In the old days, all an iron-gutted New Yorker expected from his street food was something hot, filling, and cheap (emphasis on cheap). This, of course, was before the gourmetification of the flea market, the parking lot, the boardwalk, and the stadium concession, to say nothing of the waterfront dock. Now the unsuspecting pedestrian is likely to stumble upon some gourmet snack or tasty morsel at nearly every intersection. Until recently, though, one venerable al-fresco tradition has been impervious to the fancy-pants-food movement, remaining a holdout of sausage coils, funnel cakes, and deep-fried Oreos among the grass-fed burgers and vegan cupcakes. Yes, we’re talking about the Feast of San Gennaro, scheduled to terrorize digestive tracts and colonize Mulberry Street for its 85th season beginning September 15.
This year, though, the menu has grown a bit wider and a lot more interesting. Thanks to the organizing efforts of Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi, who tested the waters last year with a mozzarella-stick stand outside their Torrisi Italian Specialties, a crew of some of New York’s most renowned chefs and restaurateurs will be joining the festivities. Two twenty-foot tents positioned among the slavering masses outside the soon-to-open Torrisi spinoff Parm will house this undaunted dream team. The one condition: The chefs have to prepare a street snack not already on their restaurant menu. Torrisi, which has been known to derive inspiration and ingredients from neighboring Chinatown, will hawk BBQ spare ribs, next to A. J. Pappalardo and Al Di Meglio of Rubirosa, who’ll be serving mini braciole sandwiches, which you might want to supplement with some grilled calamari from the Franks of Frankies Spuntino. And that’s not all. There are tacos and Frito pies from L’Artusi in the works, pork-tonnato sandwiches and jelly doughnuts from the Breslin, and Cheddar falafel and cheese nips from Gabe Stulman’s Little Wisco restaurant group. Torrisi and Carbone have even lured Wylie Dufresne and his father, Dewey, from their wd-50 lair to introduce Dewey’s new sandwich project, BYGGYZ (scheduled to open next year). They’ll unveil the Byggybeef (slow-braised short ribs, pickled veggies, and American cheese on ciabatta), as well as the Brrwich (a chocolate-and-peppermint ice-cream sandwich), which may see some stiff competition from Stellina’s Emma Hearst. She’s pulling out all the stops with caramel-corn bomboloni, carnival blondies, and a slew of inspired gelati—but no zeppole, folks. Some traditions you just don’t mess with.