The best restaurants in Naples - Citimarks

Kingdom of pizza

pulcinelle figurines eating pizza


“The food in Naples must be praised. Because in no other place can one find such a harmony between life and what nourishes life...between men and myths.”
Jean-Noël Schifano, Naples, Seuil, 1981.
chapter 1

A Vesuvian pizza

Any pizza that is not from Naples is something else. This fluffy, transparent food, as soft as a hem, with rims as puffy and scorched as cooled lava from the Vesuvius […] is a form of Neapolitan life, just like the Neapolitan spaghetti, and certain cakes that have by now become famous.

Nothing was originally invented by the Neapolitans, but, later on, it was them who created this pizza form known as “Neapolitan”. […] Pizza, or schiacciata or stiacciata, was always there: there would always be someone to come up with the idea of laying wheat, rice, or another edible ingredient on a burnt stone in order to be fed with […] without deriving any pleasure from it, apart from that of satisfying his hunger. Had the pizza been reduced to the concept of schiacciata, it would only have been a gray, odious thing, a sort of bitter medicine for the Neapolitan. […]

But the second, prodigious invention consisted in giving shape: making the pizza round, square or rectangular. Why round? Because from ancient times, everything surrounding the Neapolitan man was round: the sun, the moon, and a gulf as round as a circle, between Vesuvius, Sorrento, Capri and Ischia. […] But the Neapolitan would never settle for merely giving a form to pizza, without adding color, without a sign of life as dazzling as the absurd drawing of a child.

This is why the pizza’s tomato red would symbolize the Turkish pirate ships which engaged in continual raids; the mozzarella […] would represent the color of caravels scattered by hundreds in the port by the king, by any king to whom basil is devoted knowing that, no pizza is worthy of its name without basil and its flavor – and would perhaps symbolize the sunset, extravagance, or that indefinable “additional element”, that “something more” without which the Neapolitan spirit cannot live.

Pizza is an anthropological extension of the Neapolitan: a way of being that is unique to him, a way -that only he possesses- of staying warm under the sun or the moon, in a colorful world. If, later on, these colors happened to come together in the Italian flag, that was a pure coincidence.

Domenico Rea, Visite privée : Naples, Editions du Chêne, 1991.

The pizza is the gastronomic thermometer of the market: its price goes up or down, depending on the price of its ingredients and their abundance or scarcity of the year. When the fish pizza is made with half a grain, that means the fishing was good; when made with whole grain, the catch was surely bad.

Alexandre Dumas, Le Corricolo, Editions d’aujourd’hui, 1843.

slice of pizza
concettina la trattoria
pizzaiolo taking a pizza out of the over

At the pizzeria Concettina ai Tre Santi, one can find the most gourmet pizzas in Naples.

chapter 2

Sfogliatella, a hundred layers old

No people have managed to adapt the food to their personality better than the Neapolitans. The spaghetti, elusive and mobile, reproduce the frenzied adventure of the scugnizzi (note: street kids of Naples) […] The pizza, with rims as puffy and scorched as cooled lava from the Vesuvius, is a culinary delicacy, 100%  Neapolitan […] The sfogliatella (note: a cream-filled pastry made by stacked, curvy leaves of dough) was not born in Naples by chance, either: its curvy layers recall the neurotic staircases of numerous princely palaces […], its twisted threads reproduce Neapolitan baroque.

Domenico Rea, Visite privée: Naples, Editions du Chêne, 1991.  

The sfogliatella is born in an 18th-century oven burning at 300°C; it was conceived in the crusty and pulpy dream of a nun secluded in her baroque monastery, in constant sight of its decorative golden scrolls. […]

The sfogliatella is Naples. It has the shape of Naples: an amphitheater where the houses are stacked, one on top of the other, like in a thin ribbon of puff pastry. It has the color of Naples, a color of tufa crumbling and flowing towards the sea like a honeycomb in the sun. It also has the sweetness of Naples, an oriental sweetness: a rounded, velvety, enveloping sweetness that seduces us, absorbs us and […] makes us forget the thin crumbly ribbons of our western self.

The sfogliatella has a wavy movement and the shape of a seashell: it’s a playful joy for kids to stick their fingers in and make rings with the golden ribbon that they unroll and then finally bite into when their greedy lips will have finished caressing that blond caviar, perfumed like a Turkish delight. Every lover of Naples receives communion with this soft shell of vertiginous coils: thus Naples becomes like a city in a fictional palate of flesh. […] The Neapolitan food must be praised. Because in no other place can one find such a harmony between life and what nourishes life; in the same way, one cannot find in any other place a greater harmony between men and myths, between life and its collective representation.

