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Little Italy at Hollywood and Vine

September 18, 2003|Joe Rhodes | Special to The Times

As a boy growing up in Brooklyn, Italian on his mother's side, Jimmy Kimmel looked forward every September to the Feast of San Gennaro in New York's Little Italy. It was a weeklong festival of food, music and carnival rides that had been going on since the 1920s, a celebration of San Gennaro, the patron saint of Naples, martyred in 305 (and not to be confused with Sam Gennaro, attorney at law, the patron saint of hung juries).

When Kimmel moved to Las Vegas as an adolescent, there was a Feast of San Gennaro there too. The food might not have been as good, but the weather was better and, more important, "with the carnival games and stuff, it was one of the few chances kids got to gamble," he says.

So imagine Kimmel's distress when he moved to Los Angeles and found there was no Feast of San Gennaro. No strolling musicians, no sausage and peppers, no ziti, no fireworks, no wine and, worst of all, he points out, "no carnival rides for the children and the drunks."

Because he cares, and because the thought of it made him hungry, Jimmy Kimmel set out to right this wrong. That's how the comedian, his best buddy and part-time comedian Adam Carolla and former Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda, who will show up pretty much anywhere there's free meat sauce, came to be hosts of the second annual Feast of San Gennaro LA this weekend, near Hollywood and Vine, across from Capitol Records (where, it should be noted, Sinatra used to record).

There will be food and wine from more than 35 L.A.-area Italian restaurants, cooking demonstrations, musical performances (both on stage and from strolling combos), celebrity bocce ball and the Italian Wine Barrel, in which attendees can stomp their own grapes.

Among the entertainers scheduled to perform and/or wander aimlessly through the crowd are Tony Danza, Joe Mantegna, Joe Pantoliano, Lou Rawls, Laura San Giacomo, Dom DeLuise (who will be doing a cooking demonstration Saturday night), Ray Romano and any number of California gubernatorial candidates, none of whom you will recognize.

Also scheduled to appear: Ruth Buzzi, Tom Dreesen, Jimmy Darren, Deana Martin (Dean Martin's daughter), Fred Travalena and Frank Stallone.

(I know what you're thinking: "What? They couldn't get Ellen Travolta?")

"To have all these national treasures in one place," Carolla says, "obviously, we're gonna have to beef up security."

"It's worth the price of admission," says Kimmel, "which is free."

Except for tonight, when the Feast kicks off at 7 with a special $100-per-ticket charity gala called Prima Notte. Proceeds from the gala and food sales will benefit a number of Hollywood youth groups.

"It's a nice family event that injects a little Italian culture into Los Angeles," Carolla says. "The food is great; the music's fun. You're walking around with a glass of red wine in one hand and plate of ziti in the other; there's an orchestra playing. What else could be better than that?"


Feast of San Gennaro LA

What: Art, food and entertainment festival celebrating Italian culture

Where: 1749 N. Vine, Hollywood

When: Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Cost: Free

Info: (323) 969-8688 or

Celebratory Mass: Saturday, 9 a.m., Christ the King Church, Melrose at Vine, followed by the Procession of the Saint, 10:30 a.m., up Vine Street

Also: "Prima Notte" celebrity performances and appearances, today, 7 p.m. Cost: $100. Tickets: (323) 913-7107

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