It’s not easy to find genuine “old world charm” in contemporary American cities these days. The desire to build, modernize and capitalize upon every inch of available real estate has gobbled up the holdovers from decades past. In Philadelphia, the Italian-American immigration experience that dates back to the 1800s is still strong and nowhere in Philly is Italy’s presence more pronounced than in the southern neighborhoods.
You don’t need to look any farther than the South 9th Street Italian Market for proof that you can still see, taste, smell and touch. On the topic of tasting, September is National Italian Cheese Month and those looking to mark the occasion the right way should start by exploring 9th Street. Through this first-hand culinary adventure, you’ll be able to see the authentic Italian Market shops that specialize in unrivaled ingredients. Long-standing neighborhood cornerstones like Geno’s will also be standing by to offer a Philadelphia cheesesteak to those hungry adventurers.
At Geno’s, your Philadelphia cheesesteak can be topped with American or provolone cheese. The latter, as Cheese.com points out, is an “Italian cheese made from cow’s milk whose origins lie in Southern Italy.” What’s more, it’s lauded for the fact that it “contains high amounts of calcium” and “goes along with full-bodied aged red wines.” Other largely-recognized cheeses of Italy include mozzarella, asiago, Parmigiano-Reggiano and gorgonzola. There’s little doubt that these essential ingredients make every dish of pasta or a lunchmeat sandwich just that much better. If you’ll be exploring the 9th Street market for your cheese-shopping needs, Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese and Claudio Specialty Foods will certainly be able to help you cross taleggio, fontina d’aosta or pecorino toscano off your shopping list this September during National Italian Cheese Month. These two shops are Italian Market staples and picking up both cookware and imported ingredients is both convenient and fun. After all that exploring, we’re certain you’ve built up an appetite and a Philadelphia cheesesteak from Geno’s – which is a brief walk south from the heart of the market – is the best way to cure that hunger.
As PhiladelphianItalians.com points out, there were only a few hundred Italian-born newcomers arriving in Philadelphia around the turn of the 19th century. This figure would swell to 600,000 people as of the 1970s and their imprint on the city as a whole is still felt. However, the only place to truly immerse yourself in that “old world charm” of outdoor shopping and grabbing a Philadelphia cheesesteak can only be found on 9th Street.