Many American’s first exposure with Bella Vista was watching the “Rocky” films, where Sylvester Stallone made a daily run through the Italian Market. However, Bella Vista is a lot more then the iconic market that stretches through it; evident by the fact that Bella Vista was ranked 2016 “Best Place to Live in Philadelphia” by Niche.com.
Italian for “Beautiful Sight”, Bella Vista is the northernmost section of South Philadelphia; bordered east to west by 6th and 11th Streets and north to south by South Street and Washington Avenue. Bella Vista is historically significant as the first Philly neighborhood settled by Italian immigrants in the late 19th century. Its early Italian heritage is visible in today’s Bella Vista, in the century-old italian market, cheese and butcher shops that still thrive here. Bella Vista is home to the 9th Street Italian Market, the oldest open-air market of its kind in America. Despite it’s name, the Italian Market has blossomed with the cultural development of the city; where a myriad of Mexican and Vietnamese restaurants have opened, in addition to a slew of fine dining brunch-to-dinner establishments and even an authentic French Chocolatier.
Bella Vista offers Old City history; in a more relaxed, arts-friendly environment. With both upscale and mid-range offerings; Bella Vista is one of the most visited neighborhoods in the city. For Center City Commuters, Bella Vista is just a short walk from Old City’s many offices and SEPTA lines, and is on the Broad Street subway and the Route 47 bus lines. With a walkscore of 96 and a transit score of 77; it’s no wonder that most Bella Vista homeowners are ditching the stress of their cars and urban parking woes to live a more urban existence of cycling, walking and taking public transportation.
Bella Vista is also home to some of the City’s greatest neighborhood events. For fans of culture, history and food; the annual South 9th Street Italian Market Festival is NOT TO BE missed. This two-day event features vendors from throughout the neighborhood offering food, drink, live music and even a challenge where people try to climb a greased flagpole. In the summer, Bella Vista is home to a Night Market is another great opportunity to taste and experience all the neighborhood has to offer. Furthermore, as the neighborhood borders South Street; live music, theater and comedy are available at venues as small as bars and large as the world-famous Theater of the Living Arts (TLA).
There are so many great bars and restaurants in Bella Vista, the list is too long to mention here. That said, understand that it was Bella Vista that was the likely originator of the Philadelphia food scene. When Center City was the butt of jokes from old-time comic WC Fields for shutting down at dusk; Bella Vista was the home of restaurants like Ralphs, an Italian restaurant owned by the same family since 1900 as well as DiBruno Brothers; Philly’s original fine cheese shop. Also noteworthy is the fact that Bella Vista is home to the most famous rivalry in food history. At the corner of 9th and Wharton streets; Geno’s well-lit cheesesteak shop sits right across the street from Pat’s King of Steaks, still owned by Frank Olivieri whose grandfather invented the iconic Philadelphia steak sandwich in 1930.
Also of note are Bella Vista’s bars; not just those that serve haute microbrews but in neighborhood places like Ray’s Happy Birthday bar; a known hangout for 1950s-60s Doo Wop singers and Connie’s Ric-Rac Room; the last real punk rock show-bar in Philadelphia.
So for those who want to experience Philly, not just live in it; Bella Vista is the place to be.
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