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Feast of San Gennaro, Hollywood

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San Gennaro (also known as Januarius -- yes, as in the month) was one of those fantastic early Christian martyrs who suffered incomprehensible tortures and survived inexplicable violence under equally fantastic Roman persecution. He was tossed into the flames but did not burn; the ever-resourceful Romans then tried to feed him to wild beasts, but (le sigh) the animals laid down at his feet instead of devouring him. Exhausted and frustrated, the Romans beheaded the guy, but those budget-minded Christian women saved the blood that ran down from his bereft spinal cord. Apparently there still exists a vial of this blood which miraculously reliquifies before an audience of rapt believers in Napoli.

Sadly, there was no such miracle at the Los Angeles Feast of San Gennaro, a newly annual event hosted and sponsored by those stalwarts of Italian Hollywood, Jimmy Kimmel and Adam Carolla. The Feast is sponsored by Precious Cheese (thus the possible misconception that this is a cheese festival rather than the traditional saint's day), and this year, the festival was tucked into an open lot sandwiched between Hollywood High School and the Hollywood & Highland shopping center.

However: glory be to the Italian people, there was a lot of great food.

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What to eat, what to eat? The festival's sponsors lined up a veritable saints' row of good grub, including pizza, calamari, fried fish, chicken parmigiana, cannoli, calzone, biscotti, meatball sandwiches, sausage sandwiches, and pasta (oh the pasta!). Oh, and yes, Perroni beer and Italian wine. Duh.

We ate our calzone so fast there wasn't even time to take a picture: tight little pockets of ricotta and mozzarella cheese, folded in pizza dough, then deep fried and smothered in tomato sauce. Yes please thankyouverymuch.

Despite the succulent promises of the meatball sandwiches and chicken parmigiana, the sausage rolls with grilled peppers looked too good to resist. The peppers were crisp, the sausage was tasty, and it was good to eat with one hand while standing and watching people go by. What more can you ask of fair food?

Here is the Italian sausage & pepper sandwich roll.

This guy was probably the most cliched looking guy all day -- I could go into the whole guido thing and its Hollywood Gucci-sunglassed manifestations but I WON'T.

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Precious Cheese was the sponsor: they were handing out string cheese sticks and mozzarella marinated with tomato, basil, and olive oil -- for a price, of course. I'm still dreaming of Nancy Silverton's bufala mozzarella at Osteria Mozza, so I decided not to partake.

My companion was raised in an Italian household and spent most of his lifetime immersed in the Italian culture and cuisine of the Philadelphia area: until this point, he had yet to find a cannoli that really recaptured the East Coast Italian taste. Fear not, though, my Roman friends: the San Gennaro festival got the cannoli down. It was delicious and tasted just like home. By the blood of the saints! Thank Jesus.

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