Jean-Noël Schifano, Naples, Seuil, 1981.

the sun rises from Mount Vesuvius

The famous Sfogliatella pastry.

chapter 3

Cherubs of sugar

The churches of Naples are not the most beautiful in the world. What would the Neapolitans do with a kind of beauty which intimidates and keeps at a distance?

The Neapolitan churches are shelters, nests, alcoves, caves shielded from noise, dust, light and heat wave. They are merciful havens where you instantly recover your soul of a child, surrounded as you will be by playful cherubs, full of politeness. They extend their arms to you and invite you to touch them. They look sugary, asking you almost to eat them…

…with their energetic contortions and incessant movement, they absolutely refuse to be fixed into mere objects of contemplation. […] The church itself looks like a padded dressing-gown and a blissful wedding cake.  A series of exquisite sensations are transmitted -more through the mouth than through the eye- plunging you into the same physical pleasure that one would feel when biting a cake. […]

The Church of San Gregorio Armeno, in the heart of Spaccanapoli, is the ideal church for me. At first sight, it looks like a rocky building; but on a closer look, it seems as if it was a caramel-like material that built this church, upholstered with pulpy rough patches, carved by the hand of some childish cherub. It has nothing in common with the whipped-cream style of the Bavarian or Austrian churches. The atmosphere here is dark, golden, dense and archaic; it’s a pre-erotic style, a cave style of a hideout despite the extreme sophistication of every detail.

Dominique Fernandez, Le volcan sous la ville, Plon, 1983.

a statue of Saint in church Naples
Rum babas on a display
detail from a Neapolitan church
a marble putti in a church in Naples
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chapter 4

Pulcinella, the instinct of life

I am white-dressed mask, and I’m always hungry
I come from Naples, homeland of perfect spaghetti,
land of songs, land of macaroni,
I am a specialist in beatings
How many have I taken, so many have I given!

Poetry of the Carnival — Domenico Volpi, writer of youth literature.  

Naples is homeland to Pulcinella who, although disappeared, has sealed his jokey face and tragic message within the depths of the Parthenopean soul, for more than four centuries. Coming from the countryside (from Acerra, it is said) in the 17th century, he immediately became a literary “spokesperson” of Naples. For a long time, he personified the city’s major vices and worst flaws.

Pulcinella is always hungry. He is stuffed with spaghetti everywhere: under his hood, in his hair, even in his boxers. His hunger pushes him to sell everything he owns: his household furniture, his wife, his daughter, and himself.

Because of this obsessive hunger, which will never be satisfied over the centuries, Pulcinella is ready to serve anyone, even to adulation. What he will never do is work; in the midst of his worst troubles, he will dance, sing, jump around. He has a particular nose which helps him to better identify smells and to move towards their source.

When he speaks, he stammers, says nonsense, repeats suffixes, prefixes, flexional endings to the point of paranoia; one might suspect him of not thinking, of being empty-headed, of transferring words from his stomach directly to the lips. He has no conscience. It doesn’t matter if the henchmen of Naples’ foreign powers threaten him. Pulcinella falls at their feet, not only out of a morbid love of servility, but because he admires the uniform, the shining sword, the mighty horse that the henchman sits on.

Pulcinella acts like a brainless body. Whoever knocks on his door he responds by farting, saying “I am taking a dump”. His greatest pleasure is to indulge in his visceral, instinctive self. The Neapolitans loved Pulcinella to the point of making him a Patron saint, hanging his sacred image on their home walls next to the icons of their holy saints […].

Pulcinella may be dead, but his legend is alive. The Neapolitans remember him, through many gestures and sayings. […] At the end of the day, bad luck is always the destiny that awaits Pulcinella; bad luck, the only thing that Neapolitans believe in…

Domenico Rea, Visite privée : Naples,  Chêne, 1991. 

Pulcinella is the real national character […]: he is a truly phlegmatic valet, calm, quite indifferent up to a certain point, almost lazy, and yet funny; young hotel servants and valets looking like Pulcinella can be found everywhere. Ours entertained me today, just by bringing us some paper and pens: a little misunderstanding, combined with a tad of slowness, some good will and a bit of mischief caused the funniest of scenes that could be reproduced by every successful theater out there.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1786, in Voyage en Italie, Bartillat, 2003.

fish monger in Naples
A tripe shop in Naples
A tripe shop butcher in Naples
Pulcinella figures eating spaghetti

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