San Gennaro

sangennaro IMG_3638 IMG_3640 Every year around this time The San Gennaro festival sets up on Mulberry street and spans 6 blocks from Canal to Houston streets.  Days before the festival opens people are working hard to get set up.IMG_3610

IMG_3612This is the 87th year of the 11 day festival which was established to in part to keep alive the spirit and faith of the early Italian immigrants (the festival runs along Mulberry Street and what is left of Little Italy).  According to their website:

The central focus of the celebration takes place every September 19th, the official Saint Day when a celebratory Mass is held in Most Precious Blood Church, followed immediately by a religious procession in which the Statue of San Gennaro is carried from its permanent home in the church through the streets that comprise Little Italy.

It goes on to say:

Although this is an annual celebration of faith, the Feast of San Gennaro is known the world over for its festive atmosphere, an 11-day event featuring religious processions and colorful parades, free musical entertainment every day, a wide variety of ethnic food delicacies, charming restaurants and cafes and even a world-famous cannoli-eating competition!  

“A wide variety of ethnic food delicacies”….really?  When I first landed in NYC I lived in Chinatown which is adjacent to Little Italy and I remember my friend at the time telling me I had to check out San Gennaro.  It, like NYC to me at the time, was overwhelming in its crowded, gaudy, enormity.  For years I avoided it, dismissed it as something mostly for tourists.  A couple of years back I revisited it when I heard that they were having local foodies setting up shop.   That didn’t seem to stick although in my annual walk through this year I noticed the usual Tiki Drink vendors, some local gals making good off of the “cronut” crazy (donuts made from croissant dough) and the usual barrage of deep-fried everything….mostly the favorite thing Italians at this festival like to deep fry is that traditional Nepalese delicacy: Oreos.IMG_3681

IMG_3669And for those looking for more fried sweet treats…IMG_3670Of course there are lots of other more traditional fried food on offer…IMG_3644


IMG_3651IMG_3654the newest and trendiest fried food at San Genarro this here is by far the Cronut – I saw two vendors selling them and if you buy them here you at least don’t have to wait 4 hours in line to get on….cronutsProbably my favorite fried food is also actually at least vaguely Italian…IMG_3643Pina Colada Tiki Bar type stalls are everywhere, apparently a Blue Hawaiian is the perfect drink to go with your fried pickle and deep-fried Oreo snack. pinacolada

IMG_3679Lest you think I’m just writing about the “food” in this festival to make fun of it, think again, what most amazed me about my walk down Mulberry street was how much of the food looked really good, here are some of my favorites…IMG_3653

IMG_3659The Spanakopita was hands down the most appealing thing I saw, yum!IMG_3660 IMG_3662 IMG_3665 This reminded me of Spain and because it was still early the Paella were perfect and untouched – ready to be dug into…IMG_3668IMG_3672IMG_3673IMG_3675IMG_3676IMG_3647flame

IMG_3678Just in case you have room left there are lots of sweet options ranging from the traditional… IMG_3658

IMG_3690 IMG_3691to the not so traditional.IMG_3667and that’s the thing about this big loveable festival it has something for everyone.  I have only look at the food, but there is entertainment, games, and lots of other typical state fair like entertainments.   My advice is to go early in the evening – there will still be a crowd but it will be bearable and the food will still be plentiful and fresh – nab some of that great looking fresh-baked red sauce pasta or lasagna, some sausage, onions and pepper, maybe a spinach and cheese Spanakopita and find yourself a stoop.  Just say some room for a cannoli or maybe this year you might want to be adventuresome and have a cronut.  Anyway you look at it you know you will have fun,

About urbanfoodguy

I'm a self taught cook with a dedication to buying and eating food that is as humanely and sustainably raised as possible. Which is why in addition to recipes you will see a lot of environmental/political reporting here. I started cooking when I was about 6, it's something I always loved to do. Watching Graham Kerr - aka "The Galloping Gourmet" - was what got me started and I have never really looked back. Over the years I've been a private chef, a caterer, and a food stylist for magazines such as Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Real Simple, Oprah, Martha Stewart's Everyday Food and many more. I've also worked in the prep kitchen for the Food Network on the Bobby Flay and Paula Deen shows. Now I work at home in my kitchen sharing with you here recipes that I create or that other people have created that inspire me and I think you will like. I love my neighborhood (the Lower East Side of Manhattan) and I love to travel. Because NYC is such a big place I tend to focus mostly on my 'hood and the ones that are close by: The East Village, Bowery, Chinatown and Williamsburg. My love of travel has no limits really, I'm always ready to get on a plane. I was lucky enough to have a business for many years that allowed me to spend a lot of time in South East Asia. These days I've been spending time in Mexico, Germany, Canada and the West Coast of the U.S., but check back you never know where I might end up. I do consulting, cooking classes, and freelance lifestyle writing so if you are interested please send me a note:
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8 Responses to San Gennaro

  1. Leslie-Anne says:

    What is that gorgeous looking white stuff with the nuts on it? Is it nougat? I want some!

    • urbanfoodguy says:

      Yes it is Italian Nougat called Torrone made originally, with: Almonds, Honey and Egg Whites. They have it all over the festival in huge blocks like in the picture and you buy it by weight. Be interesting to make at home…now you have a project! 😉

  2. Leslie-Anne says:

    Challenge accepted. I will keep you posted.

  3. Kurt Brown says:

    Mark Owen, Food Egalitarian 🙂

  4. Leslie-Anne says:

    Hey urbanfoodguy, I have just spent a pleasant morning making Torrone. It was very simply to make, but difficult to cut, because it is so sticky. Next time I will try to find the edible paper to cover it that some recipes included. I must say, it is delicious – I have eaten a lot of it! I used a very basic (traditional?) recipe from La Cucina Italiana (found by Google). It is not snowy white, it has more of a champagne hue. Perhaps different honeys affect the colour. If you send me an email, I will send you a picture. Thanks for the motivation. Love reading your blog. 🙂

  5. Pingback: Torrone from Toronto | Urbanfoodguy

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