Little Italy NYC Food: Feast of San Gennaro & Italian Sandwiches

Date September 19, 2008

These days Little Italy is a mere shadow of its former self. It takes the Feast of San Gennaro to put one of NYC’s most historic hoods back on the map. Unfortunately I’ve found that a lot of the food at the Feast is the same stuff you’ll find at a summer street fair in Midtown. That’s why NYC Food Guy is here, to highlight some authenticity with two Italian sandwiches that will remind you the “real” Little Italy lives on. Read on for the inside info plus a delicious street fair standard that’s actually worth eating…

Grand Italian Food Center’s “Fireman Special” $7.90

Smoked Turkey, Smoked Mozzarella & Hot Pepper Sauce

There’s only so much you can say about a sandwich with three ingredients. In this case it comes down to one word, and yes, you guessed it: delicious.

  • Hot pepper flakes are combined with oil and other spices (below) and then spread on a standard, chewy Italian hero roll.
  • A healthy serving of smoked turkey is sliced thin right in front of you and the smoked mozzarella follows.
  • The result is a confluence of flavor you’ve likely never experienced; the smokey turkey and creamy mozzarella counteract the fiery hot pepper sauce soaked into the roll.
  • Another favorite at Grand Italian Food Center is the “New Yorker” (ham, salami, prosciutto, provolone, peppers and mushrooms) although I recommend you head to the next spot for an Italian hero…

Alleva of Little Italy’s “Italian Combo” $7.50

Genoa Salami, Sopressata, Prosciutto, Provolone, Roasted Red Peppers, Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar

The Alleva family has been making ricotta and mozzarella in Little Italy for over 100 years. Stepping into their store, you’re overcome by the smell of imported meats and freshly made cheeses. This is a true taste of Little Italy, just like their Italian combo. Here’s the step-by-step construction…

1) A healthy serving of roasted red peppers are placed on the inside of a mundane hero. The bread, unfortunately, was the weakest aspect of this sandwich. Read on to find out how to circumvent this roadblock. The roasted peppers, however, were delicious; integral to balancing the salt level of the Italian meats, these fresh, flavorful peppers are marinated in olive oil and spices.

2) Silky prosciutto goes down first, followed by the slightly spicy sopresatta and garlicky Genoa salami. The prosciutto, already the most expensive meat on the sandwich, was by far the tastiest.

3) It all gets a light dousing with olive oil and balsamic vinegar before the roll closes around it. Below is the result. Despite the ingredients’ authenticity, it’s not the best Italian Hero I’ve ever had, that title, so far goes to Faicco’s Pork Store on Bleecker Street between 6th & 7th Avenue.

NYC Food Guy Special Recommendation

Alleva has great meats and cheeses but their hero roll was definitely lacking. My recommendation, therefore, is to pick up cheese and sliced meats at Alleva and find your own bread to build a sandwich with. Balthazar, Grandaisy, Blue Ribbon, Vesuvio and Parisi are all bakeries within 5 to 10 minutes walk of Alleva.

MozzArepas – Street Fair Food Worth Eating

As the sign says, mozzarella cheese griddled between two pieces of moist on the inside, crispy on the outside, cornbread. At $4 per MozzArepa, it’s the perfect combo of salty, melty and sweet. I recommend you split one with a friend, however, because the MozzArepas are pretty heavy. It’s just good to get a little taste.

Grand Italian Food Center

186 Grand St. at Mulberry St.
New York, NY 10013
Hours: Sun-Fri, 8am-2am; Sat, 8am-3am

Alleva of Little Italy

188 Grand St. at Mulberry St.
New York, NY 10013
Hours: Mon-Sat, 8:30am-6pm; Sun, 8:30am-3pm

9 Responses to “Little Italy NYC Food: Feast of San Gennaro & Italian Sandwiches”

  1. City Girl said:

    I was just at the Feast of San Gennaro last night — stopped there after dinner at Cafe Katja on Orchard St. Cafe Katja was tasty but the dessert selection was lacking, so we figured we could get some good tiramisu and cannoli at the Feast. It was delicious, and you are right — the Feast really brings out the best of Little Italy.

