After the history and elegant pomp of Rome, Naples felt more real, somehow, and more gritty. The stylish and tasteful Romans made me wonder where those who weren’t so chic and slim were. Naples was bursting with exuberant fashion. Skintight, low cut, bright colors, sparkles, zippers, studs, snakeskin, leopard print and fur were on show and often many of those in one outfit. It seemed as if there were even more smokers than in Rome.
We stayed in the historic center, with narrow alleys and plenty of graffiti, something we didn’t notice in Rome.
The entrance to our building was a smaller door cut into one of these enormous doors. We had to both step over and duck down going through the door. You can see the outline of the small door in the lower right of the large doors.
On our way to visit the Cimitero delle Fontanelle, I saw this church and at first thought it was covered in mosaics. As we got closer, I realized the artwork was done in paint.
The color scheme in the ossuary was more somber.
Although it was cool and peaceful, I found it a little creepy.
Back at our apartment, I felt like a local, hanging our laundry out on the balcony.
Later we strolled Spaccanapoli and Tribunale, two long, narrow streets in the historic center of the city, tasting some of the delicious fried snacks as we went along. We saw a line at a counter like this, and joined it before we even knew what everyone was queuing for. The case seemed bursting with rice balls, potato croquettes, fried zucchini, fried eggplant etc. We soon learned everyone was waiting for a fresh batch of frittatine: deep-fried pasta formed into fat discs, stuffed with minced pork, bechamel sauce, and peas. Worth the wait.
Our hostess, Maria, had encouraged us to visit her favorite pizzeria, stating it made the best pizza in Naples. She went on to say she believed Naples made the best pizza in Italy, and Italy made the best pizza in the world. How could we resist the opportunity to taste this amazing pizza?
OK, the huge crowd outside Gino Sorbillo was a little disheartening. The wait for a table was over an hour. But we realized we could order it to go (or “take away”) and we had our pizza in about 15 or 20 minutes. It was a warm evening and we found a bench nearby to enjoy our traditional Neapolitan pizza all’aperto (outdoors). It was delicious and not at all like the the pizza I’m used to. The crust is quite thin with blistered, almost burned spots, the sauce on top almost soupy and the cheese was amazing. That doesn’t sound like much, but I wish we could have had it again.
We finished the evening with gelato (of course) at Gay Odin, a chocolate shop and gelateria. They were closing up or we might have stayed to choose a chocolate or two. The pretty box, below, was part of their window display.
The next morning we couldn’t resist a return trip to Spaccanapoli for pastry, sfogliatella on the left and Baba au Rhum, on the right, two Neapolitan classics.
I discovered cannoli are not from Naples, but Sicily. Lucky for me, some pastry shops had them for sale. This crisp tube of fried dough was filled with sweet, creamy ricotta studded with bits of chocolate and candied orange peel.
Rem downing an espresso.
With our day off to a great start, we headed down to the waterfront and strolled along, enjoying the view of Mt. Vesuvius.
Eventually, we picked a seafood restaurant on a pier and had lunch here:
The waiter recommended pezzogna, a local fish, grilled with olive oil, salt and lemon, and a side of grilled vegetables.
In the afternoon we rode the funicular railway. Unfortunately, a taxi driver claimed that the two longest lines were closed until April (it was still March), and we didn’t know better. When I kept asking about the other two lines, he finally said scathingly, “It’s a TOURIST train!” I responded with “And we’re tourists!” He did take us and then overcharged us but as we said at the time, it was all part of the authentic experience!
From the funicular we walked to Castel Sant’Elmo, a medieval fortress, and enjoyed the views.
That evening, our last in Naples, was the first time we cooked on our trip. We found some kitchens better equipped than others, but we took real pleasure in exploring grocery stores and markets and doing our best to create delicious Italian dinners.
I had downloaded Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, an updated combination of her The Classic Italian Cookbook and More Classic Italian, to my Kindle, so I was ready to go. The small Carrefour grocery up the street was very well stocked with beautiful pastas, cheeses (I got a hunk of Parmigiano at a great price and carried it with us all the way to Venice) and produce, including the zucchini blossoms that I couldn’t resist.
Pasta with Sausage and Peppers
Barely adapted from Marcella Hazan
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
12 to 16 ounces sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
2 red or yellow bell peppers, diced (I bought a giant one, so only used one)
salt and pepper to taste
1 can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes with their juice
1 lb. pasta (she recommended wide pappardelle noodles, but we used orecchiette or little ears)
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat and add the onion, saute about 5 minutes.
- Add the sausage and brown, breaking up large pieces as it cooks. After the sausage is lightly browned, about 3 or 4 minutes, add the peppers. Continue cooking another 6 to 8 minutes
- Add the tomato with juice, breaking up large pieces. Season with salt and pepper, reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until no longer watery.
- In the meantime, cook pasta according to package directions.
- Drain pasta and toss with butter, sauce and cheese.
Big success. This is an easy and delicious recipe.
The zucchini blossoms were less of a win. I stuffed them with a little luscious ricotta cheese and planned to make a thin batter and fry them, but I didn’t want to purchase a whole bag of flour so fried them without any batter. Good but not what they could have been. Still, it was nice to be cooking in our “own” place.
We enjoyed a good little slice of Naples but the next morning it was time to catch a train to Florence.
Thanks for coming along.