True New Yorkers know that there’s never any guarantee that we’ll get a decent day of weather past September 1st. So if you’re like me you keep a sweater or hoodie hanging by the door for easy access just incase fall decides to comes early. Well the day I chose to head to San Gennaro was the day Mother Nature decided to go straight to hoodie weather. Skip the long sleeve tee and rugby shirts. The cold is here early. But that didn’t stop people from coming to the feast on Mulberry Street. I wasn’t sure if I would make it to the festival this year due to a heavy work load among other things. But as fate should have it I found myself in Little Italy hungry and curious to see what vendors showed up this year.
Like so many other things in NYC the San Gennaro Festival isn’t quite the same as it once was. So many of the old school Italian restaurants and shops have closed or moved on to areas with cheaper rent. But every year I still go because hey who’s passing up a spicy sausage with peppers and a bag of fresh zeppoles. As traditions go mine is to take a lap or two around the festival before I buy any food. Just to make sure I know all my options before stuffing myself then seeing something else and say damn I should have gotten that. Yes we’ve all been there. With my first lap complete I had a few tasty treats in mind I wanted to check out. But I also noticed there were way more vendors out there last year. Luckily everything I came for was there in abundance so my hunger needs were covered.
A shish kebab stand had caught my eye so that was my first stop. And yea I know that’s not an Italian dish but the belly wants what the eyes see so there was no turning back. The perfectly charred beef kebabs were served fresh of the grill and slathered in a tangy sweet bbq sauce. A great starter course for the evening.
I wasn’t sure which sausage stand I should eat at until I saw an old man that had to be in his 80s standing at “Lucy’s” one of the original sausage and peppers vendors. At that point I knew this was the best spot cause the man looked like he’d be doing this for decades. I was right! They were making a fresh batch of spicy sausage so I choose to what a few minutes. In the mean time I snapped some pics of the guys prepping the onions and peppers until mine was ready. My patience payed off cause that was one hell of a sandwich. The simple things are always the best when done right. And these were done right.
By the time I got to the half way through my sandwich I was starting to feel full. But I knew my journey wasn’t over so I pushed on to my next bite. The zeppoles. Now if there’s one thing a can’t leave a festival without it’s zeppoles. Since I was a kid they were literally the only reason I could be dragged out the house by my parents to go to any type of food festival because I really wasn’t interested in anything but the sweets.
Maybe I’m getting old but I can eat as many as I use to. I mean the first two were spectacular. Still hot, crispy on the outside chewy on the inside dusted with so much powdered sugar I couldn’t help but get it all over my hoodie. But by the third I was done. This might be something I share with a friend from now on.
With all the food I ate and blue Hawaiians I failed to mention earlier it was time to head home. But not without something to take with me. Sweets were a definite no. And I already had my sausage fix. What was I missing? You guess it pasta and meatballs. I know I just said I was full. But I’m a fatass what do you want me to tell ya? For this meal I left the San Gennaro trail and grabbed some food from a restaurant right off Mulberry St.
Although things aren’t what they used to be down in Little Italy you can still find a lot of the old flavors we’ve loved for so many years. And as things change in NYC it makes the familiar experiences feel that’s much better.