The first time young Foodie tasted mussels ( drowned in marinara sauce,) was in New York's Little Italy during the San Gennaro Festival celebrated in September along Mulberry Street. The 11 day event is a lovely exercise in Italian-food gluttony, with cannoli sampling high on the list.
Around 300 AD, the eponymous saint from Napoli, whose crime was ministering to imprisoned Christians, survived being tossed in an oven, placed on the rack, and presented to wild beasts for their delectation in an arena. ( "What am I to you, " he wailed, "Just a cut of meat?!) He did not make it, however, through his beheading.
In any event, San Gennaro became revered and New York has been putting on his festival for 78 years. The folks on the other coast have been in the biz five years now. Los Angeles Italian-Americans, like the people in New York, created a foundation to host their festival and both efforts fund philanthropic undertakings for those in need. In LA you can play boccie with "Hollywood's most prominent Italian-American celebrities," and all the ricotta cheese you can eat comes from Precious, the company whose name is imbedded in the official festival title.
In a neat piece of synchronicity (?), in New York the statue of San Gennaro is paraded around Little Italy and then returned to its rightful place at the Most Precious Blood Church on Mulberry St.
Another One: Las Vegas http://www.sangennarofeast.net/
Other Italian Festivals: http://www.italylink.com/festivals.html
( Love the smoking Mt Vesuvius behind S.G. )