BELMONT — The Bronx's Little Italy is abuzz this week as the neighborhood prepares for its annual Feast of St. Anthony, a five-day festival that transforms the stretch of Arthur Avenue at East 187th Street into a celebratory street fair.
The yearly event, hosted by local parish Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, kicked off Wednesday night and ends Sunday evening. Feast-goers can enjoy traditional Italian street food, games, rides and live music.
The neighborhood is home to several street fairs throughout the year, but residents say the Feast of St. Anthony is a highlight.
"The food is the best," said Belmont resident Louie Serrano, 41, who said he's come to the festival every year since he was a child. He and 13-year-old daughter Crystal Levine shared a heaping plate of fried dough covered in confectionery sugar.
"She wants the sugar high," he joked.
Westchester resident James Cornacchio, 48, is also a St. Anthony's regular.
"We come here every year," Conracchio said. "I think this year is the best year so far. They added more vendors than before."
Also new to the Feast this year is the construction of a traditional Italian giglio, a towering wooden structured adorned with pictures of saints which is carried through the streets of the festival in a procession known as "The Dance of the Giglio," which will take place on Saturday.
Antoinette Mastro-Giacomo and Miriam Chimenti attended the Feast on Thursday, stopping at Mount Carmel Church, the century-old parish on East 187th Street, to light a candle for St. Anthony of Padua The namesake saint of this weekend's festival was known for performing miracles and serving the poor.
Though both women moved out of the Bronx over 40 years ago, they're Belmont natives: both were married at the church. Chimenti was one of Mastro-Giacomo's bridemaids.
"It's good just being back in the old neighborhood," Mastro-Giacomo said.