I’ve just got back from Naples, my first trip of 2018, and it’s safe to say my New Year’s intention to eat more healthily was completely and utterly abandoned.
And do I care? Nope!
Naples is hailed as the birthplace of pizza. So it would be sacrilege to be in the city without trying its most famous dish. But in a city where every corner has a pizzeria, which one do you choose?
The answer is clear: L’ Antica Pizzeria da Michele. This particular pizzeria was featured in the book Eat, Pray, Love as well as the film adaptation. Whilst I confess I’ve not read the book, I was travelling with Ruchi who’s a fan of the author, Elizabeth Gilbert. I, on the other hand, did watch the film and figured it would be amusing to replicate the scene of Julia Roberts proclaiming her love for pizza whilst telling her friend it’s her moral imperative to eat it in Napoli!
Hanging from the stark-white walls were a few mementos to the film, including photos of the effervescent Miss Roberts, and quotes from the film. I was super surprised to discover they only had two types of pizza on offer, but I guess if the recipe works, why change it?
Ruchi and I both ordered a margarita each. At first I wasn’t sure I’d be able to finish it, looking down it appeared twice the size of my face, but after my first bite greed took over and we both wolfed them down. True to Gilbert’s assertion, it was delicious – the crust a sublimely chewy consistency whilst still managing to maintain thin yet crusty.
Not quite Julia Roberts, but a valiant attempt Ruchi.
Address: Via Cesare Sersale, 1, 80139 Napoli. Website: www.damichele.net
Second place for best pizza goes to… Mondo Pizza.
Before heading to Naples, Ruchi said she was on the prowl for the best coffee in the city. As I’m not really a coffee drinker myself, it’s hard for me to truly appreciate what a good coffee must be like, but nevertheless I was happy for her indulge her addiction in any way she liked.
There were whole pages in menus dedicated to different types and flavours of coffee. Overwhelmed by the choice, I think she wished it would have been like the pizzeria and restricted to only a couple of types. Nevertheless, she was happy enough to slurp down whatever the Barista brought her on countless occasion, even if she was convinced it wasn’t always the expresso she ordered.
And where was her favourite place to pick up a coffee? Mazz, a delightful coffee and pasty house located at via dei Tribunali, 359. Ruchi expected to find the best coffee in a little run down café on a little side-street somewhere, but Mazz is quite the opposite. It’s well-situated, with a fresh façade and interior. However, it’s by no means a new establishment on the coffee circuit. It dates back to 1935 and its shockingly cheap prices and quality produce make it popular among locals and visitors to the city.
If you need something to go with your coffee try the cannoli or sfogliatella, the latter being a shell-shaped pastry traditionally filled with ricotta or almond paste. Though if you were to eat one in the UK or US it would probably be filled with cream.
Address: Via dei Tribunali, 359, 80134 Napoli. Website: www.mazz.bar
Second place for best coffee goes to… Bar Nilo.
One thing that Ruchi and I found difficult to accept in Naples was how late the restaurants opened for dinner. At home I generally like eating at 5pm, but most of the restaurants open at 7pm or 8pm. If you’re like me, I recommend eating a massive lunch to carry you through until the evening.
Our favourite meal came on our last night in the city at Osteria Da Carmela, it opens at 7.30pm and we arrived just before the doors opened. The waiter could see us peering in so he took pity and ushered us inside with a warm smile. We were already off to a good start. Once inside we got to appreciate how charming and cosy it felt with just a few tables and wine bottles adorning the shelves.
The waiter, who we both ended up falling in love with just a little bit, was softly spoken and had that instinctual ability of knowing when we needed him. He provided knowledgeable and professional advice. Though we were the first people in the restaurant so he’d have his work cut out for him later as it was beginning to fill up quickly.
Emphasis was on Neapolitan dishes, especially, but not exclusively seafood. For starters we shared a platter of vegetables with boiled octopus in tomato sauce. It’s hard to put in words how delicious the octopus was, but if you could’ve seen my smile….
For our main we both had Seabass with lemon, which tasted excellent. With eyes bigger than our bellies we contemplated getting another fish dish, but managed to restrain ourselves and shared a simple chocolate cake to end our meal on.
Address: Via Conte di Ruvo, 12, 80135 Napoli. Website: osteriadacarmela.it
Finally… to Drink
One of the best spots to chill with a cocktail or just a coffee is the free-spirited, bar-lined Piazza Bellini. Featuring excavated ruins from the city’s 4th-century Greek city walls, it was our favourite area to head to on an evening. You’ll see both students gathering together and couples enjoying a romantic evening.
A two minute’s walk away from the Pizza Bellini is Libreria Berisio, a quirky bar that’s set inside a bookshop. It provided the perfect backdrop for Ruchi and I to be discussing what books we’d like to read in 2018.
Thinking of going to Naples?
Fly with: Easyjet from Luton, Stansted, Gatwick, Liverpool or Edinburgh.
On Arrival: You can either get a taxi or catch the shuttle bus to Naples Central Station. From there catch the metro to your hotel. If you’re staying around Piazza Bellini get the metro to Piazza Dante.
Stay at: Hotel Piazza Bellini offers contemporary design in the context of a venerable old palazzo with good facilities at an affordable price. The location is ideal for anyone who wants to experience the vibrant, beating heart of Naples’ centro storico, and some of the city’s best restaurants nearby.