One of New York City’s most popular street fairs returns to Manhattan’s Little Italy neighborhood this week. The 11-day Feast of San Gennaro began in 1926 as a way for immigrants in New York to maintain the Italian tradition of honoring the patron saint of Naples, Saint Januarius, with a feast every September. While the makeup of Little Italy has evolved over the last century, shrinking in size from 30 blocks to about nine, the Feast of San Gennaro remains one of the city’s best events of the year. Ahead, get a taste of all things Italian with our guide to one of the city’s largest street fairs, which takes place September 15 through September 25, from the history of the iconic event to cannoli-eating contests and live music.
Starting in the late 19th century, immigrants settled in Lower Manhattan, with communities from various Italian villages putting roots down on different city blocks. According to Walks of New York, Italian Americans made up 17 percent of the city’s population by 1930.
Following World War II, Little Italy residents left the crowded quarters of Manhattan for more spacious digs in Brooklyn, New Jersey, and on Staten Island. The neighborhood later became home to a large population of Chinese immigrants after a 1965 federal policy made it easier to migrate to the United States.
As the size of Manhattan’s Little Italy shrunk, with roughly 1,000 residents of Italian ancestry recorded in 2000, a nonprofit formed to keep the traditions of the old neighborhood alive. Thanks to the Figli di San Gennaro, Inc., which has organized the event since 1996, the Feast of San Gennaro has preserved a significant part of the Italian experience in New York City.
In the beginning, celebrations like the Feast of San Gennaro provided a sense of place and pride for many Italian immigrants in the U.S. What began as a one-day religious event in 1926 has grown into an 11-day festival of food, carnival games, music, and more, attracting both tourists and New Yorkers alike.
Photo courtesy of Feast of San Gennaro
Mass & processions:
The 96th annual event honors “America and our armed forces.” The Feast begins on September 15 at 6 p.m. with the Blessing of the Stands, with Msgr. David Cassato blessing each stall of vendors along Mulberry Street.
The grand procession kicks off on September 17 at 2 p.m. with live music from the Red Mike Festival Band. The 2022 grand marshal is Former NASA Astronaut, Michael J. Massimino; Mayor Eric Adams will serve as the honorary grand marshal.
On September 19, the solemn high mass honoring the patron Saint of Naples takes place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. It will be held at the Shrine Church of the Most Precious Blood at 113 Baxter Street. After mass, there will be a religious procession with the statue of San Gennaro.
- Johnny Mandolin & Friends take the stage on Sept. 15 at 5 p.m., followed by JC and The Fun Time Band at 7 p.m.
- Musician Earl Benedetto is scheduled for September 18 at 2 p.m., with jazz singer Vanessa Racci performing at 6 p.m.
- Catch Jessa V and The Fringe at 4 p.m. on September 19 before the solemn high mass
- On September 20, enjoy a show from the Enrico Caruso Opera
- Joseph Tribuzio will perform on September 22 at 5 p.m., followed by Teo Ricciardella at 7 p.m.
- Starting at 7 p.m. on September 23, watch Louis & JoAnn with the Uptown Band perform
- A musical tribute to the Armed Forces with Francesca Caviglia kicks off at 2 p.m. on September 24
- Closing out the festival on September 25 is Jenna Esposito at 6 p.m.
- The 24th annual cannoli eating contest kicks off at 1 p.m. on September 16
- A zeppole eating contest will be held on September 21 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
- For the second time ever, there will be a pizza-eating contest, sponsored by Upside Pizza, on September 23 at 1 p.m.
- A meatball eating competition is on September at 1 p.m.
Can’t-miss food vendors, restaurants, & shops of Little Italy:
- Lucy’s Sausage Stand for sausage and peppers
- Caffe Napoli on Mulberry Street
- Mulberry Street Cigars
- Ferrara Bakery & Cafe for Italian nougat candy, torrone
- Umberto’s Clam House for signature clam dish and celebrity sightings
- Alleva Dairy, the country’s oldest cheese store
- The Urban Lens: A walk through the 90th annual Feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy
- The Giglio Feast: History, fun facts, and what to expect at this year’s celebration in Brooklyn
- The Italian side of Williamsburg: History, famous joints, and today’s culture
Editor’s note: The original version of this post was published on September 11, 2019, and has since been updated.
Tags : Feast of San Gennaro
Neighborhoods : little italy