Love it or hate it, the annual Feast of San Genaro is the quintessential New York City Street Fair. It all happens on one stretch of Mulberry Street. In past years, Mulberry Street was the heart of the original Italian community, “Little Italy.” And yeah, the neighborhood, like much of Manhattan, has changed. The original Italian immigrants are long gone. Chinatown is just to the South and the Chinese Community has slowly moved in. And there’s a McDonald’s on Canal Street. But somehow, much had managed to stay distinctly Italian. Like there are lots of food specialty stores that have been there forever. People drive in to load up on stuff you can’t get anywhere else. I get my fresh pasta from a place that served the Pilgrims when they arrived and the cheese store next door was in business years before that. Ask anybody.
But for these two weeks every year, everything changes. I think I once described the Feast as what Marti Gras would look like if it was produced by the Sopranos. OK, that still holds, only it seems to get bigger and more over the top every year. First off, we are talking about over a million folks who will cram into this narrow street before the final pizza is sliced. Then there are a hundred of booths selling every possible variation of Italian street food. For the more fastidious eaters, restaurants set up tables out on the street. Booze flows and it is one of the few City events that allow it to be carried and consumed legally as celebrants wander. For those who suffer from an overloaded wallet, there are “games of chance” to help lighten the load. There are rides for the kids. There is stuff to buy to take home, look at and wonder why you bought it.
Crowds make it impossible to move at anything faster than a crawl, which is what some partying patrons are doing by mid-afternoon. At some point, here is a cannoli-eating contest. Smoke form grills and frying makes it difficult to see very far. Every song ever recorded by Tony Bennett and Dean Martin is played over the P.A. systems. Endlessly. People get lost. And found. New friends are made. One lovely lady asked me to take her photo. Then she told me she thought I was very attractive. Then she told me she had been drinking since 9:00 that morning and wandered away.
Oh yeah: I shot a few snapshots and, as always, had a great time!
—Maury Englander (www.mauryenglander.com)
Note: Click images to enlarge.