New Yorkers are a resilient bunch with much pride in their city. The bombing in Chelsea on September 17 would not deter them from carrying on. The bombing occurred only two days into the ten-day San Gennaro Festival in Little Italy, but it didn’t keep the crowds from coming. That’s good because it’s an important year for the festival–its 90th anniversary.
September 19 is the feast day of San Gennaro and that is the day organizers celebrated with a mass and procession from the doors of the Most Precious Blood Church on Baxter Street around Canal Street and up through Mulberry Street.
Most Precious Blood Church
This year’s grand marshal was Joe Causi. A Bronx Tale‘s Chazz Palminteri also made an appearance at the festival. (Tony Danza was the grand marshal of the parade last year, but this year, I had my second run-in with the actor. I was shopping in Alleva Dairy, the country’s oldest Italian cheese store, when a man said, “Excuse me, ma’am,” and brushed past me. It was Tony. Years ago, I ran into him on Bleecker Street and I asked for a photo to which he rudely said no.)
Before Mass, I pinned a dollar on the statue of San Gennaro and got a pamphlet about him as well as a pin and prayer card. Inside the church, there is a large presepio (Nativity scene) from Naples on display.
Street vendors sell everything from American food to fair festival food like roasted corn,
to pizza and cannoli
to Italian tchotchkes
to traditional Italian foods like these Italian cookies, taralli, mostaccioli and biscotti.
I ate at Sal’s Pizza on Broome near Mulberry for pizza, sausage and broccoli rape. At Sal’s, you get a side order of pasta with your entree, the traditional way.
For dessert, some cassata and coffee at Caffe Palermo.
Posted in America, Cannoli, Fair, Festival, Italian, New York, News, Pasta, Pizza, Restaurant
Tagged biscotti, Caffe Palermo, cannoli, festival, Little Italy, Most Precious Blood Church, Mulberry Street, New York, New York City, pizza, presepio, procession, Sal's Pizza, San Gennaro, San Gennaro Festival, taralli
Taralli are a Southern Italian snack food. If you’ve visited Italian-American bakeries or grocery stores, you may have seen the ring-shaped snack food sold in different varieties, such as fennel-flavored. These crunchy snacks originate in Southern Italy. Like much of Italian food, taralli are different in different regions.
In Naples, they are traditionally made with lard, pepper and almonds. They were first made from scraps of leftover bread dough. To this dough was added lard and pepper. In the Neapolitan language, lard is “nzogna,” so you will see these as nzogna and pepe. In Naples today, you will see this variety also has almonds. Almonds were added in the 1800s, but the older version of these did not have almonds. This older version is what my mother remembers at bakeries of her youth, bakeries that carried on Southern Italian traditions from the late 1800s here in the United States. In fact, there were other crunchy breads that also had lard and pepper added to them.
In times past, the taralli vendor would sell the snack from a cart. In Napoli today, miniature depictions of taralli vendors are sold on Via San Gregorio Armeno where you can find the famous presepio, or Nativity figures.
In Puglia, taralli, or tarallini, are usually smaller, more crunchy and smoother with no almonds. They are not made with lard but with olive oil and are often flavored with fennel or chili. These are the ones most often found in Italian-American bakeries and stores. They can also be made sweet instead of savory, which is popular in Basilicata.
The origin of the word “taralli” is unknown, but it is thought to derive from the Greek word toros, meaning toroidal or round. Or the Greek word daratos for a kind of bread. It could also be from torrere, Latin for toast, or for a French type of bread.
Taralli are served year round but also during Carnevale. They are made by either baking or by boiling then baking, similar to bagels.
They are plentiful at bakeries in Naples. I like the nzogna e pepe from Leopoldo Infante.
Posted in Bread, Italian, Olive Oil
Tagged bagel, Baked, boiled, Carnevale, daratos, Italian, Naples, Napoli, nzogna, olive oil, pepe, presepio, round, snack, sugna, taralli, tarallo, toroidal, toros, torrere, Via San Gregorio Armeno
If you are visiting Napoli, these are the 10 must-try foods that I recommend. There are so many wonderful dishes, foods, fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats, seafood, etc that come from Naples or the Campania region. It’s hard to narrow it down to ten. But the average travelers don’t have an Italian nonna to cook local dishes for them nor do they have access to a refrigerator to buy groceries for themselves. So I compiled this list with the vacationer in mind. I think these foods are the best for visitors to try.
- Pizza–In the birthplace of pizza, there are many places to try the city’s favorite dish. Neapolitan pizza is different from American-style and New York-style pizza. If you prefer the crispy crust of a New York-style pizza, you may not like Neapolitan pizza. However, the ingredients on Neapolitan pies are usually top notch. A trendy place to try is Sorbillo. My favorite was Vesi, although I liked Da Michele too.
Da Michele pizza
- Sfogliatelle–A Neapolitan pastry that can be eaten for breakfast or dessert. It’s a popular one in Italian-American bakeries. The sfogliatelle is a difficult pastry to tackle and master–not one for the home cook. You must try one from Antico Forno delle Sfogliatelle Calde Fratelli Attanasio, a bakery not far from the main train station. It is by far the best I’ve ever had. It comes hot from the oven. The thin layers are crisped to perfection for a wonderfully crunchy bite. The custard and cherry ones are a special treat too.
- Pizza portafoglio–This pizza is the perfect fast food. It is sold from carts outside pizzerias. It’s a personal-sized pizza folded in quarters. Unlike most Neapolitan pizza, this pizza is crispier and doesn’t have the “soggy” center. It also doesn’t have much cheese. But the taste is divine.
- Taralli–A crunchy ring of dough, taralli is Neapolitan snack food. It comes in sweet and savory varieties.
- Pizza fritta–Pizza fritta is a popular Italian-American snack too. It’s a fried calzone with a cheesy filling in the center. It is also sold from carts outside fry shops.
- Rum baba–This pastry can be seen all over Naples. It is also a popular pastry found at Italian-American bakeries in the United States.
- Neapolitan ragu–aka Sunday gravy in the United States. Ragu is a slow-simmered tomato-based meat sauce for pasta.
- Frolla–The frolla is the easier version of the sfogliatelle that can be baked by home cooks. Or just as easily bought at numerous cafes in the city.
- Gelato–There are many gelateria in Napoli. One of my favorites with multiple locations is Fantasi Gelati. There are many flavors to choose from. I liked the cioccolato–so rich–and fior di panna.
- Mozzarella–Try some mozzarella di bufala made from buffalo milk. Yes, this is available in the United States, but it loses something on its refrigerated trip here. It is absolutely creamy and wonderful fresh. You can order it as antipasto or in a Caprese salad.
Posted in Bakery, Dessert, Gelato, Italian, Mediterranean, Pasta, Pizza, Restaurant, Vegetarian
Tagged baba, calzone, foods, gelato, Naples, Napoli, pasta frolla, pizza, pizza fritta, portafoglio, ragu, sfogliatelle, taralli, travel