Sunday, September 21, 2008

Feast of San Gennaro

Yesterday, after a nap to shake out the cobwebs in my head, we decided to take a trek down to Little Italy and visit the Feast of San Gennaro. It's a 10 day Italian extravaganza that wraps up today. I'd heard from folks that this is one street fair that is not to be missed, so we hopped on the 6. It was a strange subway day as there was construction on this line and all local and express trains were running on the 6 tracks. We got a little bit of express (before Grand Central) and then back to the regular schedule. This worked out great since we were heading pretty far south.

When you get to the top of the subway entrance at Canal Street, it is just jammed with people - there are stalls selling everything you can imagine - knock off purses, knock off watches, knock off DVDs - you name it, you can get it as a knock off here. Keep moving or you will get run over. We headed East to Mulbury Street as the Feast was essentially on Mulberry between Canal (at the South) and Houston (at the North). Here is the entrance to at Canal. The red, white and green decorations over the street are actually there year round from what I've seen.

I would have taken more pictures, but it was a struggle just to move because there were so many people.

This fair was different than all the others in that there weren't vendors trying to sell the usual street jewelry, etc. There were vendors selling T-shirts, but they had Italian sayings on them. I saw one beefy man buy his girlfriend a teeny T-shirt that said "Sexy Sicilian" on it :) There were a couple of stalls that sold hand rolled cigars (about $10 each), and one stall that had some actor who played in the Godfather who was signing autographs and taking pictures with fans. I can't imagine how, but there were carnival rides brought in and tucked in alleys and on side streets for the under 5 set. I should have taken a picture of the ferris wheel. And there were many games like shooting a basketball, or knocking down milk bottles with a baseball to win big plush animals. More so on the Canal Street side, there were a number of Italian restaurants which had errected temporary covered seating in the streets for all the extra folks coming to this part of town. People were eating good looking seafood, pasta, chicken and veal with bottles and carafes of wine, and smiling and chatting.

This must be the whole point of the fair (other than raising money for a church in the neighborhood). There were lots of food vendors selling walking food like sausage subs and shish-ke-bab. Even sweetbreads. I can't even imagine eating sweetbreads from a street cart, but people must do it. There were carts with Italian candies that are broken up with a hammer and chisel - white with nuts running through it. It was some kind of hardened nugat type candy.

And yes - there were the infamous fried oreos. Now I saw someone eating one (remember everyone is packed in pretty tightly) and I could see where she had bitten into it - it was a heavily battered and fried glob of dough with the cookie inside still intact - not melted or anything. It really didn't look good.

Rick and I stopped at Grotta Azzurra Ristorante, and although they had outside seating we elected to sit inside. After downing a couple glasses of water, we took a look at the menu. They had a special price fixe lunch for $9.95 which included one pasta dish and one entree.

Rick had the Rigatoni Ala Vodka to start and then Chicken Parmesean. The Rigatoni was cooked well, and the sauce was the creamy pink color we expected, though I thought it had a flavor reminicent of spagetti-o's. The Chicken Parmesean was outstanding - lightly breaded with some cheese and fried, with traditional marinara and mozzerella on top. It came with sauteed broccoli and roasted garlic potatoes which were both amazing. Rick had a Stella Artois (a lighter import beer) with lunch.

I had the Penne con Broccoli, which has broccoli, sun dried tomatoes and olives. Now, I don't really care for sun dried tomatoes or olives at all, but I appreciate how the flavors add complexity to a sauce. I just left those on my plate. The pasta and broccoli were tasty and garlicy. Then I had the Basa - a white fish done in the oregenata style (which I call down right yummy). It was garlicy and must have been roasted in wine and olive oil. The top was a little dry, but I just turned the fish over, bite by bite, and it was refreshed by the juices in my plate. It was a really good sized piece of fish, and it came with those tasty broccoli florettes and roasted potatoes Rick had. There was no way to finish all this food, but I felt a little Italian at least trying it all. I had a light Pinot Grigio and it was just fabulous with my fish.

We made our way back to the apartment from the Bleeker Street station and I enjoyed coming home to the flowers Rick brought me Friday afternoon.