Imagining Little Italy’s annual Feast of San Gennaro with out the spicy hyperlinks from Lucy’s Sausage is all however inconceivable.
Perhaps that’s as a result of the pork peddler celebrates its ninety fifth yr in enterprise this month, making it one in every of New York’s most iconic Italian-American companies — you don’t end up in a “Godfather” movie for nothing — only one yr youthful than the feast itself.
Lucy Spata, 71, a diminutive Brooklynite broadcasting large no-nonsense power, has been working the enterprise for simply over half a century now, an achievement not misplaced on the present-day founders of the Feast.
And so, issues shall be somewhat completely different for the sausage-slinging septuagenarian at this yr’s avenue celebration, which runs on Mulberry Road between Grand and Hester till Sept. twenty fifth. This time round, Spata has been topped the official “Queen” of the competition.
“It began with my grandmother,” Spata says, referring to the unique Lucy, an immigrant from Avellino close to Naples, Italy, who first arrange store two years earlier than the Nice Melancholy. “(At the beginning), San Gennaro was just one block. She had a stand with two steel rubbish pails full of scorching coals and topped with a metal plate. The sandwiches had been solely 25 cents.”
Lucy’s grandmother handed away in 1969, adopted by her mother and father Fay and Frank Pagano, paving the best way for her to take over the grill.
Within the fashionable period, Spata and her workers oversee six vans for sausages (together with fashionable specialties like braciole and broccoli rabe), and 4 that fry up crispy zeppole. Over the a long time, her meals has turn into a staple of not solely the San Gennaro competition, however Italian festivals throughout the Large Apple, endearing generations of hungry revelers. Throughout a typical feast, a whopping 300 kilos of do-it-yourself floor pork are sizzled day by day.
“You’re in New York Metropolis, so there are undoubtedly some characters right here,” she laughed. “You’ll get individuals who shall be in entrance of the stand and begin singing, begin screaming. You possibly can’t think about.”
A few of these characters have included TikTok Italian-food influencer Danny “Cugine” Mondello, “Foodgod” Jonathan Cheban and Chrissy Teigen. Politicians like to cease at Spata’s. Mayor Bloomberg stopped by throughout his prolonged reign (he topped his hero with Tabasco sauce, a particular request), together with former President Donald Trump. (“He needed a traditional sandwich, no taking his time,” Spata stated.)
The sausages are additionally film stars. In 1989, Francis Ford Coppola depicted the San Gennaro feast in “The Godfather III,” with Spata and her crew collaborating within the two-week shoot.
“Joe Mantegna shot a scene at my stand and says within the film, ‘This saus-eetch is wonderful!’” defined Spata. Lucy’s additionally appeared in 1997’s “Cop Land,” starring Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro.
Lucy’s can be a curious a part of homosexual historical past, with the queer photographer Gary Lee Boas protecting his cult traditional ebook “New York Sex” with a ’70s-era image of a blond hustler posed outdoors the stand. (Interview editor Mel Ottenberg recently called it “one of many biggest photographs of New York Metropolis ever, interval.”)
Being a cultural touchstone doesn’t imply life has at all times been simple — enterprise dried up in 2020, with festivals on maintain because of the pandemic. (“I had a summer season to myself for the primary time and didn’t prefer it,” Spata deadpanned.)
The summer season earlier than, her husband Angelo, who she’d been working the enterprise with for years, handed away all of the sudden in the course of Brooklyn’s Giglio Fest.
“He acquired sick and died in the course of the feast, however I went again to the stand after we buried him,” she recalled.
As of late, Spata worries about the way forward for Little Italy, the place the destiny of longtime companies like Alleva Dairy and E. Rossi and Firm presently hangs within the stability.
“I thought of opening a retailer years in the past, however then I’d have to chop myself two methods,” Spata mused. “The rents are getting greater and better — it’s very onerous for these individuals to make a dwelling.”
So far as the stand’s longevity is anxious, nonetheless, Spata has an ace up her sleeve: her granddaughter, additionally named Lucy, whom she hopes will sooner or later take over the enterprise. Not that she is planning on retiring anytime quickly.
“So far as I’m involved, I’ll battle to the tip. So long as I’m alive, my trailer’s gonna be right here,” stated Spata, who can be recognized for her annual show of Christmas lights in Dyker Heights. “I used to be introduced up Italian, I’m gonna die Italian. If we don’t stick collectively, we’re not going to don’t have anything.”
Regarding her official duties as this yr’s San Gennaro Queen, the seen-it-all New Yorker is unfazed.
“You’re a Queen from 2 o’clock to 4 o’clock after which it’s again to work,” she stated.