Translating to “beautiful sight,” Bella Vista was the first Philly neighborhood settled by Italian immigrants. The original heritage informs much of what exists today, but the family-oriented residential pocket has blossomed into a fascinating microcosm of South Philadelphia itself.
Bella Vista’s best-known feature is the Ninth Street Italian Market, the oldest operational open-air hub of its kind in America. Welcoming the presence of other cultures — Vietnamese and Mexican, most prominently — has helped the area grow into much more than the sum of its once-monocultural parts.
The South Philadelphia neighborhood has much to offer visitors, but its greatest asset might be its staggering roster of dining options, from city-best brunch spots to late-night ethnic explorations.
Philly’s historic Italian Market stretches along Ninth Street, from Wharton Street north to Fitzwater Street. First established in the late 19th century by Italian immigrants, the Market has grown in more recent years to feature many Latino- and Asian-owned businesses that harmonize with Ninth Street’s beloved institutions, peddling coffee, cheese, meat, pasta, sandwiches, produce and much more.
It’s not as quaint as an Italian Market stroll, but the area of Washington Avenue between Sixth and 11th streets is an invaluable stretch for anyone curious about Philly’s penchant for international flavor. No-frills taquerias, Southeast Asian soup parlors and sandwich shops, higher-end sit-down restaurants and bars of all varieties populate this corridor, anchored on its western edge by Wing Phat Plaza, a big Vietnamese shopping/restaurant center.