Banners throughout South Philadelphia's Italian Market wave in celebration of its 100th anniversary. Beginning with a rush of immigrant businesses a century ago, the place has seemed happily stuck in time, with little change to the strip's street stalls and small shops. There are restaurants, but new ones move in with much less frequency than in its neighboring food district, East Passyunk Avenue.
But things are changing: New restaurants are coming soon, a legendary restaurant just reopened, one BYOB is getting a liquor license, and an established hotspot just got a makeover.
"I can't wait," says Emilio Mignucci, co-owner of DiBruno Bros., which has its original location in the Italian Market. "My family's been here 75 years. I grew up watching [the Italian Market] grow — and stagnate — and this is exactly the change I've touted."
Mignucci is so encouraged by these changes, he plans to open DiBruno's Pronto at Ninth and Montrose as a wine bar-eatery in 2016. "This all brings life to the market, day and night," he says of the new spots coming in, including his. "You won't have to leave the block for a nightcap."
Nina's Trattoria owner David Neukirch says his Sicilian restaurant, known for its late-night menu, will keep BYOB as an option but is adding a liquor license as a convenience for guests. "The Italian Market is a gem that needs TLC to take it from good to great. With motivated entrepreneurs coming in, we'll see a great outcome," he predicts.
Neukirch is talking about the guys behind Royal Tavern, Khyber Pass Pub, Cantina Los Caballitos and Cantina Dos Segundos, who re-opened Triangle Tavern at 10th and Reed as an Italian eatery earlier this summer, as well as the owners of West Philly's Local 44, who will open Coeur, a French-American restaurant at Eighth and Christian, by Labor Day.
There’s also Joncarl Lachman of Noord on East Passyunk: His Neuf, a North African-French bistro, is slated to open later this summer.
"I've wanted this space for Neuf since opening Noord," says Lachman, who is working with the block to put a small green park in front of Neuf, where empty stalls currently are, to celebrate the market's 'Cent'anni'. "I have faith in the Italian Market and believe it's at a turning point."
New and improved:
1009 S. Eighth St.
The French BYOB redecorated and welcomed back chef Pierre Calmels.
1338 S. 10th St.
Closed for seven years before its reincarnation, this Triangle looks like the old one with its original bar top and its Philly celeb décor. But the food is market-fresh Italian fare with vegetarian and vegans options.
824 S. Eighth St.
Little is known about Coeur except its hearty Franco-American gastro-pub fare concept.
943 S. Ninth St.
This sexy, candlelit spot will serve carafes of wines from Morocco, and meals such as Bouillabaisse and tagines.