Buon Appetito: The Feast of San Gennaro

By Laura K. Garrison

It has come to my attention that Barnard and Columbia students don’t get out enough. Whether this is due to stress, laziness, or full schedules (or all of the above), it’s important that we take time out of each week to enjoy the finer parts of living in New York City. If anything beyond 110th seems exotic and daunting, it’s time you dusted off that MetroCard and headed south. If Mel’s is your idea of a good time, I challenge you to discover life below 14th Street. I’ll even give you a suggestion: take time out of this weekend and visit Little Italy’s Feast of San Gennaro.

The Feast of San Gennaro brightens up Little Italy.

A small neighborhood in Lower Manhattan, Little Italy hosts an eleven-day festival every September to celebrate the life of San Gennero, the Patron Saint of Naples. Now in its 87th year, the Feast harkens back to a time when Mulberry Street was the center of life for Italian immigrants in New York City. While the street festival may have lost its cultural significance to the surrounding community, it is an experience that attracts visitors from across the city and beyond.

Until this Sunday, September 22, Mulberry Street will be open to pedestrians and strewn with green, white, and red decorations. Food stands and street vendors line the pavement as visitors take in the sensory wonders of San Gennero. Traditional favorites like sausage and peppers, Italian meats and cheeses, tiramisu, and gelato are available at every street corner for a relatively inexpensive meal. For the full festival experience, I highly recommend that you try fried Oreos, zeppoles (fried dough with powdered sugar), and cannolis without any thought to calorie counts or saturated fat.

Another added benefit to the Feast is the easy entrance into almost any restaurant. Last Friday night, my friends and I were quickly ushered into Buona Notte during peak dining hours – because most people are out enjoying the festival, it’s very easy to eat without a reservation. In fact, many hostesses stand out on the sidewalk practically begging for customers. While eating in may be pricier than amongst the tents on the street, the food is guaranteed to be excellent. You can choose to eat indoors, on the sidewalk amongst the revelers, or as we did at Buona Notte, in a beautiful back courtyard beneath the old tenements of Little Italy.

Though there are many visitors proudly proclaiming their Italian heritage, everyone is welcome and sure to enjoy the spirit of San Gennaro. Anyone who loves Italian food (read, everyone) and walking through the festive ambiance of a New York street fair will want to experience the tradition of San Gennaro. Students can easily access Little Italy by transferring to the N or Q trains at Times Square and getting off at Canal Street. As they say in Italia, buon appetito!

Laura K. Garrison is a junior at Barnard and Editor in Chief of The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Image courtesy of NYCgo.

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4 thoughts on “Buon Appetito: The Feast of San Gennaro

  1. You're statement that Barnard and Columbia students don't get out enough is a gross generalization. Little Italy is an inauthentic and overpriced tourist trap.

  2. (a) It is a gross generalization, but it was meant tongue-in-cheek. *Whoosh* that's the sound of it going over your head.

    (b) While Little Italy is not the cultural center it once was, there is still a lot of history and great Italian food to be enjoyed. Stop being a hater.

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