Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bloggers' Bites: Italian Market

Bloggers' Bites is a series of posts chronicling the foodie adventures of Penn Appetit's blog staff. Last Saturday we visited the Italian Market for lunch, dessert and shopping at Paesano's Philly Style sandwiches, DiBruno Brothers, and Isgro Pastries (open since 1904 and home to "Philly's Best Cannoli). 

This was my first time having sandwich from Paesano's, and while I wasn't blown away by my choice, I was surely impressed. I got the Liveracce, which, according to their website, contains"Crispy Chicken Livers with Salami, Sauteed Onions, Iceberg, Roasted Tomatoes, Garlic mayo, Sweet Orange Marmalade, Gorgonzola Spread & Hot Sauce. The blackboard at the restaurant had omitted the salami from the description, so I was very surprised to see the deep-fried livers enveloped in another layer of crispy meat -- the salami had been grilled or roasted for an extra crunch. Then again, there were no roasted tomatoes in sight, and comparatively little iceberg in comparison to the other ingredients, so on the whole the sandwich was very heavy. The dominant flavor seemed to be that of the garlic mayo, but I thought the orange marmalade provided a very pleasant, refreshing sweetness to offset the rest. Next time, I think I will get the pulled pork with broccoli rabe, because it looked simply delicious.

For dessert, we all went to Isgro on Christian St., where I got another "first ever" -- a mascarpone cannolo, both ends of which had been dipped in chocolate. For $4.75, I was a bit underwhelmed -- it was pretty tasty at first, but it becomes very heavy after a few bites, and I probably wouldn't get it again. But I am definitely coming back to Isgro to try some of their other creations -- if I had not decided I would get a cannolo, I would have spent a huge amount of time trying to decide on a treat, because everything looks equally decadent there -- from the biscotti to the creme brulee with fruit on top.

I would also like to share my astonishment at the sinfully cheap produce at the Italian Market -- I got six blood oranges for a dollar, and 1.5 pounds of tomatoes for $2.25! If I'd had more cash (and room), maybe some blueberries, iceberg lettuce and a box of mangoes would've followed. But next time -- for sure. --Zhana Sandeva

Entering the Italian Market for the first time is sensory overload. Whether you’re observing whole pig heads hanging in the butcher’s windows, hearing the cries of vendors highlighting various vegetables for sale, or smelling the delicious amalgam of scents that permeates the entire area, you know you’re in a whole new world. Our first stop was at Paesano’s, where I was impressed by the throngs of post-lunch-rush people that filed in when we were there. I split their namesake sandwich with fellow blogger Jessica. Any respectable sandwich starts with good bread, and Paesano’s roll was excellent: chewy in consistency and perfect for mopping up any dripping juices. I easily could have eaten just the bread! The various flavors and textures from the moist beef brisket, roasted tomatoes, pepperincino, and sharp provolone played off one another just right, with a fried egg acting as the ideal binding agent (who knew an egg could have such a magical effect?). Overall, this was one extremely well-balanced and absolutely delicious sandwich.

Of course, no trip to the Italian Market would be complete without trying dolces. While I’ve never been a big cannoli lover, Isgro Pastries made a fan out of me. After deep consideration on which one to select (there were at least five different varieties), I tried one of their mascarpone cannoli. The shell had a delightful crunch and reminded me of a fresh waffle cone. The rich, thick filling was complemented by generous drizzles of chocolate; I particularly liked the filling’s sweeter nature, a welcome change from the usual ricotta-filled version. I also enjoyed some of Isgro’s other pastries, including a napoleon (the flaky layers of crisp puff pastry contrasted well with the tiers of sweet cream filling, although I wish it had strawberries or other type of fruit inside), the “Chocolate Volcano” (a chocolate brownie piled with velvety chocolate mousse, all enrobed in chocolate ganache; while certainly chocolatey, I found the “mousse to brownie” ratio too heavy on the mousse side), and signature Italian cookies.

With all its delicious food options, the Italian Market is simply beckoning me to come back. While it takes some time to get there via SEPTA from campus, it is well worth the trip! --Nicole Woon

Paesano's has a friendly, no-fuss atmosphere. The menu is written on chalkboards hung above the counter; the walls lined with hangings depicting the culinary regions of Italy. There are families and children, some tourists and mostly locals. Though they've bested Bobby Flay in a beef brisket throwdown, there's no hint of the pretentious here: the only mention of it is a scrawled message on one of the blackboards: "Watch us on the Food Network!" I split the Arista sandwich: provolone, suckling pig, and broccoli rabe on a sesame roll. Of course, the bread was amazing ( I overheard one woman explaining to her out-of-town friend that this bread wasn't like those down south; it was much, much better), but biting into this sandwich is best described in terms of the meat. It was possibly the juiciest pork I've ever had, cooked without losing any of its natural moisture. The melted provolone was sharp enough to contrast with the savory flavors of the broccoli rabe and the hot peppers. This is a messy, greasy sandwich, and I ended up eating part of it with a fork because so much spilled onto the napkin. Next time, I want to try the roasted potatoes side (according to one customer, the best way to spend $2 in Philadelphia).

But I was particularly excited to try the cannoli at Isgro, cannoli being one of my favorite desserts. I was eager to compare it to the hazelnut cannoli I'd had at Mike's Pastry in Boston's North End. On the way in, a woman walking by remarked, "Ah, it smells like icing," which is true: the place seems enveloped in a cloud of sugar. It's a small shop, and it was very crowded when we got there. There aren't any prices listed, which is something of a problem if you only have cash and you're forced to order quickly. I ordered the chocolate chip cannoli, and though it was good, I was disappointed. The filling wasn't sweet or thick enough, and the shell was crumbly. --Kiley Bense

Photos taken by Nicole Woon.


  1. Wow all of this food sure looks good but I always like for the prices to be listed. Really like your blog. Glad I found it!

  2. Hi Alicia,

    Here's Paesano's menu, the prices are the same as the ones we saw on the blackboard:



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...