Meditations

Naples: Authentic, Gritty + Raw


When my friends and I decided to go to Naples we were warned by others who had visited not to stay for too long because it was gross, dirty and disgusting.

To the contrary we found Naples an authentic Italian experience and most excitingly pretty much free from mediocre tourist food.

We had booked an apartment through airbnb and upon arriving our hostess Gaia handed us a pile of business cards to restaurants where she said only the locals eat.

Since Naples is the birthplace of pizza our first stop was to a pizzeria. We went to a small unassuming place called Nu Murzill’ Sapurito. A large pizza, beer and refreshing Italian sparkling lemonades made with the famous Amalfi lemons, La Nostra Gazzosa, cost 6 euro each. Yup, that’s when you know you’ve left the tourist zone! The pizza dough and buffalo mozarella were chewy, fresh and topped with local tomatoes, prosciutto, basil and cooked in the wood fired oven. On our last night we did go to Brandi which is where the pizza margherita was invented in 1889. It’s in a higher price range and has a great atmosphere, but Naples is a relatively inexpensive place to eat and we found sticking to the smaller local places we never, ever had a bad meal.

Authentic wood fired pizza at it's best!

 

If you are in Italy you must try one of these. Refreshing and not too sweet.

Next we made our way up the noisy, crowded Via Toledo street where it seemed that the entire population of Naples had come out for a Thursday night stroll and shop. Following the suggestion from the Lonely Planet Naples book we went to Fantasia Gelato. Throughout this trip we were pretty much eating gelato daily but this was the freshest version of pistachio I’d had. It was the perfect balance between sweet gelato and salty pistachios. Another great gelato place was near our apartment where they had mini gelato cones that were small flavour explosions – just the right size after eating a multi-course Italian meal!

The best pistachio gelato in all of Naples.

 

Mini flavour filled gelato cones.

But Naples isn’t just about pizza and gelato. We also ate a lot of seafood. One of the best meals we had was when we got lost and ended up at a place where there was no English on the menu and the waiter could barely communicate with us. Which didn’t matter as we savoured the tastiest mussles, clams and freshly made pasta cooked pefectly al dente.

Fresh pasta with seafood.

And Naples isn’t just about the main meals. As I’m a sugar addict starting the day out with pastry and espresso was pretty much my idea of heaven. We were close to the 150 year old Cafe Gambrinus, a famous coffee house where Oscar Wilde used to eat. They offer freshly made gelato, brioche and sfogiatelle, a traditional Neapolitan desert – puffed pastry filled with sweetend ricotta cheese. I also tried the ‘frozen brioche’ which turned out to be a warmed bricohe filled with gelato. Decadent to say the least. Cafe Gambrinus is a great place to sit and watch daily Neapolitan life go by, but it also offers a far less expensive counter service where you can have your espresso and pastry standing at the bar, Italian style.

Sfogiatelle, a Neapolitan treat.

 

Ice cream sandwich, Italian style!

Our driver to the Amalfi coast described Naples as “a beautiful lady wearing a beautiful dress with dirty shoes.” And this is true – there’s fantastic architecture and art, but also plenty of garbage and graffiti. Layered into this is the soul of Naples, made up with the people and the food which are truly authentic. It’s a fabulous place to get lost (oh and you will get lost!) and wander down the gritty streets eating like a local.

I’ve got lots of Naples travel tips, e-mail me if you are heading there and need the down low. Has anyone else had any great Neapolitan eating adventures? Please share below.

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