Saturday, November 14, 2015

Campania Day 5: Spaccanapoli and Neapolitan Street Food

Once we'd seen enough at the National Archaeological Museum, we headed out to take in the city of Naples.

We quickly learned that "Spaccanapoli," the main street that crosses the historical center of Naples, isn't actually called that. The word translates "Naples splitter," and it's pretty cool how it divides the city as seen from an aerial view:
photo credit: Flickr/bluely
 It's one of the original streets of the ancient city of Neapolis--but you won't find "Spaccanapoli" on a street sign. For part of the way it's known as Via Benedetto Croce; it eventually turns into Via dei Tribunali. 
The centro storico (historic center) of Naples is sensory overload. Narrow, crowded streets full of noise and color and merchants. This vendor was selling very fresh seafood:

 Our main lunchtime goal was authentic Neapolitan pizza. Naples is the birthplace of pizza, so for me it was like a pilgrimage to the motherland :) I had researched the best pizza places; of course everyone has a different opinion. Some say that to a certain degree, Neapolitan pizza is Neapolitan pizza--that there's little difference between various restaurants. Naples actually has an "Association of True Neapolitan Pizza" that sets standards for exactly how it has to be made and certifies the pizza makers.

 We ended up at Di Matteo:
I feel like this photo sort of says it all. Quite a number of people were crowded around the front, and as usual in Italy, it was completely unclear where we were supposed to go or what we were supposed to do; no real queue or sense of order. We finally figured out we could go right up to the window if we didn’t want to sit inside.

Di Matteo had not only the pizza I was desperate to try, but also the other classic street foods I'd read about: pizza fritta, a fried pizza dough with filling, and arancini, fried rice balls. When we saw how cheap everything was, we decided to order one of everything just to try: a pizza, a pizza fritta, and four kinds of arancini for around €10.

We had trouble finding a good place to sit and eat, and we were so hungry and eager to dive in that I forgot to take a picture of the pizza until we'd already eaten some of it:

Notice anything missing? CHEESE. What? The crust was amazing, to be sure, but the pizza literally had one small bite of cheese on it. If that is authentic Neapolitan pizza is, call me a heretic, I am not a fan. Pizza needs cheese. Amen.

I quite enjoyed the pizza fritta at first, although I was confused because I thought it was supposed to be stuffed with something. I ate at least half of it without tasting a single bite of anything besides deep-fried pizza crust. It was reminiscent of a savory elephant ear—simple and plain, but delicious. Then Steve finally found the filling—a soft cheese, the texture of which I could not handle. I barely got it down.

The other fried stuff was interesting, and not bad, but we didn’t care to finish any of it. One was full of rice, veggies, cheese and a bit of tomato sauce:

One was the same minus the tomatoes. I can't remember what the third one was, but the last was essentially a mass of deep fried macaroni and cheese:'s hardly fair to judge all Naples pizza based on this one experience, and regretfully, this was the only pizza we got to try in Naples. Our time there was short and we had too many other foods to try! Lunch was somewhat disappointing after how I'd built it up in my head (the BIRTHPLACE of PIZZA! this is gonna be AWESOME!), but thankfully we fared much better for dinner.

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