As a kid, every so often, and more so as a young adult just out of college, I spent many a September night in New York City’s Little Italy (or “Itly” as my Dad would say) with my friends or girl friends celebrating the Feast of San Gennaro.
And for those of you who are unfamiliar with the “Feast”, it is truly something like no other. Celebrated in NYC since the 1920s on Mulberry Street, it is a 10-day festival dedicated to the Catholic Saint Gennaro, martyred in 305 AD, who is so beloved by New Yorkers (and this Jersey Boy) that transplanted New York Italians have recreated the Feast in Los Angeles. Heck, even Tommy Lasorda (originally from Pennsylvania), who bleeds Dodger Blue, chose the music of Old Blue Eyes to play during last night’s fireworks show, which celebrated Tommy’s 85th birthday as well San Gennaro’s memory. As always Mike, thank you; we (Jenny, Matt, Tracy and I) had a blast!
And while the Feast will last here for only four days (Hollywood and Highland 9/27 – 9/30) and won’t include the traditional Cannoli Eating Contest, this west coast version has plenty of Italian music, food and culture. Oh, by the way, the bread won’t be as good as it is “back home” either – and it has nothing to do with the water! It’s LA’s usual lack of humidity that won’t allow Italian bread to pass the taste test. So, don’t bother eating it. It won’t be worth the calories. However, I do highly recommend the Zeppole Booth! They are the Italian version of Sufganiots. Which is better? You decide. I guarantee you’ll “convert”. Capisce? They are ALMOST as good as what Gram and Gramps used to make in their North 7th Street Kitchen (Newark, NJ). Absolutely worth the calories!
So why am I telling you all this? Simple, “you all” have been very gracious over the years to share your foods, heritage and culture with me and here’s an opportunity for you to experience mine. And while you might not see Tracy or me as you wonder through the crowds, there is no doubt that you’ll see my image in every Italian (not Italian American) face. Don’t worry. I won’t judge you. “Mangia, mangia”.
But, before I go, and I apologize for this installment’s length, here are some tips you can take with you to the festival or any time you find yourself in an Italian restaurant and you want to make better choices:
- Thin-crust pizza with half the cheese and extra veggies
- Antipasto with vegetables
- Pasta with tomato sauce and veggies
- Entrée with side of veggies
- Grilled (“griglia”) dishes