Yesterday afternoon, we took a ride to visit the Feast of Santa Rosalia on 18th Avenue in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, NY. It’s been quite a while since I last visited 18th Avenue, and my first time attending the feast in honor of Palermo’s patron saint.
Santa Rosalia’s feast day is actually July 14. But since many Italian American communities celebrate Our Lady of Mount Carmel around that time, La Santuzza or “The Little Saint” as she’s affectionately known is celebrated at the end of August or beginnings of September. This is around the time of the annual pilgrimage to Monte Pellegrino on the Bay of Palermo in Sicily, which was the location of her death in 1166.
The feast on 18th Avenue has been celebrated for decades. This was my first time attending, and unfortunately we arrived at 3 pm, which was about three hours from the feast’s Saturday start time, though stands were slowly opening.
We were able to see the statue of Santa Rosalia and say a prayer. A friend of mine John Napoli of Magna GRECE, one of my favorite websites/blogs, recommended that we stop into 18th Avenue Caffe Italia to enjoy an espresso. WOW! Was John right. The espresso was excellent with a nice thick crema on top. It took a small spoon of sugar a good 30 seconds to fall through the crema into the bottom of the cup.
We also paid a visit to one of my favorite Brooklyn pastry shops, the legendary Villabate Alba Pasticceria on the corner of 18th Avenue and 70th Street. Villabate has been a neighborhood institution since 1979. They specialize in Southern Italian goodies, namely Sicilian pastries, breads, gelato, marzipan, etc.
Two of my favorite offerings are their baked iris (iris al forno) and baked cartoccio (cartoccio al forno). These are true Sicilian delicacies.
Not many pastry shops make these, though I’m fortunate to have a few here in Northern New Jersey that make the fried variety (Vitamia & Sons in Lodi; Venice Bakery in Garfield; and Maria’s Bakery in Saddle Brook).
After having our senses and tastebuds tantalized at Villabate, we decided as much as we would have loved to hang around until 6 pm for the opening of the feast, we needed to grab a bite to eat. So we drove over to another Brooklyn standby, Joe’s of Avenue U Focacceria Palermitana in Gravesend, which I’ll write about in a subsequent post.
Tagged: 18th Avenue, Brooklyn, caffe, Caffe Italia, Catholic Brooklyn, Catholic New York, CatholicNY, CatholicNYC, espresso, feast, festa, Italian, Little Italy, Palermo, pasticceria, Saint Rosalia, Santa Rosalia, Sicilian, Sicily, Villabate Alba Pasticceria