Postcard from Naples, Italy: Final reflections

Leaving you with a grab-bag of images from our month in the third largest city in Italy. Views of the bay. Sea cats. Reflections in windows. And somehow lots of shoes.

The blog is now departing Campania on the top front of the boot to a spot closer to the heel – Lecce in the state of Puglia.

Postcards from Naples, Italy: Palazzo adapted to showcase contemporary art

Mimmo Paladino, 2006 rooftop installation at MADRE

The 19th-century Palazzo Donnaregina, referred to as “an example of historical stratification,” was purchased in 2005 by the Campania Regional Government for rehabilitation as a contemporary art museum. Much of the work was completed under the guidance of Alvaro Siza Veira, a Portuguese architect. By 2006, two floors of MADRE – Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina – opened to the public. Daniel Buren’s brightly colored and illuminated installation in the entryway of MADRE sets the tone for the contemporary contents.

When we were there this past fall, there was an impressive exhibition of work, “Whisper Only To You,” by a South Korean artist, Yeesookyung. During her residency in Naples, she incorporated pieces of Capodimonte porcelain into the design of her large shapely vessels.

The master potter was trying to create the perfect piece each time, and he would discard even the ones with the slightest flaw. So I chose to create new forms from them, because perhaps, I don’t believe completely in that kind of perfection. To me, a piece of broken ceramic finds another piece, and they come to rely on one another. The cracks between them symbolise the wound.

Yeesookyung, interviewed in The Business Times, 2013

Postcard from Naples, Italy: Seconds on that seafood platter, per piacere

“Leftovers” from a crudo platter at Pesheria Mattiucci

Maybe that photo is not appetizing, but it does represent how incredibly good and fresh the platters of raw fish served at Pesheria Mattiucci are. The freshness is key for the fishmongers who run this small place that still resembles more a fish market than a dining spot. Each type of fish on the platter is paired thoughtfully with an appropriate fruit, light sauce, herb or fresh flower to compliment its individual delicate flavor.

By all appearances, the Pesheria is not our kind of place. Only a handful of no-backed stools awkwardly perched at metal counters with no leg room. And no red wine (The Neapolitans worked hard to reform us on the importance of pairing their dry white wines with raw seafood, and we must admit they are right.). But despite the humble surroundings, the seafood was so amazing we went twice. Oh, and the fishmongers can cook fish perfectly, too.

The other “best raw seafood” spot for us during our stay was in the Vomero neighborhood. Panamar was only marginally more formal, part of the trend of chefs who want to focus on food – tablecloths and tableside service be damned. Sandwiches are their specialty, and they begin with large firm  buns.

Our favorites? The fuoritonno with cubes of red tuna, smoked burratina cheese, sundried tomatoes, smoked eggplant cream and fried arugula; and the mezzosalmone with cubes of salmon, buffalo mozzarella, grilled zucchini and a sauce of honey and red peppers.

Since those first two restaurants were seafood-centric, I pulled out most of the other seafood photos from our stay in Naples. Several of these places will be mentioned again later.

We had gotten hooked on fried anchovies in Spain, and found them abundant in Campania as well where they are called alicci fritte. With a squeeze of fresh lemon, pretty addictive. The pasta most associated with Naples is paccheri, sort of like giant rigatoni.

Perched at hightop tables on a fairly busy street, we loved the casual neighborhood vibe of Re Lazzarone downtown near the Archaeology Museum. Anonymous Trattoria Gourmet is tucked away on a lower street downtown in a location that helps keep it anonymous from tourists. The inside is spartan but packed with locals.

Godot, up in the Vomero neighborhood, is pricier and still well off the tourist track. Loved the gnocchi with peas and calamari. And the surprising find at the end of the trip was on the fringe of Vomero, Trattoria Scugnizzi. An inexpensive place popular with neighbors that seems way off the visitor radar. The only photo included with this post is a sample of the chef’s daily seafood pasta special, a sample because he was disappointed we already had over-ordered.

The others lumped into this seafood post were in more high-profile locations, but they still managed to keep some loyal Neapolitan diners: Anticchi Sapori; Ristorante L’Ostricaio; and Stritt Stritt.

More food later.