The Feast of San Gennaro returns to Manhattan’s Little Italy neighborhood this week after last year’s event was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Kicking off on Thursday, the 11-day celebration 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 New York City’s most popular events. Ahead, get a taste for all things Italian with our guide to one of the city’s largest street fairs, from the history of the iconic event to cannoli-eating contests and religious processions.
Feast of San Gennaro
Food, faith, family, and more food. The Feast of San Gennaro is in full swing, bringing the best of Italian cuisine and culture to a few blocks of Little Italy for 11 straight days. In its 93rd year, the Feast has evolved from its early 20th-century roots, as has the former immigrant enclave. Despite these changes, the Feast of San Gennaro remains one of the largest and most popular street fairs in New York City, as well as a way to preserve Italian American culture. Ahead, photographers and New Yorkers James and Karla Murray take us on a whirlwind food tour of the Feast of San Gennaro, from powdered sugar zeppoles and fried Oreos to Italian sausage and calzones.
6sqft’s ongoing series The Urban Lens invites photographers to share work exploring a theme or a place within New York City. In this installment, award-winning authors and photographers James and Karla Murray introduce us to the faces and food vendors that make up the 2016 Feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy. Are you a photographer who’d like to see your work featured on The Urban Lens? Get in touch with us at [email protected].
2016 marks the 90th anniversary of the Feast of San Gennaro, which is held in the “Little Italy” neighborhood of lower Manhattan from Thursday, September 15 through Sunday, September 25th. The Feast is an 11-day salute to the Patron Saint of Naples, Saint Januaries, and it is the longest and most popular street fair in New York City (anticipated to bring in one million tourists and New Yorkers this year).
Little Italy was once known for its large population of Italian immigrants and is now centered on Mulberry Street between Broome and Canal Streets. Italians first began to settle in the area during the 1850s, but by the 1960s, wealthy Italians began to move out and Chinese merchants for the first time began to move north of Canal Street—the traditional boundary between Chinatown and Little Italy. Observing the changes in the neighborhood, Italian merchants and restaurateurs formed an association dedicated to maintaining Mulberry Street north of Canal as an all-Italian enclave, which it still largely remains.
Ahead we document some of the longtime New Yorkers, tourists, and decades-old Italian vendors who’ve added their own flavor to this year’s festivities.