As every good elementary school student can tell you, Philadelphia’s history runs deep. From its founding in 1682 by William Penn to the writing and signing of our nation’s Constitution in 1787, history is part of our DNA here in the City of Brotherly Love. In recent memory, we can add February 4, 2018 to our list of important moments. Sports fan or not, the Eagles bringing home a Super Bowl win meant something to generations of Philadelphians.
In the aftermath of that victory (no, not the massive cleanup required on the parkway), thousands of locals recalled powerful memories of watching Eagles games with their families, wishing that loved ones who passed on could have seen this win. Many with tears in their eyes. My own family was no exception.
I remember the day so vividly. My brother, Steve, text me very early in the morning. No hello or good morning. The text simply read: “Should we go to Isgro’s?” I knew exactly what he meant. We hopped in the car around 8:30am, dressed in full on Eagles gear, and went to the Italian Market, a place my grandparents once lived. By some miracle, we found parking right on Christian Street in front of the famous bakery. Steve and I waited in a long, wrap-around the corner type of line without a single complaint. Having these cupcakes on our table during the Super Bowl meant so much more to my family than just a dessert.
See, when we were kids my grandfather, who we affectionally called Ralphy, would always bring us treats from Isgro’s and bread from Sarcone’s. My grandmother had passed away many years earlier so Sunday dinners at our house became a way of carrying on an important tradition for my family. Every Sunday, Ralphy would drive up from his home on Kimball Street, mere steps from the heart of the Italian Market. We would do two things: have dinner and watch the Eagles.
Our Sunday ritual carried on well into my twenties until Ralphy passed away in 2013. Time heals, but every so often, I find myself wanting to go to 9th Street just to be close to my grandparents, to feel their presence on the city pavement. I loved staying at my grandparent’s house as a kid. Today, walking past shops like DiBruno’s and Fante’s bring back great memories that I sometimes forget to remember. I feel nothing but pure joy and nostalgia whenever I’m on 9th Street, a reminder that nothing is ever truly gone.
Over the years, new restaurants and stores have popped up in a sort of renaissance fashion. Just a block away, a celebrity stylist set up a popular salon on Christian Street. It all stands amid timeless classics like Ralph’s or Villa di Roma (a favorite of mine). The juxtaposition of established and new feels right, especially in Philly. Yet, the energy and the attitude always feel the same. It’s a place of great food, straightforward people, and a surprising warmth I no doubt exaggerate because of such a strong personal connection. Doesn’t make it any less true.
Now, with football season around the corner, I am certain my brother and I will hitting up the Italian Market, continuing our tradition of Isgro’s cupcakes with an Eagles ring on top.