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The 9th Street Italian Market
Cart vendors serving people along the sidewalk
The oldest open-air market in the country, South Philadelphia's 9th Street Italian Market
was established in the late 1800's, by Southern Italian immigrants, and
thrives to this day. It is a popular destination for neighborhood shopping,
for its many and varied ethnic eateries, and for its attraction to visitors
from all over the world.
In its beginnings, the neighborhood became the favorite destination of
the multitude of new immigrants. With many opportunities for work in
the many nearby factories, the popular Palumbo's boarding house gave
them a temporary home, and assistance in finding work and a permanent place
in which to live. This naturally boosted the proliferation of new businesses
nearby, to cater to their needs.
of produce and other goods, who set up their wheeled carts in front
of their home, on a busy corner, or wheeled them around the neighborhood
each day, gradually moved their activities from the side streets and alleys
to the busier 9th St blocks. As the number of cart vendors, sidewalk stands,
and businesses increased, the area became known as
the Italian Market.
before dawn, vendors pushed their wheeled carts to Delaware Ave to procure
their foodstocks and other goods from the ships docked between South St
and Washington Ave, so they would be ready to re-sell them on 9th
St when the day began. Lacking
refrigeration, it was necessary to buy food provisions daily, and the Italian
Market offered a convenient, centralized location and everything needed
to prepare the day's meals, as well as clothing and other household goods.
The market developed steadily, changed to suit the times, and hit its full
zenith in the 1960's. It became "Philly's supermarket",
not just that of the neighborhood, and a favorite tourist destination.
There were 30 butcher shops and 23 fish stores, and the fruit, vegetable,
and other stands extended uninterrupted from Wharton to Christian. Jewish
people sold clothing, Greeks had spice stores, and Italians the rest,
The expansion of supermarkets and department stores, the closing of the
clothing factories along Washington Ave, the steady withdrawal of homeowners
to the suburbs, and many other factors made this mostly a weekend
market, for a time.
And the number of vendors shrank, until not so long ago.
reputable specialty stores and outdoor stands have withstood the test of
time, and have thrived. New waves of immigrant have made the Market their
home, adding color and unusual foods, filling the stores, stands and street
carts. Groups of Koreans came first, then Vietnamese, Cambodians and Mexicans,
among others. As it was when Italian immigrants started it, it's
still a Market of immigrants.
The street carts still have wheels on them, canvas overhangs still
protect them from sun and rain, and corrugated roofs still cover the sidewalks.
Neon signs pervade storefront windows as they have for decades. Politicians
still come out to talk to people along the sidewalk at election time, and
celebrities still dart through the market stores regularly.
Products now come in trucks, from seaports, airports,
and from places all over the world. The wide variety of authentic ethnic
foods still abounds, and maintains the distinction and appeal that the
9th Street Italian Market has, to food lovers from everywhere.
The sidewalks are busy all day long
with shoppers, and into the night with strolling diners, as
the many quality eateries fill
with patrons from near and far. Although frequented mostly by neighbors,
it is still one of the main tourist destinations in Philadelphia.
The original Italian Market was located between Washington
Ave and Christian St on 9th, extending onto nearby streets. With the natural
expansion of stores and businesses over time, the Market is now generally
considered to extend from Wharton to Fitzwater along 9th, and spilling onto
nearby streets, with outdoor stands between Federal and Christian.
Most stores and stands
are open all day Tuesday through Saturday, until about 5pm, and also on
Sunday mornings. Many merchants still close on Mondays, as they have probably
since the beginning of the Market. Cart vendors begin their day around 8:00
during the week, and 7:00 on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Some stores and
most restaurants are open into the night hours.
· Exerpted from Mariella's presentation
to many tour groups who visit our store
· Also see Joan Saverino's Article and the
History of Fante's
Inside one of the
specialize in every
bread, cheese, oils, groceries, variety
and so much more
at stands line
the street, from
early morning to
and until early
A wide variety
of fresh seafood
can be found in the
all sorts can be
found here. Spices,
candies and pastries,
beans, coffee, teas
Cookbooks from the Italian Market Area
||And Now We Call It Gravy, Recipes and
memoirs on the Italian Market, by Sonny D'Angelo
|History, tastes and the culinary wonders that were once
prevalent, and the evolution of Italian-American cuisine through family
recipes, with their quirks, passions and preferences. Sonny owns a meat
market on 9th St.
138 pages, top-spiral bound on cardboard easel-back.
95 recipes included, from appetizers to desserts.