South Philly ready to serve up food, fun at 9th Street Italian Market Festival

The 9th Street Italian Market Festival returns this weekend.

Steve Tawa
May 17, 2018 - 5:25 pm
9th Street Italian Market Festival

Steve Tawa | KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- The nation's oldest outdoor market will be bursting with food, drink, and entertainment, when the 9th Street Italian Market Festival returns this weekend. It's a rain or shine, eight-block long event, and pay-as-you-go for all food and drink.

Next door to the iconic Villa di Roma Restaurant, in its prep kitchen, Basil DeLuca wields a wooden spoon the size of an oar to stir the gravy (the tomato sauce) that's poured over their famous meatballs.

Basil DeLuca /  Villa di Roma Restaurant
Steve Tawa | KYW Newsradio

"The secret is a secret. We don't measure anything, DeLuca said. "I was taught a certain way to mix it."

Only three people at Villa di Roma have made the red gravy recipe since it opened in 1963. 

At Talluto's, the pasta shop, manager Dave Brown is looking forward to the Half Ball Tournament around the corner in a lot, facing a three-story building (In the schoolyard of Christopher Columbus Charter School, Christian St. between 9th and 10th Streets.)

"Half ball is definitely South Philly," Brown said.

They'll use a white, hollow, pimple ball cut in half, and the bat is likely to be old broom with the handle removed, as players whack it against the building.

There's also a Grease Pole contest in front of the Frank Rizzo mural at 9th and Montrose Streets.

Frank Rizzo Mural
Steve Tawa | KYW Newsradio

And they're not just shimmying up there. You need a team of people.

"You need to almost pyramid your team up there, with big guys on the bottom, and people climbing up their backs on their shoulders," Brown explained. "Then, repeat. Some people make it. Many don't. But it's something to see."

Unlike the Crisco-caked poles in Center City and the Northeast after the Eagles' Super Bowl win and the Villanova NCAA Championship, they're serving up lard in South Philly.