This is the second of a sequel of posts related to my Neapolitan experience, to catch up here’s a link to the first post …
It was hot in Napoli, the kind of hot that makes you gulp a beer after the other as if it was water. Campania an ancient and famous wine producing region, yet it was only decent like most of the authentic mediterranean wines, most commonly served was Falanghina white wine and according to Neapolitans white is better than the red variety they have. We didn’t want to go there in such a weather anyway. I did like it but not from the start, it grew on me with its lemony taste that makes it fresh and lively after the first few sips. I’ve also appreciated the Greco Bianco but I am the Pinot grigio and Muscat kind of girl.
Roaming around local markets and eating something fresh and authentic instead of processed food is a passion of mine, specially for breakfast. That was impossible in Napoli with the amount of pastries I wanted to try; you may or may not already know that Napoli is also famous for Baba al Rhum or as french call it: Baba au Rhum. It comes in different sizes and you can buy the bland pastry from the baker or get it with its ready made syrup and some fresh cream or gelato at any cafe. They also make jars of preserved Baba with Rhum, Limoncello and other liquors for tourists. The jars are ornamented with coloured canvas so I kept a few in different sizes as a souvenir…
A quick tip regarding sitting in a cafe; the service charge doubles the price of everything, some places shower you with free stuff to taste but don’t count on it…
The modern aperitif/aperitivo culture was invented in Italy, it’s also called apricena or a pre-dinner meal, but it could also date back to Ancient Egypt. However the important thing is to experience it with art. Italians have a good range of drinks that would perfectly match the occasion; Campari, Vermouth, Negroni, Aperol Spritz and Prosecco. Any cocktail or simply some white wine would work, places who serve aperitivi are expensive, you pay anywhere in the range of 5 to 15 euros. The trick is that they serve some condiments or snacks with it for free and is somehow considered a happy hour. Some bars have an all day happy hour. Some would serve bits of cheese, nuts, olives and taralli (sort of flavoured bread similar to a pretzel but hard), some others would stuff you with sliced ham sandwiches in piedina or simple panini. No need to recommend place, just sneak a peak onto the tables and you’ll be able to decide for yourself whether the place is generous enough.
A perfect spot is in front of Castello Sant’Elmo gates on a hill overlooking Napoli, an awesome view of the city centre and port as well as the mountains of the Amalfi coast. The Castello closes at 5 or 6 pm, so you could stop by after your visit for an aperitivo, a glass of Aperol is around 5 euros (cheap) but don’t dream of more than peanuts, olives and taralli. Chapeau to the owner for his choice of location!!
As the night starts to re-paint everything in light and darkness, the shops are closing and your stomach starts to indicate it’s time for dinner. It was one of two options; either eat Pizza where it belongs or leverage the fact that the city is a big port and eat fish.
The first things we tried was a very old Pizzeria, called Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba in a side Vico off of Piazza Dante. The Napolitana is thin, fresh and extremely tasty because they do make the right combinations. It’s also very common that you get a Pizza without cheese, just tomato sauce, some basil and some sort of meat or seafood, so if you want cheese ask for it or make sure it’s in the ingredients. In via Tribunali there are quite a few pizzerie that have long queues signed in front of them. Not necessarily because they are that good… I’d recommend a couple of fantastic pizzeria to try;“Donna Sofia” and “Di Matteo” The later looks like a small take-away kiosque but they have big rooms upstairs and without competition they served me the best pizza I’ve ever had in my entire life.
Our favourite fish place was discovered on our way back from Sant’Elmo we took the funicular to Montesanto station, then we headed to via Portamedina, the street is crowded with garments shops as well as mini markets and a big Pescheria or a fish market that also functions as a restaurant at night called Pescheria Azzurra. The place had already grabbed our attention earlier as all its display seemed to be fresh unlike many others. Nothing we ate was disappointing except for the waiters so you know what to expect. Eat spaghetti with sea fruits or mussels, also try the big mussels platter, or that tender sword fish with cherry tomatoes and basil, the mixed fried/grilled fish platter and the well balanced zucchini and shrimps pasta.
So to summarise, start your days with pastry, snack with an aperitivo and pick your condiments carefully. Have tons of Pizza and fish for dinner, don’t forget to consume litres and litres of Falanghina white wine and local beer in the process.
More to follow…
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