Mulberry Street Bar, which has a stand at the San Gennero Feast, offers many different types of vegetarian pizza. Photo by Shanila Kabir
Little Italy’s 93rd annual San Gennero Feast on Mulberry Street is keeping up with the times and changing diets of New Yorkers and tourists.
“Most gelato is not gluten-free, but ours is,” said Burcian Isik, 44, the owner of stand called Gelato. “We try to stay up to date with the popular healthier food options and offer new flavors every year.”
Gelato is primarily gluten-free pastries, desserts like gelato, Italian cookies and cannoli. They recently switched over.
“Our new strategy helps bring us more business every year,” Isik said. “We have noticed the growth of veganism and just stricter diets overall. We started using milk instead of cream.
She said the stand is now selling its first first vegan option, sorbet.
Vegetarian options are a staple of the Mulberry Street Bar best known for serving pizza with various types of cheese.
“Because we have many types of cheese, we have several vegetarian options,” Valerie Martinez, their chef said. “But we do not have any gluten free pizzas. We do not have options for customers with special dietary restrictions.”
That means business walks away.
“We have lost many potential customers,” Martinez said. “We have six to ten people come to us everyday with specific dietary restrictions such as gluten. It is only the fifth day of the festival and we have lost at least 25 customers. Our competitors offer some type of gluten free dish and we need to do the same for our customers.”
Meat alternatives are also becoming popular among vendors
“I came here every year for 18 years and around four year ago, younger people began to ask about vegetarian options,” said Nick Cancio, the owner of a gyro stand. “I decided to offer veggie ball gyros and they sell almost as much as the philly. I heard of the “impossible burger” and I want to offer something like that next year.”
Tyrieka Williams, 34, grew up on Mulberry Street and said the growing diversity of food every year helps keep the festival thriving.
“Fifteen years ago there was really only two options, sausages and cannoli,” she said. “The only vegetables I saw were cooked with the meat. Now I see corn on the cob, grilled peaches and gluten free pizzas. It might not seem like much but new options like this keep this old festival booming. I used to see the same faces here, but now I see so many different types of people from different backgrounds.”
Tara Puccio a New York University graduate student, was selling sausages and pizza at the festival. She said she is proud to see the more diverse food options.
“We came out with gluten free pizza and are looking into Kosher and Halal meat for our potential Jewish and Muslim customers,” she said.
“My Italian culture is beautiful,” she said. “I am so happy to see our food do what food is made for, bringing people and culture together.”