September in New York City means the unofficial end of summer, the start of football season, and the annual Feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy.
The Feast of San Gennaro was brought to the United States in 1926, when immigrants from Naples joined together on Mulberry Street to continue the celebration that they had always had in Italy for Saint Januarius, the Patron Saint of Naples. The original event lasted just one day, and since then, the festival has expanded into an 11-day street fair. The statue of San Gennaro is on display, before it is carried through the street during the Grand Procession on the last Saturday of the festival. I'm Italian and Sicilian, so it is kind of required of me that I attend the Feast at least once.
San Gennaro is a huge street fair these days, and is one of the biggest tourist attractions that New York City has to offer. Since it combines something I love (food, other food, and also more food) with something I hate (crowds of people who don't move), I decided to avoid the Feast on the weekends. It was still pretty crowded on a weeknight, but I could at least walk around and breathe.
San Gennaro goes up and down Mulberry Street, in the heart of Little Italy. Vendors sell sausages, zeppole, cannoli, gelato, pizza, and a million other kinds of foods. The restaurants along Mulberry are all open for diners, who get to do some serious people watching while they enjoy their meals.
I had actually been to San Gennaro back in 2010, when I worked promotions for a radio station. Since we were working a booth the entire time, I didn't really get to experience much as far as the festival goes. This time, I walked up and down Mulberry a few times.
San Gennaro also has several local craft vendors out, selling everything from jewelry to purses. If you're looking for something cool to buy that isn't an "I <3 New York" t-shirt, I recommend stopping by one of these stands.
Since it's a big festival, you'll also find plenty of carnival games! They had stands giving out goldfish as prizes.
They also somehow got a big ferris wheel into Little Italy.
I know I had a good time on the Wonder Wheel, but you couldn't pay me enough money to get on this thing. It still looked fun.
If you've never been to Little Italy, you're missing out. This area is filled with history, and many of the restaurants have been in their families for generations. Alleva Cheese Shop has been around since 1892, and it is just one of the many eateries selling food to Feast attendees.
They are also co-owned by Tony Danza!
After wandering around San Gennaro, I decided to stop for food. I had already eaten dinner (I'm not a big sausage and peppers person, and I had already eaten dinner), so I grabbed some zeppole.My grandma used to make these when I was little, so it brought back memories eating them. Zeppole are basically just fried dough that is sprinkled with powdered sugar. Ricotta cheese is also involved somehow, but I never paid attention when my relatives made them. I got overcharged for them, but they were still good.
At San Gennaro, fried food is pretty much everywhere you turn. They had fried Twinkies, fried Oreos, and...yes. Fried rainbow cookies!
It wasn't too bad. Not a glowing recommendation, I know, but the cookie is worth a try.
Before leaving I had to grab a cannoli. There were so many different varieties to choose from!
I went with a traditional, mini cannoli. Delicious!
Look, San Gennaro is a big tourist attraction, and you're going to pay a lot of money for food when you go. But, I think it's one of those things that every New Yorker should experience at least once. This is another event that is better in groups, but I still had a good time on my own.
Interested in more bucket list adventures in New York City? Follow along on Instagram at @fiveboroughbucketlist!