"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion."— Henry David Thoreau,Walden, "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For"
"Yo! Dude! Get this one!" this kid yelled before jumping into the shot I had framed of tourists taking photos in LOVE Park. Click.
"Pretty cool trick!" I said, suddenly realizing that I sounded like someone's dad. "Want me to email you the shot?"
"I have to set that stuff up," he said, catching his breath.
"Set what stuff up?"
"Email, Google Plus, a YouTube channel, you know? Twitter, all that crap, so I can get a sponsor."
Well, any skateboarding sponsors out there looking for a kid of no more than 11 who can do this trick and has some serious swagger, come on down to LOVE Park. I'm sure he'll be there practicing.
Passing by New Eddystone Rock in Misty Fiords National Monument, Alaska, I am reminded of the turmoil that shaped this land. Sometime in, oh, the last 5 million years, this formation, basalt, came to be because fractures in the floor of the Behm Canal allowed molten lava to rise. Like the formation of the Hawaiian Islands to the west, over time the cooled lava formed a land mass. Only here, that land mass was eventually carved by the movement of glaciers, pulverizing the rock over eons as they advanced and retreated. They left all but a few islands and New Eddystone, here, which stands as a monument to endurance (and luck) for all to admire. P.S. If you like posts like this follow my Instagram feed at @marcexplores.
The sounds of Sinatra filled the streets. Red, white and green flags were everywhere. And yes, there was food. Lots of it. The four food groups in fact (cheese, salami, roast pork and other cheese), piled high on folding tables and carts, begging to be tasted. But even for me, a proud Italophile with an appetite, this feast of the senses was not the most interesting part of Philadelphia's Italian Market Festival. Coinciding with the festival, in which signs like "Leave the Gun. Take the Cannoli" or "Keep Calm and Eat Macaroni" tend to garner the most attention, the Procession of Saints, a Roman Catholic tradition, features local parishioners carrying nearly 20 statues from Washington Avenue to St. Paul Parish on Christian Street via the market. The event brings to mind the scene from The Godfather: Part II (of course it does) when a young Vito Corleone (DeNiro) is on his way to pay Don Fenucci a visit. Sinatra was momentarily drowned out by traditional Italian songs courtesy of the Verdi Band of Norristown, which has been performing in the area since 1920. And people tucked small donations in the sashes of the saints as they passed through the crowded street. I left the gun and the cannoli behind to get a few shots of the procession.
There was even a visit from a few blessed mothers before the culmination of the procession at St. Paul Parish on Christian Street.
And for those not into the procession there was of course another way to enjoy the day...
For more information on the Italian Market Festival, visit:
From my first weekend at the Jersey Shore. Stone Harbor and Avalon. It was brisk and quiet, but not without its surprises. Like this flock of migrating brant geese that stood at the water's edge for a half hour before taking flight en masse.
Then they were gone. And it was once again me, the beach and the ocean. Not a bad way to start the day.
My project documenting just an initial piece of Philadelphia's Italian Market culminated with the following article, published on March 16th in the Philadelphia Inquirer. So thankful to them for running with it. Their Home in the Immigrant Village
by Marc Cappelletti
A light snow is falling on the green awnings of Philadelphia's Ninth Street Market. It's a fleeting snow, melting almost as soon as it lands. Still, I marvel. It brings to mind the snow that fell in my grandfather's stories of his emigration from Italy to America, where he landed 85 years ago.
His journey began in the back of an ox-cart. It took nine days at sea to reach New York City and then Philadelphia, where he, his mother, and two brothers were reunited with his father. I walked to the market from Center City...
Read more at Philly.com -- Their Home in the Immigrant Village.
And some photos that didn't make it into the online version:
Once a cobble stone street, a paved 9th Street makes way for cars.
Ralph's Restaurant: A staple on the scene since 1900. (And now on Twitter!)
If you want bread, go to Sarcone's. That's it. Just go.
Former Philadelphia Mayor and Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo still overlooks the market.
