June 1, 2014

NAPLES, ITALY: Naples, my true lover

Milady Marley,

I’ve been sitting here sipping my espresso trying to think of the perfect entry to you, to summarize my last 9 days of eating and drinking. Alas, I am lost in my mind and I’m tonguing coffee grounds.


I have befriended and wonderful Roman friend here, who has traveled the world and the US enough so that I do not immediately dismiss him when he says, “The American who comes to eat in Italy does not know what they are eating. It is as if a vegetarian has for the first time a cheeseburger, and they say, ‘that is good’... they do not know what they are tasting.”

… Offended yet? Here’s the thing: he’s right. If we just accept this, we can move on and begin tasting all precious, timeless, INDESCRIBABLE delights of the Italian cuisine (except for cornetti cause they’re just crazy).

I will begin this Neapolitan carb journey with another quote from my well-intentioned Italian friend, “Elizabeth (and he says this name in a way I’ve never heard before).. do you know why there are no McDonald’s in Naples? Pizza. Enjoy!”



Because we arrived some time before midnight, this bakery DIRECTLY across the road from us was poppin’ out pizza dough left right and up and making mass deliveries across the city. It’s a round-the-clock type business. Naples is a rough, beautiful, aromatic city that I doubt anyone can keep from falling in love with.

We went out searching for the next step in this pizza progression—









The persistent devouring of my margherita pizza is contrasted nicely with Meghan’s progress on her ‘healthier’ raw-veggie style pizza. Romans told us that pizza is “totally different” in Naples, and I’m sure they’re right.. but the details escape me. I imagine it is similar to when people in California say, “We don’t miss the seasons.”

For your educational fulfillment, darling: Pizza in Naples is spectacular because of the bread- it only cooks in fire ovens for about 60-90 seconds. The ingredients are always going to be better here than anywhere else you’ve had pizza. That’s just the goddamn truth. The dough has four ingredients: wheat flour, Neapolitan yeast, salt, water. People make rash claims that the water in Naples is magical of sorts, and this leads to the complex yet universally pleasing taste that is unattainable anywhere else. Another of my favorite theories is that Mount Vesuvius adds those volcanic minerals and electric energy waves to all living matter in the city and beyond. Which leads me to the next segment of pizza baking education… 

Pompeii. Suffice to say that thousands of people perished when, around 78AD, Mount Vesuvius exploded, coated the city in burning ash and lava.. and then about 1700 years later our ancestors started digging the forgotten city back up, and now tourists walk around sticking their gum on walls that probably housed Hercules or something. 





 Pompeii.. some old ass ovens.


Of course the greatest finding in Pompeii was the ‘baker’s house’, where you can still see the beautifully preserved ovens where bread sat to rise and bake, and the cone-shaped mills that horses walked around to grind up the flour. It’s a very humbling experience to witness these places.

A trip to Naples would not be complete without telling you about the pastries. If Naples is proud of their pizza, then they are downright snobbishly condescending with their pastries. (I’m just making sure to equally offend the Americans and Italians with this entry…) In fact, you will not eat pastries like these anywhere else. 

First prize for Shock-factor category, ‘THE BABA’, which looks like something approachable and deep-fried, when in fact it’s a heavy brick doused in rum.






**IMPORTANT: this is not a morning pastry. You will intoxicate yourself. This has been tested.
 
Next is the sfogliatelle. Its flaky. Its fruity. It also has some liquor in it. It is such a pride-point for the Neapolitans that there are multiple papier-mâché replicas in the streets. It’s confusing.




My all-time favorite pastry (outside of Germany, of course) is this guy here:
I don’t know its name. I only know its soul.

The only beer I had in Naples was this bottle of (Italian?) pale brew. Note the *Howl-At-The-Moon* disco-esque setting of Sorbillo’s. Legend has it (and so does wikipedia) that Gino Sorbillo is one of 21 siblings who also own pizzerias on this same street in Naples. However, his is the only pizzeria where mobs wait outside for hours to spend 12 minutes at a table scarfing down the holy food. I wonder if this makes family gatherings awkward.

Justification: it was cheaper than the water.


I will leave you with this: No photos have brought to light the sheer contentness of sitting in front of a giant steaming cheesy squishy spicy pizza in Naples. In Italy, I have seen religious experiences to be a facet of every day life- but no spirited tradition is as universal or visceral as the divine progression of mealtime. To watch a Neapolitan eat is to see the person they really are, the people who birthed them and the people who will come one day because of them. It is nothing unless you see that actually, it is everything.

I’m going to go cry out these carbs into my 4th espresso now.

NOTE: I’m really lagging with the brew-side of this update, so here’s my favorite beer to date in Rome:

It’s in Trastevere, the young, energetic district where people like me can act like they aren’t tourists but take tourist beer shots like I did here, and pay 6 euro for a decent brown Belgian style ale- low bitterness, thick foam, sweet and malty aftertaste. Now don’t I sound like a coinsure… 

Forever yours and forever bloated,

Elizabeth xoxo

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