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Feast Of San Gennaro: Italian Heritage, Tony Danza, And Cannoli Overload

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - The 91st Annual Feast of San Gennaro has kicked off in Little Italy.

CBS2's Elle McLogan got in on the action and met some of the people that make the event so special—long-time neighborhood residents and historians, cooks and restaurateurs.

Among the personalities is Tony Danza, celebrity partner at Alleva Dairy, New York's oldest cheese shop.

"It's been on the corner of Grand and Mulberry since 1892," Danza said. You can catch him at the Feast all week dishing out "real food."

At the Annual Cannoli-Eating Competition, brave contestants battled three-pound plates of Sicilian pastries for a $100 prize.

The festival is more than food, games, and colorful atmosphere—visitors come to honor the Feast's namesake, the patron saint of Naples. History and heritage play equally important roles in the Feast's events.

"[San Gennaro] symbolizes not only the Neopolitans, but the Sicilians, the Calabrese, everybody altogether," said Dr. Joseph Scelsa, owner and President of the Italian American Museum.

That mingling of cultures is important to Anthony Curatola, one of the numerous vendors at the Feast. He claims his grandmother Lorraine has lovingly been dubbed honorary mayor of the neighborhood.

"She's 80 years old, and she makes all of these for the Feast fresh," he explained, displaying an arancini.

The Feast runs eleven days. Some highlights include:

Monday, September 18: Opera Night

Tuesday, September 19: Neopolitan Night/Solemn High Mass Celebrating the Patron Saint of Naples

Wednesday, September 20: The Devotions

Thursday, September 21: Performance by Lala Brooks and The Crystals

Friday, September 22: Performance by Vito and The Elegants

Saturday, September 23: Second Annual Meatball Eating Contest, hosted by Tony Danza/100th Birthday Tribute to Dean Martin, with a birthday cake, trivia, and vocal competition.

Sunday, September 24: Blood Drive with the Red Cross/Performance by Jenna Esposito

For more information about the events at the Feast, check out their website.

What's something nobody knows about but everybody should? Whatever it is, Elle McLogan is tracking it down on The Dig. Join her hunt for treasures hidden across our area. Follow Elle on Twitter and Instagram.

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