To beat the "baseball bat in my car" crowds, go to the 88th Annual San Gennaro Festival in Little Italy during the hours of 2 to 6pm. There you will find food, games, cannoli eating contests, pizza eating contests and entertainment, as well as T-shirts printed with words of wisdom such as "Italian Girls Make the Cutest Girlfriends, the Best Friends and Your Worst Enemies," " I Am Not Yelling I Am Just Italian," and of course "Leave Your Gun and take Some Cannolis Home." All words to live by!
Kidding aside, there is more to the festival than sausage and peppers--it is a religious event, with a religious procession and parade on the saint's feast day (September 19th). San Gennaro is the patron saint of Naples, my hometown, so it makes sense with the high population of Neapolitan immigrants living at one time in Little Italy, that this religious celebration was established here.
My Neapolitan mother would tell me of the Miracle of San Gennaro. It is believed in Naples that the coagulated blood of San Gennaro, which sits in a reliquary on the altar of church in Naples must liquify on his feast day. If it does not, a calamity will hit Naples! I know you are thinking that by the looks of the Italian Government it has not liquified for years; but it has-- according to locals.
My mother also told me of another attempt at divination, what girls in her town would engage in on Sept 19th: they would put an raw egg in a plate and leave it on their window sill over night and the next morning they would wake up to an egg in the shape of her future. She insists that her egg showed a plane flying through the clouds over an ocean toward an unknown land. A lot of imagery for a yolk, but it turned out to be true, but the "unknown land" ended up only being New Jersey!
This year, I found an abundance of pina colada stands, several cigar vendors and some leftover cronut imitators--I adore the deep Italian American food vibe (of course I don't consider this Italian food but can appreciate it nonetheless). What I don't appreciate is the "Don't take a picture of me," "We don't give out samples" somewhat terse vibe of some of the vendors--so NOT Italian!
I did find some Italian joy and pizazz with some of the vendors though and here are some picks for the classic Italian American fare as well as some modern takes:
Caffe Napoli Street Food
Honestly I was attracted to their photos of Sofia Loren and then realized they had calamari fritto, zeppoli, etc without the usual grease and in paper funnels just like in Naples!
If you get tired of the more heavy fare, this stand gives you calamari salad, baby octopus and lobster.....and raw clams!
Making their own Gelato-try the pistachio!
Baby John's Italian Knish are a hoot! He is also the Cannoli King for classic cannoli.
Stuffed Artisan Cannoli
Will give you a modern take on cannoli with different flavors-pumpkin pie, pecan pie and again pistachio! Find Arancini Bros. close by too!
For some unexpected Israeli cuisine stop by the Bar Bolonat stand-what a savory surprise.
For full list of entertainment and festivities go to: http://www.sangennaro.org