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This post is about the San Gennaro Feast in NYC’s Little Italy, with some history, some tips on what to do, how to get here, and what to eat.
Everybody needs a little Italian in their life from time to time, so get ready for the annual San Gennaro Feast. Every September, Little Italy hosts the 11-day-long celebration in honor of Patron Saint of Naples.
This tradition of the San Gennaro Feast in New York City was started in 1926 by immigrants from Naples, Italy, who had settled in the area that today is called Little Italy. Back then, the feast took place on September 19th and only lasted one day.
Today, September 19th remains special with religious processions and masses, but the whole San Gennaro Feast lasts for over a week now and lets its visitors in on neighborhood culture, fun and festivities.
There are activities, live music performances, and street vendors. You can watch the famous cannoli-eating competition, so don’t feel bad about trying out some cannoli yourself.
Even better, Little Italy’s restaurants and pastry shops will set up outdoor dining facilities, so you can be in the middle of it all while enjoying a variety of Italian specialties.
Click here for more information about Little Italy.
In 2018, the Feast of San Gennaro is from September 13th through September 23rd. In fact, the feast is one of our top 10 things to do in September in NYC.
The festivities start every day at 11:30 am and ends at 11:00 pm (Sundays through Thursdays) and 12:00 am midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
At the Festival Main Stage at Grand and Mott Streets, there will be free entertainment every night from 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm as well as free music and/or food demonstrations and lectures every afternoon between 2:00 pm and 5:00 pm.
For a complete schedule of events, click here.
The main street of the festival is Mulberry Street, between Canal Street and Houston Street. Regardless of how you decide to arrive here, use this Google Maps link to get directions from your point of departure to the heart of the festival.
Other side streets take part in the festivities as well. It takes place east to west on Grand Street, between Mott and Baxter Street, and east to west on Hester Street, between Mott and Baxter Streets.
TIP: Learn more about Little Italy and its neighborhood, by taking one of our pay-what-you-wish tours that include Little Italy: our SoHo, Little Italy, Chinatown Tour, our Downtown Manhattan 3-hour tour, and our New York in One Day Tour.
How to get here by subway?
Take the Q train to Canal Street or the 6 train to Spring Street and walk 5-6 minutes.
What to Eat at San Gennaro
There is so much variety you will have a hard time choosing. Below is a list of traditional food served at the festival. All are delicious and you cannot go wrong with any of these.
Be careful, the smells will entice you to want to try one of everything – something you may end up regretting. Pace yourself and have a blast!
From left to right: Calzone, Stromboli, Arancini and a Sausage and Peppers Sandwich
Kind of like a pizza sandwich, calzone uses pizza dough, and it is folded, sealed and baked. They are filled with tomato sauce and usually ricotta cheese instead of mozzarella, and the variations include pepperoni or other meats, sometimes spinach or other cheeses. They are quite big and very filling.
More like pizza rolls. They’re made from a thicker version of pizza dough, and these rolls usually have meats, cheese and sometimes tomato sauce.
Arancini (rice balls)
This is classic Italian street food. These are small rolled balls of risotto (slowly cooked rice with a creamy consistency). Often they are accented with just a bit of Romano cheese, then coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried. Sometimes there may be bits of prosciutto mixed in. If you are a vegetarian, be sure to ask.
Sausage and Peppers
You will see many stands selling this classic, and it is usually served in a large roll, sandwich style. It is Italian sausage cooked with green bell peppers, red peppers, and cooked sweet onions. It is very important to make sure you order the appropriate spice level as some Italian sausages can be very spicy. Mostly you will find sweet sausage at the festival.
Pizza and Pasta
There is no shortage of pizza and pasta and most will be familiar to you. San Gennaro is a great chance to try smaller portions of pasta dishes you might not get otherwise, like pasta in clam sauce or oysters.
Sweet Foods and Coffees
From left to right: Canolli, Gelato, Zeppole, and an Espresso and a Cappuccino
This dessert originated in Sicily in Italy. A tube-shaped shell of fried dough, filled with a rich, sweet, creamy filling made from ricotta cheese. Sometimes they have a chocolate ricotta filling or even dipped in dark chocolate on the outside.
It’s not just Italian ice cream. Both are delicious, but they are made differently. Gelato is churned at a slower speed which means that less air is whipped into the mix, making it richer. Gelato is also served at a slightly warmer temperature than ice cream so it is not quite completely frozen.
Gelato comes in an array of flavors and you can order in a cone or in a cup. Some classic Italian flavors are Bacio (chocolate and hazelnut ), Stracciatella (chocolate-chip) and Nocciola (hazelnut). You can also find the familiars: strawberry, coffee, vanilla, and pistachio.
This simple but addictive dessert originated in Naples. Zeppole are similar to deep-fried fritters except they are golf-ball sized. First, the batter is dropped into oil and quickly deep-fried. Then they are coated with a light film of powdered sugar and served up piping hot in a simple brown paper bag. So, so good.
Espresso is concentrated coffee served in small cups, often with a twist of lemon rind on the edge of the cup. You won’t see many people add sugar, but you will see Italian-Americans drink an espresso shot in one go!
This is a shot or two of espresso and then filled with steamed milk. Add sugar as you like and enjoy sipping slowly.