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!

Spice Up Your Winter Nights

Photo by the author.

It’s another chilly day in the Italian Market! The Spice Corner at 904 S. 9th St. has some wonderful options to warm up your winter evenings. They carry many exotic flavors of loose tea to make at home, seasoned rubs and spices to add to that pot roast, and even some fruit and nuts to have with dessert.

FLASH CHAT: Chatting with Paesano Philly Style’s Chris Peterman

This is the first installment of Flash Chat, a segment in which I converse with people from various establishments in the Italian Market.

Not quite an interview and not quite a Q&A, Flash Chat will aim to get to the core of the business: what it stands for and what makes it worth knowing about!

I hope to discover some piquant information and to gain a more in-depth understanding of the people and culture of 9th Street in the process.

Without further ado, I present you with FLASH CHAT. This week’s chat was with Chris Peterman. Note: Interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Paesano's sign

Paesano’s sign via Yelp user Fred B. on Paesano’s Yelp.com page.

Name: Chris Peterman

Business: Paesano’s Philly Style on 9th Street

Other locations: 2nd & Girard, Memories at Margate, Lincoln Financial Field

When was Paesano’s established? The first Paesano’s opened approximately five years ago [2010], that was the 2nd and Girard location; and our location has been open for almost four years now [2011].

What is the mantra of Paesano’s Philly Style? We’re always putting love into everything we do. We use fresh ingredients and put a Philly twist on it. That’s why our catchphrases are, “Jaeet Yet?” and “Puttin’ the Love in Your Mouth.”

How do you incorporate that into your dishes? We make sure every ingredient that is in the sandwich gets the utmost attention and tastes exactly the same every time that we do it. We like our sandwiches to be consistent through every bite.

Who comes up with the ideas for all the different flavor and ingredient combinations? Our chef, Chef Peter MacAndrews, who has several other restaurants also.

What is the best-selling product at Paesano’s? The Paesano, our signature sandwich. It’s made with beef brisket and has fried egg on top.

What do you think keeps customers coming back? Probably our friendliness when they come in here. And then obviously the delicious flavor of the sandwiches that they can’t find anywhere else!

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Paesano’s is a must-try spot in the Italian Market, and home to my favorite sandwich of all time, the Arista! Check it out in my selection of The 8 Most Crave-Worthy Foods in the Italian Market for Under $10.

What are some 9th Street establishments you’d like to see featured in Flash Chat? Share your thoughts in the comments!