New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

The best of the fest: Italian classics at the Feast of San Gennaro

A guide to the top eats at Little Italy’s 97th Feast of San Gennaro.

Every September, a slice of old-world charm is renewed in the heart of lower Manhattan. Vibrant red, white and green arches illuminate Mulberry Street for 11 blocks from Houston to Canal, celebrating the annual Feast of San Gennaro. The 97-year-old tradition was first celebrated in the United States in 1926, when immigrants from Naples joined together on Mulberry Street to celebrate the patron saint of Naples, Saint Januarius. Now, New Yorkers of all ages gather for the 11-day feast — running from Sept. 14 through Sept. 24 — and indulge in an array of classic Italian treats and festivities.

Here’s WSN’s guide to the best eats at this year’s Feast of San Gennaro. 

Best pasta: Caffé Palermo’s cacio e pepe 

When I stumbled upon the long line for this stand, I knew I had to see what the hype was about. Cacio e pepe is one of the most simple, yet delicious, Italian pasta dishes, typically made in just minutes with pecorino Romano cheese, black peppercorns and al dente pasta. Little Italy’s renowned Caffé Palermo serves this dish freshly made, after swirling it in a giant parmesan wheel and sprinkling a generous amount of cracked pepper on top. It’s salty, creamy and has a kick from the pepper, making it both flavorful and comforting. 

Best sandwich: Gigi’s Tre Cugini

Gigi’s serves up everything from arancini to rib-eye steak, but their most popular dish is their sausage and pepper sandwich. Although the feast is full of Italian sausage vendors, Gigi’s flavor and freshness make it a standout. Sandwiches are made to order, and the savory sausage is topped with sweet, caramelized onions and fresh peppers, packing a punch in every bite. The cooked-down toppings seep into the toasted bread, making for a satisfying bite.  

Best seafood: Mike’s Clam Bar

Given the feast’s Neapolitan origins, it isn’t a surprise that southern Italian fare, namely seafood, has found its place among the Mulberry Street vendors. Mike’s Clam Bar’s notable seafood dishes include its baked clams and fried shrimp, which are both baked to perfection and seasoned with garlic, crispy breadcrumbs and fresh herbs. Topped with a refreshing squeeze of lemon juice, Mike’s Clam Bar was a memorable experience. 

Best dessert: Danny on the Corner

Zeppole, deep-fried dough balls dusted in powdered sugar and often filled with jelly or cannoli cream, are one of the most popular items at the feast. You’ll find plenty of stands frying them up, but no one does it quite like Danny on the Corner. The stand specializes in classic zeppole and my personal favorite treat from the feast: fried Oreos. The zeppole are light and pillowy, and the fried Oreos are simply golden nuggets of deliciousness. On the corner of Mulberry Street and Grand Street, this zeppole spot is a must-try at the feast. 

Honorable mention: Pastéis de Nata at Joey Bats Café

Although Joey Bats Café’s pastéis de nata — Portuguese custard tarts — aren’t quite Italian, they still deserve recognition for one of the best desserts I tried at the feast. The pastries are like warm creme brulees wrapped in light and flaky croissants. The cafe, which also has locations in Chelsea Market and the Lower East Side, fills and finishes its pastéis de nata with a rich and creamy egg custard and a dash of cinnamon. If you’ve had your fill of Italian classics at the feast, you might want to try out Joey Bats Café for something a little different.

Contact Roksaneh Salartash at [email protected].

About the Contributor
Adrita Talukder, Editor-at-Large
Adrita Talukder is a sophomore at CAS planning to major in Comparative Literature and International Relations. Outside of the paper, she's usually photographing her friends, watching movies, or polishing her NYU French award. You can find Adrita on Instagram @adritasphotos or @adrjta.
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