  2. Mr. Sandwich said:

    I’m going to have to go ahead and disagree with you on the mozzarepa recommendation. I think these things were one of the biggest disappointments I have ever experienced. For years I walked by the boiler plate street fairs in nyc always eyeing these delightful looking snacks. I thought “what could be better than mozzarella cheese melted in between two pieces of cornbread and fried in oil?” The answer…many many things. The first bite was good. But attempting to eat a whole mozzarepa, or even half of one, was unpleasant to say the least. What these things lack in flavor they make up for in butter and oil. I love butter and oil as much as the next guy (or probably more than the next guy) but it is not a substitute for genuine good taste. The mozzarella cheese was of poor quality and the cornbread was just plane old sub par. I say nay on the mozzarepa.

  3. The NYC Food Guy said:

    City Girl,

    What did you eat at Cafe Katja? There’s a place called Elaine’s cheesecake on Cleveland and Lafayette. Their mini cheesecakes are quality and while they’re not necessarily in the spirit of San Gennaro, they’re definitely worth checking out in addition to a cannoli.

    Mr. Sandwich,

    Dude, you are dead on. I actually changed the post a little bit because you raise a great point. I like getting taste of the MozzArepa. The first two times I had one of these I split them with a buddy. The last time I had an entire one to myself and it became a bit of a burden having to finish it, mainly because, like you said, the cheese isn’t great the corn cakes are greasy. But hey, it’s still cheese and greasy corn cakes so you really can’t go that wrong can you? What do you eat at street fairs? I don’t usually go near anything else…

  4. Vince said:

    Oh my gosh I am dying reading this post and seeing the photos. Those sandwiches look fantastic.
    Once again reading this site is a painfully sweet experiance.

  5. Jack said:

    One of my biggest NYC disappointments is the Italian delis, or lack of. There are i believe none on the UWS. I think the problem is that when i lived in Hoboken, there was a great deli on just about every other corner, and every place made their own fresh mozz. The only thing i really miss about hoboken is the great food.

  6. The NYC Food Guy said:

    Sandwiches are lacking in Utah? Now you know what to keep an eye out for when you return to NYC.

    I feel your pain the UWS is definitely rough when it comes to good delis. Ottomanelli’s on 79th and Amsterdam is a quality butcher shop, I can’t imagine their Italian hero is bad though I haven’t had it myself. Ravioli King on Broadway and 78th has potential to be good but their bread was terrible the one time I had it and they tried selling me a pre-made sandwich. Enough to keep me from coming back right there. Have you tried Broadway Delights on Broadway in the 70s? They seem to have the right idea though the chicken cutlet sandwich I once had was pretty brutal..

    Faicco’s Pork Store on Bleecker b/t 6th & 7th is still the best Italian Sub Ive had… $10 but totally worth it… check it out here

  7. Steve from Jersey said:

    I go to the feast every year and one of the must haves is the Mozzareppa !
    My friend owns Buono Notte so I am no stranger to eating in Little Italy, Great food, homemade wine from Puglias and Mozzareppas make up the best food at the feast.

  8. Brian From Thailand said:

    I am an American, who now lives on the island of Phuket, in southern Thailand. I am opening a small Thai/Cajun food restaurant and am thinking of serving New Orleans style Muffuletta sandwiches. The recipe for this sandwich is as follows:

    1 10″ round loaf Italian bread with Sesame seeds
    1 Recipe Olive Salad
    1/4 lb Genoa Salami
    1/4 lb Hot (Coppa) Capicola (or regular Ham)
    1/4 lb Mortadella Sausage
    1/8 lb Sliced Mozzarella Cheese
    1/8 lb Provolone Cheese

    I amhaving a problem finding Genoa Salami here in Thailand. Can you please be so kind, as to advise me on a good substitute for the Genoa Salami?

  9. theresa said:

    the next best salami would be the large hard salami. Hope it works out for you.

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