Now that school is back in session, it can be difficult to get away for taking trips. However, the crisp Autumn days are perfect for day trips in the local area.
A perfect destination is the Italian Market, in South Philadelphia. While it’s one of my favorite places to go year round, Autumn is the perfect season to go with your family. With seven different meat markets, seafood vendors and vendors of livestock, Ninth Street can be especially pungent during the warmer months of the year. Autumn provides the perfect temperature.
Made famous by a certain boxer's jog through Ninth Street, the Italian Market has been a favorite of locals and tourists for a long time. It’s one of the oldest open air markets in the entire country and hasn’t changed much in the last century. With purveyors of fine foods, top notch restaurants and bakeries, what’s not to love? Andrew Zimmern from Bizarre Foods loves it. Rachael Ray loves it. You will too!
So, what’s to love? The food!
This is one of the ultimate foodie destinations. If your children are old enough to appreciate this and you’re looking for a sit-down meal at one of the best Italian restaurants in existence, you must go to Ralph’s.
With a menu like this, and celebrity endorsements from Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Durante, Lena Horne and Tony Bennett, you can’t go wrong. Ralph’s generously shares their family recipes (their tomato gravy is exceptional!) on their website, so once you’ve found a favorite dish, you only have to take a short walk from the restaurant and down Ninth Street to find all the ingredients you need to duplicate it at home.
Just up the street is Sarcone's Bakery. The next best thing to sliced bread is Sarcone's signature breads – the perfect amount of crispy, chewy seeded goodness that makes an ordinary sandwich into an extraordinary one. Get here early – bread is sold out fast!
Next stop? What goes best on a good piece of bread? Go ask the cheese mongers at DiBruno Brothers. This store has has over 400 varieties of cheese (and they’re generous with samples), plus all of the accoutrements you’d expect from a store in this business since 1939.
If you’ve had a long enough walk to work off your lunch you might just be ready for dessert. Boy, are you in the perfect place.
I have two favorites spots. Isgro’s (just around the corner at 10th and Christian) and Anthony’s Italian Coffee House. If you weren’t fortunate enough to be born into a family with an Italian grandmother that makes her own homemade cannoli, you’re going to be ok. At Isgro’s, you’ll swear there’s a small army of Nonnas lovingly spooning the rich ricotta goodness into perfectly crisp cannoli shells.
And Anthony’s! Can you say gelato? I’m not talking about the stuff you find at Rita’s water ice. I’m talking the REAL DEAL. Lucious, dense, sweet creamy goodness served in petite servings (because it is sooo rich). With traditional flavors like pistachio, tiramisu, hazelnut, dark chocolate, and newer ones like pumpkin, egg nog and peanut butter cup, you’re going to find a new favorite.
Ok, you’re probably going to be in a food coma by now. Walk it off, on your way to your next destination for a true South Philadelphia experience – The Mummers Museum at 1100 S.2nd St.
You don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving or New Year’s Day anymore. For your viewing and listening pleasure, in the convenience of the Italian Market neighborhood, you no longer have to freeze (and watch your children’s lips turn blue) while watching curbside on the most frigid days of the year to check out the sequin-enhanced string band brigades that faithfully walk down Broad Street every New Years Day. The Mummers Museum houses costumes and memorabilia from the last century’s worth of costumes, instruments and history. It’s neat, it’s colorful, it’s history.
Not your thing? Society Hill is just a short walk away. Check out the restful Magnolia and Rose Gardens for the serenity that a beautiful fountain, statues and sitting areas bring at the end of a day-long tour. Sit back, relax and listen to the birds sing. This is my version. Professional tours are also available, but I highly recommend putting one foot in front of the other and let your nose (and tastebuds) lead you on your own journey.