85th Annual Feast of San Gennaro
This weekend will be the closing ceremonies of New York City's 85th Annual Feast of San Gennaro - days full of Italian music, Italian street food (fried Oreos are Italian?), Italian souvenirs, Little Italy's charm, and of course the carnival games. With only two full days left, the feast which once used to be a messy, crazy, party of out-of-towners flocking to the part of New York where Frank Sinatra and Billy Joel are heros, has started to become a slightly cleaner, pristine version of its old self. Newer, smaller restaurants and food shops have started opening up in the area, catering to the foodie population rather than the tourists that usually overtook Mulberry & Mott. An amazing food stand at the fair, hosted by The Breslin (an interloper in the neighborhood), along with the actual storefront business of Torrisi Italian Specialties are the recent newcomers that have actually brought the true Italian-ness to the Chinatown-overrun Little Italy of today. A delicious mortadella sandwich with housemade fresh ricotta cheese, along with house-made cow's milk mozzarella, fried cauliflower, and a mixed variety of tomatoes with some basil, olive oil and salt made a perfect meal to carry me through the streets of the haggling merchants...some things never change at San Gennaro. Of course, you still can't go through Little Italy without making a stop at Ferrara's Bakery and Cafe, the famous 119-year-old Italian pastry shop that is delicious and of course overpriced...hey, it's worth it if you only come through once a year.
And why all of this fun? The feast is in celebration and veneration of the patron saint of Naples (the home city of most Italian immigrants that originally inhabited Little Italy back in the 1920's). Tomorrow's Grand Procession of the statue of San Gennaro keeps true to the tradition of the feast and most religious feasts in the Italian American community. A sight to behold, be sure to check out the procession through the streets of Little Italy on Saturday, September 24th at 2pm, starting by Mulberry and Grand - marching band and all!