Sunday, September 18, 2011

San Gennaro, 2011 edition

This year my wife and I made sure to get to one of our favorite September events in the city, the Feast of San Gennaro. Down in Little Italy for roughly two weeks every September the feast is a celebration of all things Italian. The streets are alive with food and drink, sweets galore, tons of other vendors offering everything from cigars to leather goods, games and performances, truly the quintessential Italian New York street festival. So you gotta come down and get roped into the madness and stroll Mulberry street, take in the sounds and smells and faces.
The Zeppole is the Italian version of that universally favorite dessert of fried dough tossed in powdered sugar. They're these nuggets of yum that are worth every calorie, and clearly a street fair must.
"Water Gun Fun" consists of a bunch of loud, chain-smoking carnies in your face as you try and shoot a gun with no water pressure in order to win one of these ridiculous Rasta Banana stuffed... things. It's a hysterical scene. Needless to say we opted to pass. ...but you gotta love it!
My waistline should be very thankful that we don't live closer to Little Italy. Gelato is like ice cream but with lower butterfat content and typically higher sugar content (thanks Wikipedia!). But just the same gelato is often made in smaller batches and is so creamy and delicious you are so psyched.
Torrone is something you see signs for all over during the feast and then you see most people are startled because they have no idea what they are looking it. Torrone is a basically a big block of white nougat with toasted almonds (or other nuts) mixed into it. It starts as a brick and pieces are broken off and sold by the pound. You can get a good torrone at Vinny's Nut House, and apparently a funny look from this guy. Hey, I'm Vinny, Vinny Baggadonuts! How you doin?!? The people watching is without question one of the best parts of the strolling around.
My wife had only been talking about getting her sausage and pepper fix all month so she was all over the smart menu the Mulberry Project was offering that day. We enjoyed their version of classic sausage and peppers, Tuscan truffle fries, and killer berry-based red sangria.
Not to mention their quaint little backyard space where we were invited to eat was such a welcome bit of down time from all the madness out on the street to which we would soon return.

"This is how I like my fruit, soaked in alcohol" joked the cute one.

But after the myriad of cannoli stands, when it really comes down to it, and you want to know who has the best pastries and sweet confections around, that would be Ferrara's, hands down.
Every year we have to treat ourselves to cannolis from Ferrara's, and this year in the box happened to fall another dream of a treat, a lobster tail! Fine layered pastry stuffed with rich custard created in this beautiful fan shape it was our first, and not likely to be our last. Because of a terrible stomach virus I had at the time I knew I couldn't handle zeppoles but a little cup of Ferrara's homemade chocolate gelato? Miraculously it went down just fine.
Every year we do a comparison of a different San Gennaro staple in order to figure out the better, if not the best. So this year we decided to pick sausage and peppers. After our slightly more "hipster" sausage and peppers at the Mulberry Project we had to get back to the where the real die hards flocked, places like Lucy's.

Here is a young zeppole master in training. Oh, the temptation, so dangerous.
The guys at Cha Cha's were jammin'!
"Get your sausage here!"
Of course in the end the more traditional street-style sausage and peppers would win the taste test. One little stand (not pictured) had a sweet sausage and pepper on a homemade baguette that took top prize. I tell ya, these guys and gals are magicians!
And speaking of guys and gals, take a look at these two. Geez, what can I say?

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