Ninety two years ago, when Mulberry Street hosted NYC's first Feast of San Gennaro, there certainly wasn’t anyone hawking fried mozzarella balls coated in falafel, or boozy gummy bears, or disturbingly realistic Shar-Pei puppy ice creams. Here in 2018, however, we do things a little differently, and the huge crowds that packed into Little Italy for the feast's first weekend were treated to an astonishing array of things to eat and drink, from the reassuringly old fashioned to the confoundingly newfangled.

There was everything you'd expect at San Gennaro, including tons of zeppole, stuffed clams, braciole, and cannoli; barkers suckering folks into playing games of "skill" to win an oversized rasta banana or whatever; carnival rides, touristy tchotchkes, fresh-rolled cigars, and plenty of alcohol everywhere you turned. But a lot of the newer, more Nolita-ish establishments were also out in force, as well a number of gimmicky ice cream treats of the sort you see all over Chinatown these days. Here's a look at just a few of the stranger things I tried on Mulberry Street, in approximate order of how much I liked them.

A NY Muffuletta (Scott Lynch / Gothamist)

  • Cafe Belle opened in the spring of 2017 up near Houston Street, and in addition to all the traditional Italian pastries for sale in their cozy blue booth you can get a massive slab of Rainbow Cookie Cake for only $5, and I highly recommend that you do just that. It's insanely fresh, with a wonderful deep almond flavor and a crackling dark chocolate shell on top.
  • On the corner of Kenmare Street, Pasquale Jones is slinging three overstuffed sandwiches available only during the Feast. There's a Meat and Cheese, a Market Caprese, and a delicious NY Muffuletta stuffed with capicola, salami, provolone, and olive salad—plus serve-yourself hot peppers—on a sesame loaf. All three are $10, and all are worth it. There's also Sicilian wine and an outdoor bar at which to eat and drink.
  • Skip the numerous rolled-ice-cream booths further south for the Taiwanese one called Frozen Ice Cream Shop between Prince and Spring, which makes strange smoking nitro frozen beverages and those aforementioned disturbing, life-like wrinkly Shar-Peis made from chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry ice cream. They're too solid to slice cleanly, and for $10, the ice cream itself is just okay, but I've never had so many people stop dead in their tracks to gawk and squeal at what I was about to eat.

  • The great and thankfully ubiquitous Big Mozz is at San Gennaro this year, teamed as usual of late with Cookie DO and field testing a brand new dish called Mozz Pockets, which look like ravioli but eat more like mini pizza hot pockets dipped in the crew's reliably great chunky marinara sauce. These need a little more work—the shell is wan and the whole thing could be chewier—but fried food completists will definitely want to check them out. You get a lot of them for $8, too.
  • The Meatball Shop always puts good food on the table, and at their San Gennaro booth located just south of Grand Street they're debuting a new item, the Big Ball with Spaghetti, which is basically a fat meatball with the pasta mixed in, covered in tomato sauce and served with a bread stick. These are very big indeed, and cost $10 for two.
  • Eden Grinshpan and Samatha Wasser's Dez is a solid Middle Eastern fast-casual restaurant between Prince and Spring, but their festive outdoor booth for the Feast only sells booze, and they won't let you through the swinging door in the back to get to the restaurant proper. So if you want to eat the decent, San Gennaro-related Mozz Falafel Balls (four for $8, with a feisty harissa sauce) you have to walk a bit in either direction to get onto the sidewalk and then back down or up into the cafe.

So get all of those things, or just stick with deep fried Oreos, scungilli, torrone, sausage and peppers, and comically long and skinny plastic tubes filled with juice and, maybe, if you ask nicely, a nip of something stronger. Go next weekend or any night this week if you enjoy jam-packed situations; weekday afternoons tend to give you slightly more breathing (and eating) room.

You'll find the Feast of San Gennaro on Mulberry Street in Little Italy, running 10 blocks from Canal to East Houston streets. The street fair runs through Sunday, September 23, and is open from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and until midnight Friday and Saturday.