Philadelphia’s Italian Market is the oldest and largest working outdoor market in the entire country, and these days it has the best of many cultures and cuisines to offer gourmands and food newbies alike.
Take it all in this weekend when the 9th Street Italian Market Festival returns with two days and six blocks of music, games, live entertainment and enough food to make your eyes bug out.
The Italian Market Festival is just one element of a hugely epic weekend, so you’ll want to make sure you have a plan of attack for each event.
Here’s our handy guide to experiencing the Italian Market Festival:
• Food: Oh, did we mention the food? The Italian Market Festival is the food festival from your wildest dreams. Vendors line 9th Street between Fitzwater and Federal Streets selling everything from Italian sausage sandwiches to carnitas tacos, hand-carved mango roses and seafood on the go. A full list of merchants is available here, every single one of whom will be serving food both inside their store and out on the street.
Of course, there will be two of Philly’s most famous cheesesteaks purveyors on the festival’s south end, Pat’s and Geno’s, but there will also be a diversity of offerings reflecting the market’s modern multicultural makeup. Think authentic Mexican taquerias and Vietnamese Banh Mis neighboring stands selling fresh sausage and peppers, antipasto salads, fresh cheeses, cured meats, hand-crafted pasta, oysters and clams, an infinite array of pastries and more.
Many nearby restaurants will extend their table service to the sidewalk so you can sit down and dine alfresco while enjoying the festival atmosphere.
• Music: You can dance in the streets to music to classic rock and party band favorites at four stages this year: the 9th & Washington Stage will host live bands both days noon-5 p.m.; DJ Johnny Looch will keep you hopping at the 9th & Christian Stage both days 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; the 9th & Federal Stage features Philly Star DJ’s from BenFM 10 a.m.-5 p.m. both days; 9th & Carpenter at Talluto’s will play both Accordion Corner traditional music and 102.9 MGK Classic Rock.
Keep reading, below.
• Artisan vendors: Artists bring their one-of-a-kind creations to the Italian Market Festival. Check out a sampling of the available wares here. They’ll be stationed at 9th Street between Ellsworth & Washington and 9th Street between Christian & Fitzwater
• Entertainment: The Family Fun Zone at Christian Street between 9th & 10th Streets is open all day Saturday and Sunday with games, crafts, prizes, face painting, balloon art, magicians, dancing, stilt walkers and a Disney Radio Concert on Sunday from 2:30-4:30 p.m. On 10th and Christian Streets there will be a Street Party at Santucci’s for the older crowd.
• Procession of Saints: Sunday at 11 a.m., the traditional Italian St. Paul Parish Procession of Saints starts at Saint Mary Magdalen Church, located at 712 Montrose, and pauses for the Blessing of the Market at 9th and Washington. The procession ends at Saint Paul Catholic Church (808 S. Hutchinson Street, at Christian Street).
• After party: One of the best parts of the festival is when it spills over into night as festival-goers patronize nearby restaurants and bars for dinner and drinks after strolling through and experiencing the massive festival. This year, there’s an official Festival After Party at South Philly Bar and Grill. Sip the featured Festival Cocktail and join in on the 9th Street Trivia Game. Prizes will be awarded.
There are also many other options for you to choose from as you decide where to extend your day: Devil’s Den, Hawthorne’s, Royal Tavern, Villa di Roma, Monsu, Bibou and 943 are all nearby and provide several excellent options.
Or you can head further south to East Passyunk Avenue where you’ll have many more choices like the POPE,Izumi, Paradiso, Cantina Los Caballitos, Le Virtu, Birra, Stateside and others. Wherever you end up, you really can’t go wrong.
The festival map is included below.
Italian Market Festival
Where: 9th Street between Fitzwater and Federal Streets
When: May 19-20, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
More info: www.italianmarketfestival.com