Feast of San Gennaro: The schedule, the food, the contests and the music

Biting into the San Gennaro festival in Manhattan's Little Italy on Sept. 13, 2019.  Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin

The yearly Italian feast is back with a new zeppole-eating contest.

Biting into the San Gennaro festival in Manhattan's Little Italy on Sept. 13, 2019. 
Biting into the San Gennaro festival in Manhattan’s Little Italy on Sept. 13, 2019.  Photo Credit: Todd Maisel

Mangia!

The Feast of San Gennaro, the smorgasbord of Italian specialties, from cannolis to meatballs and everything in between, returns this week.

And for the very first time, organizers are throwing a zeppole-eating contest.

The small fried dough balls are the newest addition to the decades-old tradition, which will be bringing its original San Gennaro arches from the 1940s, Danny Fratta, operator of the feast’s popular Danny on the Corner zeppole stand, told us ahead of the festivities.

Zeppole, those fried delights, at San Gennaro on Sept. 13, 2019.
Zeppole, those fried delights, at San Gennaro on Sept. 13, 2019. Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin

So before you head down to Mulberry Street, here’s what you need to know:

When: Sept. 12 through Sept. 22

Where: Mulberry Street, between Canal and Houston streets; on Hester Street, between Baxter and Centre streets; and on Grand Avenue, between Baxter Street and Centre Market Place. The stage is at the corner of Grand and Mott streets. 

Sausage and peppers, grilled up at the Alleva stand on Sept. 13, 2019.
Sausage and peppers, grilled up at the Alleva stand on Sept. 13, 2019. Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin

What it’s all about: The Feast of San Gennaro dates to 1926 when Neapolitan immigrants wanted to continue the September 19 feast day observed back home.

To this day, thousands of people make a pilgrimage to Naples to celebrate Saint Januarius, the city’s patron saint, and see the miracle of his blood. The blood, which is said to be kept in a sealed glass vial, is said to liquefy about three times a year.

The feast also was a way for Italian immigrants to celebrate their heritage. After being told they would be relegated to worship in the basement of other churches, dominated by Irish Catholics, the community built its own church.

Over the years, the Feast of San Gennaro has grown to 11 full days of celebration, food and drink. 

Speaking of which, vendors you’ll see include: Cannoli King Caffe PalermoGrotta Azzurra, Umberto’s Clam House, Lombardi’s, Capri, Alleva Dairy, DiPalo, Ferrara Bakery and more.

What to know about the blessing, Mass and processions:

Msgr. David Cassato will bless the stands on Thursday, Sept. 12 at 6 p.m. 

On Sept. 19, the solemn high Mass celebrating the Patron Saint of Naples will occur at 6 p.m. at the Shrine Church of the Most Precious Blood (113 Baxter St.), which will be followed by a religious procession with the statue of San Gennaro.

The Grand Procession is slated for Saturday, Sept. 14 at 2 p.m., when there will be floats, bands, celebrities, the Red Mike Festival Band, the Giglio Band and the statue of San Gennaro.

Grand Marshal: Steve Schirripa, known for his role as Bobby “Bacala” Baccalieri in HBO’s “The Sopranos,” will lead floats and bands down the route. Schirripa is originally from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.

Little Italy, packed to near-capacity on Sept. 13, 2019. 
Little Italy, packed to near-capacity on Sept. 13, 2019.  Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin

The contests

Head to the stage at Grand and Mott streets for the following:

  • 22nd annual Cannoli Eating Competition: Friday, Sept. 13 at 2 p.m.
  • Zeppole Eating Competition: Wednesday, Sept. 18 at 1 p.m.
  • 4th annual Meatball Eating Competition: Saturday, Sept. 21 at 1 p.m.
  • Little Italy Vocal Competition, a tribute to great Italian singers: Saturday, Sept. 21 at 2 p.m. 
Ferrara's delivering the goods for the annual cannoli-eating competition on Sept. 13, 2019. 
Ferrara’s delivering the goods for the annual cannoli-eating competition on Sept. 13, 2019.  Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin

Other bits of entertainment

Concerts take place at the stage at Grand and Mott streets.

  • Johnny Mandolin & Friends will perform before the Blessing of the Stands at 5 p.m. and Free Pass will play at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 12.
  • La La Brooks & the Crystals perform at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 13, after the cannoli eating contest.
  • The Red Mike Festival Band will perform during the Grand Procession around 2 p.m., which will be followed by a live radio broadcast on WCBS FM with Joe Causi on Saturday, Sept. 14, between 7 and 10 p.m.
  • Sassi Party Performers take the stage at noon with the Gene Roberts Band to follow at 7 p.m.
  • The Annual Enrico Caruso Opera Night with Cheryl Warfield, Francesca Caviglia, Marie Anello and Valerie Chibisova is on Monday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m.
  • The Devotions play at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 17.
  • The Chicklets go on at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 18.
  • The Neapolitan Concert is slated for Sunday, Sept. 22 at 2 p.m.
  • Vito & The Elegants play at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 20.
  • Just Friends take the stage at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21.
  • “Mulberry Street: The Show” will be performed at 2 p.m., Jimmy Russo & The Flowers go on at 4 p.m. and Jenna Esposito performs at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 22.

Extra:

The San Gennaro Blood Drive (along with the New York Blood Center) will be at 268 Mulberry St. from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 22.

Shaye Weaver