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  • Writer's pictureThe Traveling Chismosa

What to do at the San Gennaro Festival in NYC’s Little Italy

Updated: Feb 13, 2021

During this time of the year, I’m usually getting ready to take my annual trip to New York City for the San Gennaro Festival. Unfortunately, thanks to COVID, the festival has been canceled and will hopefully continue on next year. The San Gennaro Festival, actually called The Feast of San Gennaro, has taken place in Little Italy every year since 1926 when immigrants from Naples gathered to commemorate Saint Gennaro, the Bishop of Benevento, Italy. The feast is an important part of the neighborhood that honors not only the saint himself but the ancestors, culture, and traditions of the Italian people.

The feast has now turned into an 11-day event and stretches through 11 blocks which means there is something for everyone!

Little Italy festival in New York City

What to Eat?

Imagine the festival like being at your county fair. There are what feels like thousands of food vendors plus the restaurants within those 11 blocks of Italian food fun. Pizza, pasta, cannoli’s and more are available to you at any turn. I usually favor Gelso & Grand located on a very popular corner of the festival, Gelso (which means Mulberry in Italian) and Grand Street. They are usually sponsored by Aperol so you can find great specials like a slice of pizza and an Aperol Spritz combo or a pizza pie with a beer at a super affordable price.

If you’re not the type to stand and eat like a true festival-goer, you can have your pick at any of the restaurants with street seating so you’re still in the action. Don’t forget to stop at one of the $1 cannoli stands and order like 6 mini cannolis!

What to Do?

Aside from a lot of walking, a lot, I usually like to stop to do a little shopping. There are several Mulberry & Grand stores in New York City but for some reason, I like to pop into their store in Little Italy. They have the coolest trinkets, jewelry, clothing, and accessories that are affordable enough to take back as souvenirs for friends and family so you can avoid the cheesy ones (I’m still a sucker for the I love NY shirts though).

If you want to get out of the crowds for some shopping you can head a couple of blocks west and you’ll hit the SOHO neighborhood. Designer stores and popular brands line these famous cobblestone streets, great for pics!

At the festival, there are also some fun things to do like various shows at different stages, music and bands, and carnival rides!

Girl eating pizza in Little Italy New York City.

You don’t have to be Italian to Celebrate the Feast of San Gennaro, I’m Hispanic and live in Miami and somehow have made this an annual experience. I enjoy how people of all races and nationalities come together during this event just to get a taste of Italian culture without leaving their city or even the country.

If you haven’t been yet, I encourage you to try it out just once, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. If you find it’s not for you at least you’re in the city that never sleeps and you have a million different activities to choose from!

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