By Seth Kushner
New York’s most famous Italian Feast is surely San Gennaro in little Italy, but if you’ve ever pushed through the massive crowds to try to grab a sausage and pepper hero, you know it’s a tourist trap. Less famous and more “authentic” is Bensonhurst Brooklyn’s 18th Avenue Feast, AKA The Fest of Santa Rosalia, which takes place every year at the end of August.
I grew up in nearby Sheepshead Bay, and my parents used to take me for a stroll and a bag of Zeppoles, deep-fried dough covered in powered sugar. You knew it was the real deal by how transparent the paper bag would become from the grease.
As a teen, I used to go with my friends and we’d munch on those same Zeppoles while ogling the constant parade of exposed Bensonhurst girl flesh.
Those same girls, with their exposed midriffs, short shorts, deep tans and sprayed hair can still be seen today, but while they’ve managed to remain 17, I have not. Now, I limit myself to just one Zeppole, fearful of a high cholesterol induced death, but I always indulge in a sausage and pepper hero, but only from “Lucy’s”, the most famous of the many sausage and pepper trucks found at the feast.
I walk 18th Avenue with my family now, past carnival barkers enticing us with darts and plush prizes, tables sampling loud, base-heavy techno and house music, street corner psychics offering $5 glimpses into the future, old Italian American men with monetary offerings for statues of saints and the smells of fried delights.
Over the years I’ve learned the best time to go is at dusk, so you can witness the late summer sky above the buildings go from dark blue to red and purple. Then the lights strung across the street from the lampposts ignite in bright yellow in the night sky, casting Brooklyn in a warm glow.
Selected photos appeared in The Brooklynites, by Anthony LaSala and Seth Kushner