There are few events that I actually enjoy battling crowds for and spending money on like it’s going out of style (let alone doing it with an infant, stroller, and with no family friendly bathroom in sight!) but the San Gennaro Festival in Little Italy, New York City is well worth the trek, dollars, and creative infant changing positions (i.e. a chair in the basement of a little Italian restaurant!).
My mother was none too pleased when I informed her we were bringing her prized possession (her grandchild, not me!) into Manhattan for the biggest Italian fest in the city, but it is a tradition I wanted to make sure my son was a part of from year one. Although gossip about mobster money and a dwindling Italian community surround the area, it was the sight of one of my husband and my first dates. Needless to say, this makes it a nostalgic day trip for me; one we now make every year in the third week of September.
Although we usually take a train to Grand Central and follow the subway to the classic sight of many famous dinners (and deaths 😉 ) in the city, this year with a stroller, a car seat, and a load of binkies in tow, we drove. A spoiled suburban girl, my husbands previous life skills as a cabbie (I’m sure of it!) got us to the city in less than 45 minutes and parked in a perfect spot with enough space to fit the Queen Mary around us! We luckily (says the inner city girl in me) parked a ways away so we gladly soaked up the sunny days rays and walked to the busy blocks. Our first stop? For a classic pizza at Da Nico, a spot we hit every year. Enjoy outdoor patio seating or side walk seating to people watch and sip a robust glass of barolo.
Next up? Sausage and peppers. This year we took the suggestion of a friend and stopped at Johnny Fasullo’s Sausage & Bracciole spot on the corner of Grand and Mulberry. Worth. Every. Calorie. We opted for classic sweet sausage but you can hit the spice if you’re into that, and we topped it with slow sauteed sweet peppers and tangy caramelized onions.
As you can see, San Gennaro is alllll about the food and although this year we were on a time limit (insert hungry and tired 4 month old here) we have other staples we make sure to frequent yearly. Umberto’s for seafood salad, clams, and oysters, any of the strips side by side restaurants for lemoncello shots, and our favorite Mulberry Street Bar, a hometown dive in a big city fest. Yes it’s loud and it’s minimal but yes we had a glass of wine, a beer, and a good conversation even this year while sporting a Baby Bjorn!
Make sure on your way out you grab any type of fried dough annnd deep fried oreos… may I suggest eating them while walking to the car covered in powder sugar?
No trip to Little Italy would be complete without a stop by Ferrara Bakery & Cafe. It’s the number one spot for your we-ate-too-much-but-we’ll-be-hungry-an-hour-after-we-get-home snack. Cannoli’s, pignoli cookies, sfogliatela (my hubby sounds really good saying that 🙂 ), you name it and they make it best!
San Gennaro definitely takes the cannoli on a must-see Italian festival. Sure, it has increased its prices and gotten exponentially crowded over the years, but its can’t go wrong restaurants and traditions win out. Can’t make it down? Browse Ferrara’s recipe page (I’ll be attempting the cannoli’s!), tackle Giada de Laurentiis’ Pine Nut Cookies, or slow grill your own sausage and peppers during the last few warm summer days and make sure to get the good grinder rolls for that authentic feel! Whatever you do, make sure you take a tip from Little Italy and keep the ingredients simple and fresh. I give San Gennaro two thumbs up, licking the leftover’s off while doing it.
Until next year…Eat Well,
Stephanie a.k.a. The Foodetarian