Italians Celebrate at San Genaro Festival



The feast of San Gennaro has grown to celebrate the rich Italian culture in New York’s Little Italy.


As someone who comes from a strong Italian family, I felt delighted to be surrounded by other people who appreciate Italian culture as much as I do at the San Genaro festival in Little Italy. Lights, art and other decorations created an enlightened atmosphere on an otherwise hot and sweaty Sunday evening so much so that even someone who was letting the sweltering heat get the best of them would have trouble fighting the urge to smile in. Of course, the vibrancy and cultural pride of the San Gennaro festival was contagious. I glided my way throughout the area feeling like I was at a family reunion instead of at a public festival.

Since there were a ton of vendors and games to explore and learn about, I decided to do a basic walkthrough of the festival upon arrival. Everything from the seemingly endless food options to the fashion vendors and even the classic boardwalk-inspired games was enticing. Weaving my way in and out of people devouring Italian cuisine and animatedly talking with their hands was easier compared to deciding what food to try, games to play and knick-knacks to buy.

Since having somewhat of a game plan seemed to be a smart idea, I started to mentally create a list of things I wanted to do. I knew I was going to push my stomach to the limits with how much food I was going to try, and I wanted to check out the humongous table of food inspired magnets. So, I made my way back to the entrance of the festival and took a moment to soak in its 91 years of history before heading back into the organized chaos. It was crazy to me that people from all over the world have traveled to Little Italy to celebrate early Italian immigrants and the Patron Saint of Naples for eleven days. In an odd yet comforting way, I felt connected to the San Gennaro festival in a deeper way that went beyond the surface of the fun and engaging atmosphere. After all, my ancestors were some of the early Italian immigrants that the San Gennaro festival celebrates. Even non-Italians have the opportunity to immerse themselves within and enjoy Italian culture! In addition to enjoying the food, games, and objects, people can easily interact with any of the vendors and learn about different aspects of Italian culture. I’m sure Italians could even learn something new about their culture from the vendors at the festival. After all, I did!  

Snapping back into reality, I realized I felt overheated and underfed. And I’ll be honest, I was mostly excited to try the food. So, I headed over to Lucy’s Palace and ordered one of their signature sausage and pepper sandwiches that everyone else in my proximity was already enjoying. Let me preface this by saying my dad makes amazing sausage and pepper sandwiches. Seriously, it’s a staple and easy go-to meal in our household that never disappoints. And while I can’t say anything negative about my dad’s cooking abilities, Lucy’s Palace definitely gives my dad a run for his money. The sandwich was everything I expected in a sausage and pepper sandwich, and more. From my first bite, I immediately tasted its robust  and wholesome qualities that were built upon a classic savory foundation. And as I stopped munching on one of my favorite Italian meals to take a picture of its glorious nature, I realized my phone was dead.

Like any young adult in 2017, I was initially frustrated and even uneasy that my phone was dead. But despite how cliché it was, having a dead phone proved to be beneficial because I was able to completely immerse myself with the people and activities around me instead of experiencing the festival through my phone screen. Since you don’t get to see pictures of me indulging in one of Cannoli King’s traditional cannolis, trying a bracciole (a delicious concoction of roasted meat stuffed with cheese, peppers, and spices) for the first time, browsing through each fashion vendor without purchasing anything, or attempting to flirt with young Italian men, you will just have to take my word that the San Gennaro festival was everything it’s hyped up to be.

I can’t wait for next September. Next time, I’ll be fully prepared for the festival with a completely empty stomach, new flirting skills and a portable charger. Oh, and a pocket of cash because I need to invest in those colorful food magnets.