What, no whiz?

Sen. Barack Obama sampled $100 ham, but didn't chow down on a cheesesteak during a visit to the Italian Market yesterday.

During a half-hour tour of the market, Obama sampled wares at Claudio Specialty Food and DiBruno Brothers - where he noshed on a Spanish ham that retails for $99.99 a pound.

Staff at DiBruno's told him the ham only recently became available because it was previously barred by the FDA.

"All I know is it tastes good," Obama said. As good as whiz with onions?

In fact, neither Obama nor Sen. Hillary Clinton, his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, has made the traditional stop at South Philly cheesesteak establishments Pat's or Geno's.

But Obama last night told a crowd of supporters gathered at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, "I'm going to get a cheesesteak the next time I come."

Clinton spokesman Mark Nevins said he wanted her "to have an opportunity to visit the Philadelphia landmarks, including the great cheesesteak places."

Are cheesesteak stops more risky today than in the past?

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., was mocked for ordering his sandwich with swiss cheese during his 2004 run for president. And Geno's has recently come under fire for hanging a sign that demands patrons order in English.

"I think some of the places that were must-stops, aren't must stops any more," said political analyst Larry Ceisler. "I think that the Kerry experience was certainly a bad experience and I think the candidates look at that. Also, I don't think they want to take the chance of the immigration issue."

Obama chatted with Claudio owner Sal Auriemma who complained that the weak dollar was hurting shops that import their merchandise.

Obama told him: "You need a new president, somebody who is going to get the economy in shape."

He then helped Claudio's business by buying provolone, salami and baked ricotta.

There were a few tense moments when an aggressive man repeatedly pressed Obama for a photo, which he refused. *

After several testy exchanges, Obama said: "Yeah, well whatever. Just take it. I won't be smiling. Because you're wearing me out . . . No no, you've been really rude about it. Just take a shot."

But no photo was taken and eventually Secret Service agents stepped in to quietly conclude the episode. *