Last year when I lived in Little Italy, there was nothing I dreaded more than the Feast of San Gennaro. Every year for 10 days, the festival fills the six blocks stretching from Prince Street to Canal Street – and my recollection of it is noise, tackiness and stinky, greasy food.
Of course, living there, I never actually went to it. On the walk home, I’d nip behind the stalls, meandering between boxes and cooking grills – a much safer route than battling the swarms of aimless tourists.
But this year – my year of making the most of New York – I decided I should immerse myself in that crowd and try to enjoy the festival. But you know what? It was just as hideous as I remembered.
Ryan and I met at Prince Street and wandered down Mulberry Street until we reached the end of the festival. For a celebration held for the saint of Naples, there was very little Italian about it. Instead, the sidewalks were crammed with arcade games and repeats of the same stalls: Nougat, candy floss, tacky gifts, pina coladas and unfathomably large coils of sausages.
But among them, every now and then, was a stand selling cannoli, espresso or pizza. We found one place making wood oven slices – yes, they’d wheeled a wood oven into the street – and apart from being burned and pricey, they were good!
If you want the truth, there really is very little reason to go to San Gennaro. It’s not very Italian and it’s just very busy. And yet, some people love it for the buzz and colour and food. In fact, we met one group who’d come all the way from Florida just to attend. I pointed out my old flat to them and they couldn’t believe I’d never been before. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that not only was this my first time at the festival, it was also my last.
The 10-day celebration only started this week, so don’t worry, you still have another week to get over there!