NYC’s Feast of San Gennaro is an annual tradition in Little Italy that includes some of the city’s most iconic Italian restaurants and specialty stores, if you know where to look. Threaded throughout the carnival games and food vendors you’ll see at every other Manhattan street fair, you’ll find some local favorites that serve the neighborhood (and more than a few tourists) year-round. In advance of San Gennaro’s last weekend before it wraps up on Sunday, September 26, we’ve singled out the best of the fest on Mulberry Street between Houston and Canal.
RECOMMENDED: The Feast of San Gennaro 2021 Guide
Strolling up, down and all around the festival, the number of sausage and pepper vendors in attendance creates an encased meat funhouse mirror effect. We’re partial to the offering from Alleva, stationed right outside its own brick-and-mortar store at 188 Grand Street. Purportedly “America’s oldest cheese shop,” Alleva’s been selling delicious dairy since 1892. Pop in and pick up some mozzarella for the road.
Another classic, Ferrara first landed in Little Italy in 1892. Today, you can spot it from a block away by the larger-than-life ice cream cone sculpture affixed to its facade. And during San Gennaro, it expands beyond the sidewalk to offer all manner of treats right outside 195 Grand Street. Grab a classic or chocolate-covered cannoli for an excellent taste of Little Italy.
Umberto’s has been shucking clams on Mulberry Street since 1972. You can still dine on eggplant Parmigiana, lasagna and big plates of pasta with bottles of chianti inside, or swing by its stand and order a few fried bivalves for a little taste of what the historic restaurant has to offer the other 355 days a year.
Our spin around the festival on a recent weeknight was plenty crowded, though not as much as it would be on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Still, we hit a bit of a pedestrian bottleneck approaching the Vinny’s Nut House tent. People couldn’t help but slow town to and watch the decades-old Mulberry Street mainstay’s staff slicing up big chunks of nut-studded nougat. Swing by to try a bit of the torrone to see what the traffic-stopping fuss is about.
Sophia's Original Fried Rainbow Cookies
In a real lily-gilding move, this stand takes the famous chocolate-covered, tri-colored cakey cookies, fries them to golden, and even covers them with a snowfall of powdered sugar, if you wish. The result is a slightly warm golf ball-sized bullet with sucrose wings that’ll wake you up like a double espresso. It’s a bit much, to be sure, but, without a standalone location, San Gennaro presents a rare opportunity to sample Sophia’s specialty.