 9th St.) – Italian sausage sandwiches
  • Isgro’s Pastries (1009 Christian St.) – sfogliatelli
  • Anthony’s Italian Coffee House (903 S. 9th St.) – chocolate covered bananas or chocolate covered strawberries
  • And of course the pina colada in a pineapple! Available at several vendors throughout the market, with or without alcohol. (Be prepared for approximately 75 people to ask, “where did you get that?” Just sip and point.)

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The South 9th Street Italian Market Festival is one of the greatest events of the year in Philadelphia. Plan ahead, have an amazing time, and enjoy all that this incredible outdoor market has to offer!

Feel free to share your festival tips or past experiences with me in the comments.

SEE YOU THERE!

From Cappuccino to Cutlery: Video Interview with Mariella Esposito, Owner of Fante’s Kitchen Wares Shop

Whether you need a world-class pasta strainer, top-of-the-line cutlery, or a steaming hot cappuccino, Fante’s Kitchen Wares Shop is the place to go.

Fante’s is the oldest cookware store in the country and located in the heart of the Italian Market! Mariella Esposito, Fante’s co-owner, started working at the store in 1970 as a part-time employee while still in high school. She arrived in Philadelphia as an immigrant from Italy and worked alongside her brothers in the store for the Fante family. “The Italian Market has been a home for me for the past 40 years,” said Esposito.

Fante’s opened on 9th Street in 1906, originally as a carpenter shop owned by father and son team Dominic and Luigi Fante. According to Esposito, when son Dominic took over the business, he did not know how to make furniture, so he sold pre-made furniture and turned the store into a gift shop. In the 1940’s, Fante’s started to bring some cookware into the retail store, and they have not turned back since!

It was not until 1981 when Esposito and her brothers took over the business and developed it into the full-fledged cookware store it is today. They are most well-known for their traditional Italian cookware, such as pizzelle irons and gnocchi boards, but carry a vast array of products for every cooking and baking need.

A look down one of the ‘gadgets’ aisles at Fante’s. Click to enlarge photo. (Photo/Catherine DeMuro)

Did I mention that Fante’s also has a fantastic coffee shop with a coffee of the day special? (It’s worth the visit for the beautiful aroma alone.)

Today Mariella took me on a tour of every nook and cranny of the wondrous kitchen shop. Watch the video below to hear her thoughts on the evolution of the Italian Market and get a sneak peek inside the store – including its most “FABULOUS” items!

Note: Video has been edited for length and clarity. Please check back for an updated post with an extended version of the interview.

Video recorded with my iPhone 6 and edited with iMovie. This was my very first experience with interview recording and video editing, so I certainly hope to improve from here!

97 Years of Fresh Baked Bread: Audio Interview with Lou Sarcone Jr. of Sarcone’s Bakery

At Sarcone’s Bakery, ‘it’s all about the bread,’ and it has been that way for five generations. That is 97 years’ worth of fresh baked bread daily! Louis Sarcone Jr. is the fourth generation Sarcone to run the renowned family business. Today he shared the background of his business and why he and his family feel compelled to uphold tradition on 9th Street, even when people recognize their name up and down the East Coast.

Lou Sarcone Jr. stands in front of family photos of his father and grandfather displayed in his 9th Street store. Sarcone was 18 years old in the photo on the right. (Photo/Catherine DeMuro)

Listen here:

Note: Interview has been edited for length and clarity. Full length interview will be available in an updated post.

FLASH CHAT: Chatting with Igor Tolkunov of Taffet’s (Gluten-Free!) Artisan Bakery & Store

Welcome to the second installment of FLASH CHAT, a segment in which I converse with workers in the Italian Market and get to know about their business and what it stands for, and how it fits into the melting pot of 9th Street.

This FLASH CHAT is with Igor Tolkunov of Taffet’s Artisan Bakery and Store, a 100% gluten-free shop that bakes all of their products daily on the premises. Taffet’s carries gluten-free bread, bagels, pasta, and even cupcakes!

Tolkunov’s passion for the products and his job was evident from his vast knowledge on all of the baked goods to the smile on his face when discussing a certain delectable gluten-free cookie!

FLASH CHAT is not quite and interview and not quite a Q & A. It is intended as an informative conversation in which I get to the heart of the businesses on 9th Street and discover what keeps customers coming back.

Note: Interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Taffet’s Artisan Bakery Store on 9th Street. (Photo/Catherine DeMuro)

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What is the name of your business?

Tote Better Foods, LLC, but we are known as Taffet’s Bakery.

Do you have any other locations?

Most of the income is wholesale, so a lot of locations, including New York, for example, carry our brand, but we don’t have any other locations for now. We’re working on expanding this location. We just expanded the kitchen and made it twice the size, and we’re going to increase the assortment of goods. Then we will think about opening other locations.

How long have you worked here for?

About one year. I’ve held my position here running the retail business from the beginning while the owners are running the wholesale business and expanding.

Tell me about Taffet’s – the everyday business and its appeal.

We are the only place which makes gluten-free bread. There are a lot of pastry shops, but we are the only place that makes gluten-free bread in the city of Philadelphia. We are very proud of that. We’re always working on our recipes and making sure that everything freezes perfectly, making sure everybody is satisfied. We review all of the feedback that we get.

Describe the products you carry in your store, including the fresh products as well as the packaged goods.

The fresh products are what we are most proud of.  We have our gluten-free loaves of teff and quinoa bread. Everything is made fresh daily, you can buy our fresh bread every day. With the packaged goods, we focus on pasta a lot because we are in the Italian Market and everyone is looking for pasta. I don’t want to get into stereotypes, but that is true. We do get our pasta from Italy, actually, and it’s absolutely gluten-free. There is no risk of cross-contamination, so even if someone has a tough case of celiac disease, everything here can be bought with no risk at all.

What is the most popular item sold here?

The breads are probably the most popular. The teff loaves and quinoa loaves are two of our most popular sandwich loaves in the retail store. We also wholesale them to a lot of locations. We’re also making some of the sweet stuff. Our cookies are very popular with people who are gluten-free and who are not gluten-free as well. That’s probably the product that the non-gluten-free people come for. We have chocolate chip cookies and oatmeal raisin cookies, which are our favorite.

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Some of the gluten-free bread, pretzel, and cookies available. (Photo/Catherine DeMuro)

What is your favorite part of having your business here on 9th Street?

I like the market atmosphere. Everybody’s family here and we all help each other out. The rents are very decent and everybody knows everybody, plus it’s very friendly for customers. I’m able to give advice to people if they’re trying to find something in the market, and the other businesses do the same.

If you could embody your business with one phrase, what would it be?

“You won’t believe it’s gluten-free.”

What do you think that people like the most about this shop?

We remember our regulars and always try to meet their custom needs. If they need something sugar-free or if they need recipes modified, we try to find a balance that can be done for what they want. Many people who come here have special needs with very rare allergies and such. We are very flexible and try to be as friendly and helpful as possible. Plus, to make sure their health is not compromised we will literally try to make sure we know everybody’s face. And we are extremely careful in making sure we can fulfill their special dietary needs.

Tell me about your experience working on 9th Street.

I feel at home here. I’ve had a lot of professions in my lifetime. I used to be a teacher, an ethnologist, and I just feel at home here. I couldn’t dream of a better career. As long as I’m useful, I’m staying, definitely.

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Igor Tolkunov (left) and his co-worker Jonathan hard at work. (Photo/Catherine DeMuro)

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Check out the very first edition of FLASH CHAT with Paesano Philly Style’s Chris Peterman and stay tuned for more exciting news this week!