Celebrate Philadelphia Food and Drink: The 9th Street Italian Market Festival

The 9th Street Italian Market has been a popular destination for Philadelphia locals and tourists alike for decades. Get ready for this year’s Italian Market Festival by taking a closer look at the Philadelphia institution.

Philly is a city that’s known for its food, from cheesesteaks to meals prepared by an Iron Chef. One of the best places to get a real taste of Philadelphia food is the at 9th Street Italian Market, which features outdoor produce sellers, indoor butchers and fishmongers, cheese shops, and a host of other stores. Although the market is open daily, an even better way to experience the excitement and hustle and bustle of it is to visit during the Italian Market Festival, held the third weekend in May. Whether you’ve just moved to town or have lived here for years, there are probably a few things you don’t know about the market and the festival.

It’s Turning 100

The Italian Market is often described as the oldest outdoor market in the country. Although the seeds for the market were planted in the late 1800s, when many people immigrated from Italy to South Philadelphia, 1915 is considered the official year that the market began. The 2015 Italian Market Festival will be celebrating the market’s Cent’anni, or 100th anniversary.

It’s Not Just Italian

Although “Italian” is in the name and a lot of the vendors, stores and restaurants in the market’s area (which actually stretches from 6th to 11th streets) offer Italian food or are owned by people of Italian heritage, the market is actually fairly diverse. The original name, the 9th Street Curb Market, better reflects the diversity of the area, both in the past and presently. Along with places such as Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese and Talluto’s Authentic Italian Food, you’ll find San Roman Tortilleria, which sells fresh corn tortillas, and Al Zaytouna, which serves Mediterranean dishes.

It’s Not Just About Food

Philadelphia food is a big part of the Italian market and plenty of people living in Philly do some or all of their grocery shopping there. The market and its festival are about more than food. You can see stand-up comedians do their thing or watch a band perform live at Connie’s Ric Rac. If you need something for your kitchen, you can stop into Fante’s Kitchen Shop. Or, if you’re looking for a good book to read, you can browse the shelves of used books at Molly’s Books and Records. During the Italian Market Festival, which takes place May 16 and 17 this year, you can enjoy classic rock DJ sets, see a local band play, or enjoy the sounds of the accordion on the Accordion Corner.

Another non-food focused highlight of the festival is the Halfball Tournament. Halfball is similar to baseball, in that a pitcher throws a ball to a batter, who takes a swing at it. The big differences are that the ball is cut in half and made of rubber and that people don’t run bases. If you’d like to participate in the tournament, you can sign up with a team of five.

Even if you can’t make this year’s Italian Market Festival, visiting the market at another time can be worth the trip. Timing is everything if you want to really see the market in action. While it is officially open seven days a week, a lot of the vendors take Mondays off. Things usually wrap up a little after lunch on Sundays, too. That means the best times to visit are usually early mornings from Tuesday through Sunday.

Image Source: Flickr/Doug Kerr


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