Italian. The area between South Street and Washington Avenue and from 6th to 11th streets lives up to that name for its view of Center City. This section of South Philadelphia offers 30 blocks of distinctive brick row homes, the outdoor Italian market and the oldest family owned Italian restaurant in America.
The neighborhood is like a small town within the city.
“My neighbors are extremely friendly, our houses all look the same and trying to find parking is horrible,” said Gina Sciccitano,
a resident of Bella Vista for more than 18 years.
Tony Marconni has worked at Geno’s Steaks at 1219 S. 9th St. for the past seven years and lives in the neighborhood as well.
“There are good people here, and it’s culturally diverse,” Marconni said. “You have the sports complex so close and even a mural of Frank Sinatra up the street [which is] in a good location. When it gets warm out, all the kids come out and play at the basketball courts.”
Molly McIntyre, a student, described living in South Philly as, “old, diverse and not gentrified, allowing the area to absorb change.
“My friend and I were just commenting on how it feels like the beach with the way the light is hitting the neighborhood and how flat the area is,” McIntyre added. “I love living here, everything is in close walking distance and I can get all my groceries down the street.”
It may be next-to-impossible to find a decent grocery store near Main Campus, but the Bella Vista neighborhood’s very own Italian Market offers fresh fruits and vegetables, ready-to-cut meat and fish as well as an assortment of breads, dairy, sweets and coffee. Crowds of people gather to indulge in the outdoor Italian Market between Fitzwater and Wharton streets along South 9th St. everyday. More than 100 hospitable merchants make it one of the most treasured places to visit in Philadelphia.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries,
Italian immigrants established businesses
to provide for their local community.
“I grew up here. St. Paul’s and St. Mary’s schools made it a great neighborhood for kids. However, since the schools closed, the neighborhood is more liberal and business like,” said Ron Capocci, a server at Ralph’s Italian Restaurant on 760 S. 9th St. “When the Italians made their money, they sent their kids to college. The family business is now rented out.”
The area has expanded culturally as well.
“When I was a kid, the market was all Italians. In the early ’90s the Vietnamese came, and now Asian and Mexicans take up most of the Italian Market,” Capocci said.
After taking in the view and buying fresh produce at the market, have a seat at Ralph’s, the oldest family-owned Italian restaurant in America. Francesco and Catherine Dispigno opened the restaurant in 1900, naming it after their son Ralph. Here, you’ll undo the top button of your jeans as you indulge in large portions of homemade Italian cuisine.
“The food was very fresh and delicious,
I received a true taste of Italian food and dining here at Ralph’s,” said sophomore psychology major Ellen Gatski after dining at Ralph’s.
When looking for new faces and traditional shops, Bella Vista is home to Philadelphia’s pretty view with memorable streets and good eats.
Kayleen Leshock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.