More than a million people every year make their way to the historic streets of Little Italy to experience the Feast of San Gennaro, NYC’s largest and longest-running Italian festival. Now celebrating its 93rd anniversary, religious processions, parades, live music, and authentic Italian eats highlight the festivities. The 2019 Feast of San Gennaro starts on Thursday, September 12th and runs through Sunday, September 22nd.
© Stu99 | Dreamstime.com - Little Italy Photo
San Gennaro legends like deep-fried Oreos, sausage ‘n’ peppers, and zeppole (a beloved Italian pastry) are all available, along with new favorites from the neighborhood’s latest generation of cafes and restaurants. There’s even a cannoli-eating competition: the 22nd Annual Cannoli Eating Competition takes place on Friday, September 13th at 2pm, sponsored by Ferrara’s.
Star attractions include a kick-off with The Blessing of the Stands on Thursday, September 12th at 6pm. A parish priest will parade through the festival, blessing all the shops, restaurants, vendors, and merchants. The Grand Procession takes place on Saturday, September 14th at 2pm, led by this year’s Grand Marshall, New York-based actor Steve Schirripa of Blue Bloods fame. New for 2019, the Feast is introducing an inaugural Zeppole Eating Competition on Wednesday, September 18th at 1pm. In addition to the cannoli eating competition, another crowd favorite returns with the 4th Annual Meatball Eating Competition on Saturday, September 21st at 1pm. The meatball contest is held in honor of the “unofficial Mayor of Little Italy,” Johnny “Cha Cha” Ciarcia.
Saturday, September 14th, from 7-10pm, check out a live radio broadcast on WCBS FM, hosted by Joe Causi. Monday, September 16th, 7pm, you'll find the 15th Annual Enrico Caruso Opera Night. Saturday, September 21st, at 2pm there's a Little Italy Vocal Competition, a tribute to the great Italian singers. Sunday, September 22nd, the last day of the feast, help out with the Annual Feast of San Gennaro Blood Drive with the New York Blood Center at 268 Mulberry St. Also on Sunday, at 2pm, there will be a Neapolitan concert. 2019's Feast will conclude with a performance by Jenna Esposito, starting at 6pm on Sunday night.
Figli di San Gennaro (Children of San Gennaro), a community organization, now runs the Feast, keeping alive the original spirit of September 19, 1926, when new immigrants from Naples celebrated their city’s patron saint, Saint Januarius, and the day in 305 A.D. when he was martyred. On San Gennaro’s Feast Day (Thursday, September 19th), a celebratory mass is held in the Shrine Church of the Most Precious Blood on Baxter Street, followed by a religious procession with San Gennaro’s statue through the streets. The Feast brings the world to Little Italy and Little Italy to the world.
The Feast of San Gennaro runs daily 11:30am-11pm, extended to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. There is free music (most nights 7-9:30pm) and free music and/or food talks (every afternoon 2-5pm) on the Festival Stage at the corner of Grand and Mott Streets. The Festival takes place on and around Mulberry Street between Canal and Houston Streets in Little Italy, sangennaronyc.org.