Cappuccio's Meats, since 1920. Manager Domenic's grandparents met when his grandfather was hired by his grandmother's family to sell produce from their cart on 9th Street. The couple bought this building, and hosted their wedding reception inside before turning it into a butcher and meat shop. Domenic's mother was born upstairs and can still be seen working the shop from time to time.
Esposito's, since 1911. Named one of the top butchers in the country by the Travel Network. Need I say more?
The big name in Italian specialty stores, Di Bruno Bros has been around since 1939 and employees still rock the old school flat wool caps.
D'Angelo's Meats, since 1910. If you are thinking of cooking up a nice guinea hen, antelope, yak or snow grouse for dinner tonight then stop by this shop. No one knows meats (exotic and otherwise) like Sonny D'Angelo.
Cannuli's Quality Meats and Poultry, since 1927. While you can come to Cannuli's to satisfy most of your carnivorous cravings (for ostrich see D'Angelo's), this is the spot for whole roasted pigs. Three generations of the family work in the shop, including Charles Sr (above), closing up shop like he does most days and has for decades.
Slow day at the office.
Part 2 of the photo tour coming soon.
"They worked at a store across the street and the guy made them work New Years Day," says Samantha as she cuts a piece of the finest pecorino I've ever had, drizzles it with a syrupy, reduced balsamic vinegar and hands it over. "The brothers said, "Next year we're not working on New Years," and so Di Bruno Bros was born." (The rest of the story can be found on Di Bruno's website). Since its founding in 1939 Di Bruno has become THE name in Philadelphia Italian specialty stores. This was ten years after my grandfather arrived in Philadelphia but no doubt the store on 9th Street maintains that old school feel that I'm searching for.
"We love for people to come in and be curious," Samantha says, asking us for the fifth time if there is anything else we want to taste. Though the family business has expanded with larger shops on 17th and Chestnut and recently at the Comcast Center, they encourage a more personal kind of shopping experience.
"It's about what you like," she says, "and most of the time we import items that you would never even know you liked. It takes time. Trial and error." She pauses, then reaches into the case. "Here, check this one out."
She sets a half wheel of cheese with yellowed, funky skin on the counter and explains that it is made in a donut shape with a hole in the middle so that it cooks more evenly. We inspect the cheese closely, taking in all of its nuances as if it is an unreleased iPhone on display. It is stinky, a bit gritty on the edges but smooth in the middle, deliciously creamy, and as I search for the words to describe the flavor (which never come) I realize I have never shopped this way before. I feel relaxed, like I am in someone's home. I'm at the kitchen table and they are pulling things out of the fridge and taking them off the stove for me to try, watching eagerly to see which ones I like. I now understand why Di Bruno's has been successful for so long.
For the visitor to Philadelphia or a local in search of high quality Italian specialty items, you can't go wrong with Di Bruno Bros. You might not recognize all of the items they carry, but go with an open mind. Just don't go on New Year's Day.
Thanks to Philadelphia Urban Adventures for the Italian Market tour.
85 years ago today my grandfather Giovanni (far left) arrived in America. He sailed from Naples, Italy nine days earlier with his mother and two brothers to join his father, already a naturalized citizen, in south Philadelphia. Giovanni was six years old (although the passenger manifest says five), and with only a vague but very common explanation of why the family left his small Italian town, now found himself in a vibrant, culturally diverse city on the verge of the Great Depression. But he and his family adapted; Giovanni soon became John, and the rest of his story mirrors that of many Italian-Americans who built a life in this country.
This week I will be sharing photos and anecdotes from a few of the phenomenal Italian-owned places in Philadelphia that were around then—some, like him, that were just starting out. Follow along on Twitter/Instagram and here, of course. I hope you enjoy the tour.
P.S. If you want to read about the ship that they came over on, the Conte Biancamano, check out this piece by Maritime Matters writer Peter Knego. The ship was actually taken apart and large sections has been preserved in a museum in Milan. http://maritimematters.com/2010/04/conte-biancamano-decked/
Don't mean to be morbid here, but how have people taken Ben Franklin's "A penny saved is a penny earned" and made it a "thing" to toss pennies on his grave site? Those are pennies literally wasted ON the man who told you to save them.
