By the time this newspaper is published, the Feast of San Gennaro will have ended. It came and went and I’m better for it; actually, I’m bigger and better for it.
The Feast of San Gennaro is an eleven day annual feast that this year began on September 12 and ended on September 22.
My family and I have been attending the feast every year for as long as I can remember. There is no way we would miss it, as it is the only time we allow ourselves to indulge in the classic dishes from Naples, Italy. This year Ken and I drove down to the city, parked in our favorite parking lot and then walked to meet our daughter, Kim, after work. We then took a cab to Little Italy where the festivities were in full swing.
First stop for Ken is always the sausage and pepper booth. He will rarely choose the very first one he passes, as he needs to take in the sights and smells of each booth before placing his order. Once his ten dollars is paid, he is handed the big sausage and pepper wedge and several napkins. With complete joy and ecstasy, he takes his first bite. He is a happy man.
As we stroll down Mulberry, Mott and Canal Streets we pass booth after booth of delicious gastronomic Italian delicacies. My favorite is the zeppoli booth where I can purchase six hot zeppoli covered in confectioners’ sugar for a mere $5. One by one they make their way into my stomach, and by the time the bag is empty, it is also soaked in grease. I know I will pay for this later, but my annual indulgence is worth the price of a small belly ache.
Kim enjoys the rice balls and soon we find ourselves in front of a booth selling giant rice balls, called arancini di riso, and meatballs. “Um, I’ll have one of each,” Kim announces to the very good looking Italian guy in the apron. Another money exchange and we are all set. Now sick from all the food we don’t normally eat and waiting for it to digest, we still wander the streets looking at all the color, the lights, the tee-shirts and jewelry and more food. Ken now has his eye on the trays of baked pasta being offered at the next booth.
“Let’s stay and watch as this guy sings My Way, and maybe then we can fit in some pasta,” I say. We stood around for a while and listened to the guy try to sound like Frank Sinatra, but, unfortunately, he was standing right beside the Ferrara Pastry booth. Having forgotten all about the pasta, we slowly made our way toward the line of people waiting to purchase cannoli, Italian rainbow cookies (stacked red, white and green almond cake topped with chocolate), sfogliatella with a tee-shirt that read, “You can’t say it, you can’t have it,” biscotti, bruttiboni (almond flavored biscuits), baba (small rum soaked cakes), tortoni (an ice cream dessert), slices of Italian cheesecake, and gelato to name a few. Since Kim’s husband wasn’t feeling well enough to join us, we made sure we brought him some special treats from Ferrara’s. We may have even gotten ourselves some pastry as well!!
As we walked among the throngs of people, we found ourselves being swept forward toward the rides, jewelry booths and the “Big Chair” booth, where you could climb onto the enormous chair and have your picture taken.
We ended our evening by finding our way to the statue of San Gennaro and pinning money to the ribbons attached to it. San Gennaro is the patron saint of Naples. He was born in 272 AD. When men were arrested for egregious crimes, San Gennaro dared to visit them in prison. For that, he was poisoned, yet lived; burned, yet lived; and finally was decapitated. He is thought of as the protector of Naples and has been celebrated for the past ninety three years during a feast in Little Italy, NYC.
I hope that you too will enjoy celebrating the Feast of San Gennaro, a tradition each year in September. You’re sure to eat great food, enjoy great entertainment and have an enormous amount of fun. The weather is always good for the Feast and the locals like to say, “Today’s forecast: 70’s and cloudy with a chance of Spicy Sausage, Onions and Peppers. See you at the Feast.