The famous song “I Need a Hero” most recently featured at the end of Shrek 2 sang by Jennifer Saunders the Fairy Godmother, kept going through my head as I wandered the San Gennaro feast with my family in tow.
My fingers still sticky from the recently consumed Zeppoles, were dragging my younger son’s hand through the crowd as I kept rambling on about the fabulous Sausage and Pepper Hero’s he HAS to try. There were seemingly hundreds of meat hawking vendors on this stretch of Mulberry Street selling all sorts of grilled meats. Spicy sausage, sweet sausage, bracciole, gyro, grilled flank steak, cheese steaks, it was a carnivores dream come true.
Although we could have easily stopped at the first vendor selling the ubiquitous “Hero”, we were determined to find the “GOOD” one. I was always taught to patronize the busiest restaurant or in this the case the busiest booth, as it usually determines the freshness of the food being served.
You see, the more people eat at one place, the higher the turnover of food and the less likely that food is lingering around waiting to be consumed in this open air festival – far away from bacteria fighting refrigeration.
Try to avoid selecting the vendor that has trays full of meat sitting atop of the chaffing dishes as who knows how long those sausages have been there and what kind of exposure they may have been subjected to. (Read my post – Grin and Bear it, for some enlightenment on what happens to your food behind closed doors).
It had taken me a LONG time to even want to eat a sausage again after that horrible story reported by the Daily News in the early 90’s. It seems that cops wire tapped Mr. Giordano, ( a member of the famous Gambino crime family) hang out at the time, the “DeRobertis Pastry Shop”. One of Mr. Giordano’s responsibilities was to oversee the San Gennaro Feast. It seems that cops overheard one of the festival workers call Mr. Giordano alarmingly telling him that , “The meats all bad, it’s filled with maggots!”. To which Mr. Giordano was reported to have replied. “Dont worry, take it in the back and wash it off.” UGH!
Needless to say, it has taken me over a decade to ever crave a sausage again and why I INSIST that they be served to me fresh, right off the grill.
The crowds were getting thicker as the day progressed and the kids were getting frustrated and cranky with my never-ending search for the “GOOD” vendor. After a couple of blocks wandering the festival, they insisted that we stop at the playground in Little Italy on the corner of Spring and Mulberry. While we sat and watched them play, I decided that it would be a perfect time to eat my hero in peace and told my husband to watch the kids as I got us one.
I tried to walk down Mulberry but the throngs of pedestrians at the San Gennaros feast, prevented me from getting too far. Frustrated and hungry, I completely disregarded my own advice and bought the Spicy Sausage and Pepper Hero from the closest booth. It was neither crowded not busy and yes the meat was sitting out there on a tray sitting a top a chaffing dish.
Needless to say, I took one bite and was sadly disappointed. The meat was lukewarm and hardly spicy, the onions and peppers were cold and slimy and the bread was stale. I cursed myself for not patronizing the Fasullo Brothers down the street where there was a line down the block waiting for “the hero”. I ended up dumping half of my Hero in the garbage as this time I listened to the little voice inside my head saying, “It’s not a waste if it ends up on your waist!”
I kept humming that song by Bonnie Tyler that was originally featured at in the 1984 movie classic “Footloose” and has since had several re-releases – “I need a hero! I’m holding out for a hero til the morning light. He’s gotta be strong, he’s got to be fast and he’s got to be fresh from the fight. I need a hero!”
I think I’ll make one at home.
Chow for now!