THE FEAST OF SAN GENNARO
Cannoli, Sausage and Peppers Hero, Zeppolas…Mangia Bene
If you are fortunate enough to be in NYC any time between September 16th and the 21st, you must make a special pilgrimage to Little Italy, which has become sadly extremely little over the years. I have fond memories of going to Little Italy with my Dad to buy Italian specialty items around the holidays. Barring a last minute interference by Covid, during those days you will be able to enjoy the renowned Feast of San Gennaro along much decorated Mulberry Street between Canal and Houston Streets. There will also be a festival stage located on the corner of Grand and Motts Streets where you can enjoy live entertainment each night beginning around 6:30pm. However, the feast activities run from morning to late into the night. Feasts in celebration of San Gennaro take place in many parts of the USA but the largest and widely known takes place in Little Italy in NYC.
San Gennaro, known by some as St. Januarius, is the patron saint and protector of the city of Naples. He was the Bishop of Benevento, Italy and died a martyr in 305 AD. His feast day is celebrated every year on September 19th the day he was beheaded. Blood was collected by a pious woman and enclosed inside two ampoules. These became a typical iconographic symbol of San Gennaro. His blood is believed to be part of many miracles. On September 19th, the two vials that are kept safely locked behind the altar at the Reale Capella de Tesoro di San Gennaro (Chapel of the Treasures of San Gennaro) located in the Cathedral of Naples are removed for adoration and mass and then safely returned.
People will flock to the Feast of San Gennaro in NYC from far and wide, especially those who once considered this area home and have moved away. Many make the pilgrimage each year. As you walk and saunter through the stalls, with the many aromas wafting through the air you will be hard pressed to figure out at which stall you will begin your eating marathon. Sausage and peppers, meatballs, eggplant and chicken parm sandwiches. Not to mention zeppoles and cannoli. You can’t go wrong with any of the above. Just come hungry.
My biggest suggestion and one I would certainly not miss doing, is taking a little side step as you leave the feast and venture over to Veniero’s Pastry at 342 East 11th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues. (This pastry shop is well known to us as during our growing up years each of our families bought many holiday sweets from them. Veniero’s supplied our wedding cake and plates of cookies for each table at the reception. We recently celebrated our 60th Wedding Anniversary and had a 5 lb cookie platter delivered for our celebration dinner.) Once you enter Veniero’s you will be overwhelmed by the glorious selections of pastries. You can’t go wrong there. You can sit and rest your weary bones from walking and enjoy a dolci. Veniero’s has been in business since 1894 when founded by Antonio Veniero who fled Vico Equense at the age of 15, determined to make his mark in America. Without any doubt, he did. It is still run by family today. What a way to end a feast.