Italian Cuisine – Napoli (Week 1)

I have returned to the land of endless pasta, pizza, and paninis!! For the next month, I’m studying abroad in Naples and Ischia in Southern Italy through my university with an emphasis on Baroque Art and Storytelling.

To pace out my adventures, each week will have a designated set of food and travel blogs; so stay tuned!!

 

Naturally, when you are in the birthplace of pizza, you have to indulge. Italian styled pizza is simple and positively addicting without the heavy grease and toppings that is typical in America. Try a typical Margherita pizza (mozzarella, basil, and tomato) or simple pomodoro (tomato) or pesce (fish). There are always new and exciting pizzas – and there isn’t a shortage of them!! I can count at least one pizzeria, bar (coffee shop), and gelataria on every block complete with vines wrapped around outdoor seating so that you can watch the bustle of Naples and relax in the shade on a hot summer day.

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For lunch, there is nothing like a true Italian insalate (salad) like the caprese. Considering that you can take a short ferry to the island of Capri and see the magical land from the streets of Naples, you know that this is the true caprese. In this particular salad, you have tomato and mozzarella. It is important to note that the mozzarella of Italy is all fresh and new, many times that same day as is the milk. The light and somewhat salty cheese is an ideal meal with a appetizer of bruschetta and frizzante l’acqua (sparkling mineral water).

 

Overlooking the Gulf of Naples:

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The night life is always buzzing!! Since many Neopolitans have dinner starting around 8-9pm, midnight is when the streets are packed with crowds leaving ristorantes and heading to enjoy a scoop or two or three of gelato alongside an apertivo – or after-dinner drink. The God Mother and God Father are two excellent drinks in my opinion! And it is always served with fresh, warm chips as Italians never drink alcohol without food.

 

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Cue day two!

Caffé Nocciola (or espresso with nut creme) after countless hours learning about Baroque architecture in just a handful of the many chapels and churches that Naples has to offer. It may have been like drinking warm Nutella with a splash of coffee flavor. No joke!! The creamy and smooth espresso banished the scattered rain showers that we experienced throughout the afternoon.

With the addition of Neopolitan Baba (sugar-run soaked bread pastry) with a view of Spaccanapoli (the street that divided Naples in half in a single, straight line that you can see stretch up the hill to the edge of Volermo.

 

It’s settled. I am in love with Italian salads – even if it just because they serve them with fresh pizza dough bread… It’s fresh, crisp, and simply perfect! Today’s salad is tonna, olivo, e pomodoro (tuna, green olives, and tomatoes) with a simple balsamic and olive oil. In Italy, there aren’t any thick, creamy, and sugary dressings so that you can justify eating basically a loaf of bread every meal – but come on, it is completely worth it!

You will surely see more of le insalate caprese (capri salad with mozzarella and tomatoes) as I have literally been craving mozzarella for the past few days now. And the fresh selection of cheeses are by far the best indulgence you could every enjoy over a glass of white wine.

 

Told you you’d see more mozzarella! After a quick stop at the supermercato, I put together a mid-study dinner complete with melone, pomodoro, pane e olio, prosciutto, mozzarella, gorgonzola, e parmigiana.

 

From Trattoria Vanvitelli, we chose an unconventional Italian dinner with prosciutto, salami, and mozzarella along with two salads. Mine had melone, prociutto, and mozzarella and may I just say that it was positively incredible! Combined with the Vanvitelli Bianche vino and frizzante l’aqua, we left with full bellies and large smiles!

Italians swear by their digestivo’s or digestive drinks, where you generally have an apertivo before lunch and a digestivo after dinner to help you digest the rich and filling food you in took just moments before. An aperol spritz is most common for lunch and liquors such as pistachio and limoncello for dinner. I personally adore pistachio liquor as it tastes like candy with a hint of almond extract. Think spice cake but sweeter and with pure alcohol… Trust me on this one, it’s best not to think too hard on it.

 

Yes, mozzarella is a food group in and of itself. I told you. Somehow, nearly all the dishes are able to incorporate it in some way or another, and the mozzarella from Naples never fails to disappoint. My recommendation is to look for mozzarella fior de latte campagna as it is slightly lighter with more moisture and flavor with a good chill all the way through.img_2760It’s best to finish off the day with a trip to one of the millions of gelatarias. There are at least two every block so naturally, you have to try them all. Ciaco nera (super dark chocolate) combined with biscotti is my favorite combo. Some nights, however, like the one above, I just need a bit of zing with a sorbetto di limone (lemon sorbet).

 

And sometimes, girl’s just have to have fun. Nancy and I heard some live music blaring from a pub (Good Fellows) on our way back from dinner and had to make a brief pit stop! Granted we had no idea what any of the beer was, but there was a Napoli tap, Turkish beer, and the one the barista recommended: Tennent’s. Processed with VSCO with s2 presetDay three: lunch at Cantina La Barbera.

 

 

I ordered a lemon, pistachio, and chicken dish which was positively incredible!! Their pasta dishes are legendary, as are their appetizers, so don’t hesitate to point and try something new!! We were given fresh ravioli on the house as a treat for the four of us.

 

Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetOur professor, Alessandro, has been taking about the gelataria Soave for days now and it was finally open when we walked by after class!! They are known for their cream, whipped cream, and exotically delicious flavors.

 

At the end of the day, we finished in Trattoria Vanvitelli once again. Considering the fact that they have over three entire pages of pizzas, we had to order a few. In Italy, you order on pizza per person as they are more personal size.

The Maseniello pizza mirrored a calzone as it was ricotta, mozzarella, and ham folded over and baked with tomato and basil on top. (Disclaimer: It is delicious). If you aren’t feeling over adventurous, a Margherita pizza is always a safe bet.img_3023Time for a fish and a second espresso of the day.

Many of the “bar’s” are walk up espresso bars where you enjoy a shot or two of espresso standing before heading out for the day’s adventures or whenever you need a quick pick-me-up after a day perusing around the eclectic stone streets of Naples.

 

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A dinner thanks to a trip to the twenty-four hour supermercato topped off with a bottle of wine and killer sunset views from our apartment in Vomero.

 

How many gelato’s can Mary eat: A new scientific study.

I’ve come to combine a lighter flavor with a rich cioccolata puro (or incredibly dark chocolate that really cleanses the palette).

 

Neapolitans really do live off of their apertivo or before dinner drinks and… lets be honest, they basically have two dinners.

We’ve basically become regulars at the Merliani 360, who specialize in drinks. Above there are a few of their drinks such as the God Father and Mother. For those who aren’t too enthusiastic about the taste of hard liquor, you can always opt for one of their sweet and fruity martinis and coladas.

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And cappuccino. And one must never, never, never forget to drink at least three shots of espresso throughout the day…

A little cultural note with the espresso drinks:

  1. If you order a latte… you may end up getting a glass of milk. Fun fact: latte literally means milk.
  2. Don’t order a cappuccino after noon.
  3. Don’t order a cappuccino with food.
  4. When in doubt just point at one and smile.

IMG_3121IMG_3124In some cases, (if he actually speaks some English) your waiter will dish out their suggestion based on the weather and the meal you are having along with possible drinks.

For example: lunch begins with an aperol spritz, followed by some meat and/or cheese plate and lots of bread. THEN your meal can come, topped off with an espresso. A hot day isn’t a great day for heavy, meaty pasta such as bolognese but is a great idea for pesce di mare (fresh fish) and spaghetti and grilled tomato.

Alright, part one is officially done here on Mint Espresso!!

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