Robby Ritacco Breaks Down the 85th Annual San Gennaro Festival
During the 85th edition of the Feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy, which wrapped up this past weekend, there was a veritable Italian feast in the streets. All along Mulberry Street were stands featuring Italian festival favorites like smoked sausage and peppers (which could be smelled for blocks outside of the festival grounds), fresh clams and elaborately topped pizzas. These were complemented by lavish desert stands featuring cannoli, zeppoles and other Italian pastries as well as gelato in a variety of flavors. In the span of any given block, attendees could pick up a hearty plate of sausage and peppers, some freshly baked cannoli to follow their meal, a frosty pina colada to wash down their dessert and even, if interested, a fine cigar to finish things off.
Over the 11-day festival, dozens of restaurants along Mulberry Street extend their services into the thoroughfares - closed to traffic - either by setting up food and beverage stands or by expanding their seating area outdoors. Particularly toward the southern end of the festival, gourmet restaurants like Sofia's (143 Mulberry St, 212-219-9799) and Da Gennaro (129 Mulberry St, 212-431-3934) set up lavish outdoor seating, allowing attendees to actively participate in the outdoor festivities while enjoying the elegance of their favorite Italian cuisine.
The feast has also hosted cheese and olive oil tastings, cannoli making demonstrations and giveaways, live entertainment every evening on their Grand Street stage and even instructional seminars on topics like myths and misconceptions about what Americans know as Italian cuisine. On Saturday the 17th, the 85th birthday of the Feast of San Gennaro's NYC celebration, a giant birthday cake was sliced and distributed amongst the attendees.
Historically, the Feast of San Gennaro is a celebration of Saint Gennaro, the Patron Saint of Naples. The feast is an old Italian tradition celebrating Saint Gennaro's martyrdom in 305 A.D. It takes on a new meaning in New York City, however, as it also celebrates the arrival of immigrants from Naples in the 1920's and their settling along Mulberry Street in the rapidly growing Little Italy. The Italian immigrants chose to bring their tradition to America, celebrating their first Manhattan-based feast on September 19th, 1926. 85 years later, the Feast of San Gennaro is one of the longest-running religious festivals in the area.
For more information on the festival, visit the official site of the Feast of San Gennaro at www.sangennaro.org.
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