Between a mural of Maradona and a church of the ‘700, between a trattoria and a local market, places to eat in the Spanish neighborhoods, well and cheaply.
The Spanish districts in Naples have enjoyed for years a bad reputation, but in recent times are experiencing a real renaissance. Set foot in one of the alleys that leads to via Toledo, downstream, or in Corso Vittorio Emanuele, upstream, you come as if sucked. The scent of cloths stretched out and clean mixes with that of the food that we find in the pots and pans of the lowlands, or “vases”, the houses on the ground floor that overlook the road. The walls act as a sounding board for the screams that bounce from one window to another. A rise and fall of baskets, a fall and fall of mopeds. A band that plays on Sunday morning.
Nothing artificial, but dictated by a geographical conformation that has taught people to live in confined spaces, where sunlight comes in, the elevator is still a luxury for the few and the street is the courtyard of the house. As has often happened elsewhere, they were cleared of customs by students who, for economic reasons, went beyond stereotypes and took root here. Then the first B&Bs appeared on the panoramic terraces of the upper floors, close to the shopping streets (Chiaia and Toledo), with new signs alongside the historical ones. Tourists have begun to peep out and the inhabitants themselves have grasped the value of the place where they lived. Between a mural of Maradona and a church of the ‘700, between a restaurant and a local market, there are several places to eat in the Spanish neighborhoods, well and cheaply.
Eating in the Spanish Quarter, starting with breakfast
The gastronomic tour of the Spanish neighborhoods begins on the edge of the city. Because in Naples breakfast is synonymous with coffee and croissant and in Piazza Trieste and Trento there is a place where the history of the city has been made, the Caffè Gambrinus. Inside there are Art Nouveau rooms with stuccoes, statues and watercolours. Outside the tables overlooking Piazza del Plebiscito, from which you can also glimpse a glimpse of the sea. Good coffee and, in addition to croissants, a wide choice of mignons and traditional Neapolitan sweets. But elegance has a cost. For a warm and freshly baked sfogliatella, in what on the maps is Toledo but that Neapolitans still use to call via Roma, there are Mary and Pintauro. The first is a showcase on the corner of the Galleria Umberto, in the second it seems that the sfogliatella was born. High quality, but here no coffee, to drink it you can then go to the Professor’s True Bar, always in Piazza Trieste and Trento. For lovers of pastry, in Vico d’Affitto 38 there is the cafeteria pasticceria Dolci Momenti. In Vico della Tofa 4, on the other hand, there is the now famous “caldofreddo” of the Mastracchio bar. An espresso with a teaspoon of ice cream made especially to blend with the coffee.
The local market and the best street food
Fruits, vegetables, boorish bread, but especially fresh fish. The best shopping in the Spanish districts is done at the market of Pignasecca, one of the most colorful in Naples. In the street of the same name, which you take at the level of Piazza della Carità, every day is staged the comic work of bargaining, a bit ‘like in the souks in the Middle East. If you get there around lunchtime, you can not fail to try one of the Neapolitan street food par excellence, even if now endangered, or ‘for and’ o’ muss, literally “the foot and the snout” of the calf. At Le Zendraglie they are masters in preparing it. You can take it away or sit at the few tables in the dining room where you can try other delicacies based on the fifth quarter of Naples. Another tripperia along the market street is Fiorenzano, not to be confused with Fiorenzano in front of the Montesanto funicular stop, where you can taste the fried pizza. Historical teacher of the neighborhood, has recently undergone a restyling, the restaurant and also the property. The atmosphere in the most famous low of the Spanish districts, that of Mrs. Fernanda, is quite different. In via Speranzella 180, for generations fried pizzas have been prepared “like those of the past”. They are eaten standing in the street. Donna Fernanda still does everything by hand and has an eye for recognizing the cooking point that works better than a thermometer.
Pizza in the neighborhoods, from the wallet to the classic
Another pizza that you bite and run off is the one in your wallet and in via Pignasecca you have to go to Da Attilio to try it. Here, if you want, there is also room to sit down. The classic margherita and marinara are excellent, as is another invention by the pizza maker who is obsessed with the dough, the carnival pizza, in the shape of a star with tips stuffed with ricotta cheese. In an old sawmill in Vico Maddalena Degli Spagnoli 19 there is the pizzeria ‘Ntretella. The name is not new, indeed. It is the same as the inn in Salita Sant’Anna di Palazzo 52, also in the Spanish districts, which over the years has made proselytes even among the most refined palates, so as to be reported by the Michelin guide. The pizzeria is a recent project, always signed by Rino Artigiano, “nomen omen”. A modern design restaurant without being trivial. Just as pizzas are not trivial, thanks to the search for quality raw materials and care in execution. There are three types of dough: traditional, long-leavening, wholemeal and gluten-free.
Spuzzulè, an aperitif in the alleys
For an aperitif in the alleys, but a stone’s throw from via Toledo there is Spuzzulè (mouth spray in Neapolitan), a creation by Bruno De Crescenzo, who has transformed his shop of computer products in a small meeting place for tourists and neighbors. The interior is furnished with recycled materials, old doors, pallets, nothing new but nice. Open from 17 onwards, the best time to get there is the happy hour. The menu includes chopping boards based on typical regional cold cuts and cheeses, including excellent buffalo mozzarella, and vegetables. Wine list only Campania but with careful choices and craft beer.
Lunch or dinner in the trattorias of the Spanish districts
In Vico Lungo Teatro Nuovo 103, a parallel of Via Toledo, there is one of the most famous trattorias in Naples, one of the first that has made folklore the key to opening the neighborhoods to tourists, Da Nennella. Ciro, the owner, is a real host, the waiters command the orders screaming, the queue is often plentiful, home cooking. More than a lunch, we attend a show. In via Speranzella 110, behind piazzetta Augusteo, there is the pizzeria-trattoria Antica Capri. Rosario in the dining room and his wife Annalisa in the kitchen reproduce that domestic atmosphere, which pleases both tourists and local patrons. The cuisine follows the thread of tradition, with different dishes based on fish and shellfish on the menu. The specialty of the house is the pasta and beans alla pescatora, cooked in a wood-fired oven, served in terracotta pottery covered with pizza dough.