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Lesley Christensen-Yule’s Grand Culinary Tour: Napoli

Another exclusive food blog with Hospitality Business: Follow Lesley Christensen-Yule on her travels through Europe and America. A celebrated food writer (The New Zealand Chef and The NZ Cook’s Bible), share Lesley’s amazing food experiences and insights here.

Snapshot number 6:  Napoli

naples our local_fruit and vegetable stallSo many people, including Italians warned us against going to Naples because of a high crime rate and questions around tourist safety. We were feeling very apprehensive, and arriving there did little to allay our fears. It’s a fast-paced, noisy, chaotic, filthy city with people, scooters and rubbish jostling for the same lack of space. But it’s the home of the pizza so we threw ourselves into the chaos and survived.

Staying in the old part of the city, it’s evident that the putrefying mountains of rubbish around here have been here for weeks if not months. And the footpaths are only 50 cm wide with alternating blockages of rubbish or clothes horses pegged full of washing. So we walk on the roads with the locals and are on constant alert for cars and scooters that fortunately toot their horns incessantly so you do know they are coming. Walking down the street feels like being a blip in a computer game trying to avoid being hit by the crossfire.

At one point we sat at an outdoor cafe for some respite. Some kids kicked their ball onto the table and glasses crashed to the ground. No one batted an eyelid, least of all the pigeons that flew onto the table next to us and flapped a few more glasses to the ground before they gorged on leftover pasta. So we stepped through the broken glass and made it into a local restaurant for dinner- no tourists but plenty of locals and noise, noise, noise. Possibly one of the cheapest meals to be had, it included two courses each, a bottle of wine and one of water plus the offer of a freshly picked peach for dessert. It cost us 12 euros each. We particularly enjoyed the fried seafood and the pasta with clams and mussels which is a commonly occurring menu item in these parts and which we ate on a number of occasions.  At the end of the night the waiters simply wrapped up the paper tablecloth with plastic wine glasses and food scraps and biffed it all out onto one of the rubbish heaps. We eventually came to find an element of appreciation for these piles of rubbish; they became landmarks for helping us to find our way around.

One night we ate in a restaurant that has been open since 1736!! Stupidly they built the road right through it (maybe back in 1736). In this restaurant the scooters, cyclists, trucks, cars and dogs all zap right on through and the waiters run back and forward risking their lives and our dinner but we were there for one of Napoli’s famous pizzas so we braved the traffic and blocked our ears to the searing building alarm going off next door and opted for a half and half pizza- traditional Margherita and the other half topped with fungi. It was beautifully crisp pizza dough which was also light and airy so we comforted ourselves with these simple and delicious flavours while we tried to think of restaurant ambiance in new terms.

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