Maybe they had my wife and I confused for influential food writers or celebrities (you know--the guy from that personal blog), because that's how we felt at Amis on Thursday night. The Washington Square West restaurant, part of the Vetri Family of restaurants (Osteria, Alla Spina, Pizzeria Vetri and simply, Vetri) was lively and packed--smiles and laughter abounded, which is what you want to see after stepping inside from a 12 degree night. We were promptly seated at the wooden bar in front of the kitchen.
They had just switched to their winter menu that day, so exec sous chef Ned was curious about what we ordered. I said that I went with the pork chop. "We were all talking about putting a pork chop on the menu," he said as he wiped down a plate. "And we finally said, "OK, it's winter, we have to have a pork chop on the menu. Let's just go out and get the best frickin' quality chops we can.""
I will attest in a court of law, hand on a bible, cameras rolling, that is exactly what they did. If you're a fan of pork chops, kind of like them, or don't know what one is, you will devour this dish. It comes on a bed of polenta and quince agrodolce (sour sweet onions that look almost like beets and taste a thousand times better). But I'm getting ahead of myself.
For an appetizer we went with the grilled squid salad, which was outstanding--just the right amount of chargrilled flavor balanced out with citrus fruit. It was quickly gone. The manager gave us an appetizer plate of their Amis Beast (one whole animal that they serve every part of in different dishes throughout the night) which was a salmon. This thinly-sliced sushi-grade fish plated with pomegranates melted in my mouth. The pomegranates were an unusual pairing, at least to me, but they exploded with flavor and brightened up the fish, which was a refreshing surprise.
When we had finished the meal (reread the second and third paragraph to relive the deliciousness of the pork chop) chef Ned dropped a plate of fried cauliflower next to me.
"Dude," he said, "Everyone orders the fried cauliflower and loves it. I can't let you guys leave without trying it."
Well, we tried it and it is ridiculously good. Fried and salty but with a delayed kick of salsa rossa to give it a nice layered flavor. The next time my wife and I are at Amis, we're ordering it. Already full but unable to stop, we were doing good work on the carrot cake dessert, made with cream cheese icing and a sweet red wine reduction topping, when the pastry chef asked how we liked it. I said it was awesome, that the hint of citrus in the icing really made it shine.
"I know, right!" she said, way too excited for someone who was at the end of a long day's work.
But that was our experience at Amis--surprises when and where you wouldn't expect them, enthusiasm for everything, pride not just in the quality of the meal but in the experience of those enjoying it. Having recently moved from the culinary (really trying not to say mecca) hotspot of New York and Brooklyn we've been waiting to find a place like Amis. And we're so glad we did.
If you're out to shoot, or just see Philadelphia's City Hall you should wait until it gets a little dark out and set up shop on Broad Street. What you have is a nicely lit street with changing colors, cars going by on either side, and of course the focal point of City Hall to the north. (Do I have to say, be careful and watch for traffic?)
You'll find this shot (or very, very similar) on a bunch of postcards and posters. It's a must take, but best to experiment with styles and angles to make it your own. Or, just wait for something interesting to walk in front of the lens...
Any way you look at it, this view from Broad Street facing north to City Hall is just another reason to bring your family, friends, and especially your camera to Philadelphia. Have fun exploring.
Not a bad night.
The view to Center City, Philadelphia from Market Street, near 30th Street Station.
It's not often that Philadelphia's Schuylkill River looks like this. Two five-degree days will do that, leaving most Philadelphians frozen as well. Alas, it will be over 50 degrees today and the river, the city and its people have thawed out. We can only look back on the beautiful, icy views, and recall how we never want to feel that cold again.
For more info on the Schuylkill River Trail, visit http://www.schuylkillrivertrail.com/index.php?/trail/overview/philadelphia/