Italian Festival Almost Wasn't
Today's Italian Festival at the Reading Terminal Market nearly didn't happen.
The reason: what many merchants consider a harassing approach by the city's Health Department.
Even the pig paid a price. The roast pig from Cannuli's couldn't be served from a single piece. Instead, the Health Department insisted it be cut up in smaller pieces. Hence, Tom Nicolosi of DiNic's and Rich Foley of Martin's took their knives over to Tootsie's to do the dirty deed. Ostensibly, according to RTM GM Paul Steinke, the inspector thought keeping the animal whole would not allow it to keep at a safe temperature.
The bureaucrats' insistence that one merchant submit a special HAACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) Plan for squeezing orange juice just for this occasion, something he does at his stall with Health Department approval, caused that vendor to withdraw from the festival.
As Steinke delicately told me, there was intense "interaction" with the health inspectors. Some of the merchants were less delicate.
Nonetheless, despite the diffficulties, center court was filled with tables displaying and dispensing Italian goodies, from espresso from Old City Coffee to Italian style beef chuck roast from Dinic's.
It was not, however, the market's first-ever Italian festival. Dom Spataro said one was held in the early 1990s.
Of course, given the number of Italian-American merchants, every day is an Italian festival at the Reading Terminal.