This past weekend was the Italian Market Festival in South Philly. I’d never been to it before, so I thought I’d check it out. I went on Sunday, and it was a beautiful and sunny day. Parking wasn’t too terrible, as long as you were several blocks away from the festivities. I loved seeing the whole roasted pigs the most. It’s great to see that kind of thing in person. Look how cute this little old man is!
There seemed to be three distinct sections of the festival. On the immediate north side of Washington ave was the Italian market side. And then further north was the craft/artisan side. There were some excellent artists there, including photographers, woodturners, and jewelry makers. And to the south side of Washington ave was the Mexican-ish side. That’s where you could find the mozzarepas, the arepas (basically corn pancakes) with mozzarella in the middle, the mayo covered corn on the cob on a stick, and some tacos al pastor. I’d never seen these mozzarepa things before, and thought they looked intriguing, but didn’t try one. I’ve heard of the corn on a stick from friends who drove through Mexico before. Corn on the cob, smothered with mayo, cheese, and chili powder, is regular street food there. I’ve never tasted this, but I bet it is good. Not that I’m a mayo fan, but my friends told me it’s surprisingly tasty. And the tacos, it is the Mexican take on spit meat (like gyro meat or doner kebab meat), carved onto corn tortillas. I bet those were good too.
I got a little paranoid about trying any of the food. My boss just got food poisoning a few weeks ago and was out of commission for days, so I’ve been extra-vigilant about not eating things that could be questionable. And seeing all this food sitting outside in the heat made me a little nervous. Mac & Cheese put up a very nice posting about the festival and she actually tasted alot of the food there. So please read her blog, which I love.
There was also live music. I only caught the band on the main stage, which was a terrible cover band singing very cheesy songs. I didn’t have high expectations, so they were expectedly bad. Also, I had the pleasure of seeing Vito, from the Sopranos, hocking his book and cigars. It was hilarious to see him there. A real-life fake mobster in person.
On my way to the car, I decided to try something else for the first time that I’d been wanting to try for awhile, banh mi, a vietnamese hoagie. You’ve probably heard of these, and so had I, but for some reason, I hadn’t had one before. So I decided to go for it. I got mine at the Ba Le Bakery & Restaurant in the vietnmese shopping center on 6th and Washington ave. I was sad to see that the Pho Ba Le next door, which had been “closed for winter” for a while, looked closed for good, as everything inside had been cleared out. I was sad because they had the best chicken pho ever. EVER people! EVER! And now I doubt that I’ll be able to find any chicken pho like that ever again. It’s the end of the era. Sniff.
So Ba Le is a take-out only place. They have a whole bunch of stuff, most of which I had no idea what it was. They don’t even have any menus or anything so I didn’t even know if they had banh mi. I had to ask someone if they had them and she said yes, they do. So I ordered one, even though I didn’t know what kind. I just said one banh mi please. And then handed it to me. I’m not sure which kind it was but it had the roasted pork and two mystery lunch meat type meats on there. It also had the daikon, carrots, cucumbers, cilantro, and jalapenos. It all came on a delicious long roll with some a special mayo type concoction. I loved it. I really did. I took off the jalapenos because I didn’t care for them, but I loved everything else. The crunch of the rolls and the veggies, and the meaty flavors of all the mystery meats. Yum. I also got some of the fresh rice paper rolls, these had roasted pork in them. I tell you what, seriously, this place has the best rolls of this kind, hands down.
Ba Le Bakery & Restaurant
606 Washington Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19147