Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Naples Take Two

Wow, were we happy to be back in Naples. What a great city. We hopped off the train, jumped on our bikes, and headed straight into the zany traffic. . .  no hesitation, no GPS, no need to stop at a bike shop. . . and the cars seemed to magically move out of our way.   In no time, we ended up right back at our first B-n-B (where we had reserved another night). It felt like being back home. Well, sort of. . .

We still had only one day to accomplish all we wanted before we left Italy (our plane left for London the next afternoon). This meant, hitting more pizzerias, returning to our favorite gelato shop, taking some final photos, getting souvenirs, and somebody badly wanted to wear her Italian boots in public.  How could we get it all done?  Impossible?  The Napoli clown wouldn't say.

Pulcinella- a good luck clown who originated in Neapolitan puppetry 

Monet had her camera ready. . .

Unlike our first stop in Naples, Monet was prepared to take more photos. "I just walked around Naples armed with a camera but not with a travel guide and just took photos of interesting buildings and sculptures.  I have no idea if they are important enough to be put in a travel guide but they certainly stood out in my mind."

The Pizzeria Mini-Marathon

We had one afternoon/night to hit the three leftover pizzerias on Caleb's list (see Naples Take One).  How could we possible do this (without puking)?  Well, as you would expect, the first secret to getting into a famous pizzeria is to get there early.  Italians tend to eat late, so if you want to beat the crowds, show up at five.  This would solve our problem for one pizzeria, not sure about the other two.  So, once again, we headed to the first pizzeria on the list, Da Michele.  When we got there, the guy at the door said the wait was only a 10-15 minutes!

While we waited, Monet looked up on her phone,  “La Vera Pizza," the golden rules of Naples pizza:
  • It can only be cooked in wood burning brick ovens
  • The crust has to be soft and light, that’s why the dough is made the day before it’s used, allowing the yeast to rise for at least 10/15 hours
  • The pizzaiolo (pizza maker) must be a real maestro, the dough stretching technique is essential and you need at least 2/3 years of apprenticeship to become a pizzaiolo
  • The pizzerias that make the traditional pizza “verace” are members of the Pizza Napoletana Association
Copper Olive Oil Kettles
Gorgeous brick oven with glowing fire
Famous sign in Da Michele... translation to the right.
"When everything goes 'well'
People can think only of spending
And even the poorest man
Feels the right to give orders;
"I want a pizza with clams
With mushrooms and mussels
With shrimps and oysters
All from the sea of this city.
At the center I want
An egg à la coq
With Stok Liquor
Sprinkled about."
When we heard this order
We were taken aback
And we thought, "These pizzas,
Are they disgusting, or what!?"
Here you have to respect the rule
And make the real thing,
The pizza born in Naples
Almost 100 years ago.
This ancient recipe
It’s called MARGHERITA
And when it’s done right
You can present it to a king.
So don’t go looking
For any complicated pizzas
Which will only hurt your wallet
And your stomach too."

Crazy for pizza
The Margherita

The inside of Da Michele was simple and laid back, but don't let that fool you. The pizza was phenomenal.  The crust was perfectly charred and Monet thought it was reminiscent of campfire marshmallows ("which I LOVE").  Julia Roberts could not take her eyes off Mark.

We only got two pizzas, a Marinara and a Margherita (the only two kinds they served!).  This was more than enough to stuff ourselves. We left in a Da Michile in a daze, ready to go back to the B-and-B and crash.  But, wait, we had more pizzerias to hit, so off we went!

The next pizzeria we aimed for was called Sorbillo.  We walked though the old city and found it's location, but when we got there, it was closed. "Good," said Mark.  "I can't eat another bite."

Seriously?  Is this the end of the Pizzeria marathon?  Pathetic.  In our defense, we weren't too upset, especially after the awesome pizza we just had. "We'll just have to come back to Naples another time!" said Monet.  "Agreed." And so, we all agreed that another trip to Naples was in order. And for almost five minutes we completely forgot about getting more pizza. . .

Side note: while walking past another pizzeria (not on the list) we saw a random bag of OO flour in the street.  It is so prevalent in Naples you might trip over it.  In the United States, it isn't so easy to come by.

Monet in present time, says, "I order mine through Amazon.  The 00 indicates the grind of the flour.  It is as fine as baby powder.  It is extremely white and it doesn't absorb water as well as the flours that we are used to.  The high gluten level in the flour gives the dough a good elasticity and robustness (sorry my gluten free friends). Gluten is the key to great pizza dough, it forms strands which bind together like a web during the mixing and kneading process. Air bubbles are trapped in this web and expand during cooking allowing the pizza dough to rise. During baking the stretched gluten becomes rigid as the moisture evaporates from the heat of the oven, and sets the pizza dough structure. Flours with lower protein levels do not hold their shape or rise as well.  (the end is paraphrased from from http://www.lighthousebaking.com.au)"

After walking for a few blocks, a light bulb went off in Monet's head. "But wait. . . there is still one more pizzeria on the list! We can't completely give up. We can still hit three out of four," she said (in past time).  "Oh, yeah," mumbled Mark. "All this talk about gluten and elasticity confused me."  So, we decided not the quit the marathon and off we went to a pizzeria called Starita.  It was just north of downtown and would require some up-hill walking.  When we got there, it was still early and the lines weren't too bad.

Posters of movies stars were on the walls of Starita and the pizza oven looked like it belonged to a super hero.  Monet thought Mark should write a comic book with a pizzaiolo hero.  "Good idea. . . we'll switch roles.  I'll do the pictures and you do the words. "  Anyway, after a small wait, we quickly gobbled down two more pizzas which were (as the name suggests), stellar.  "I don't think I'll eat for a week," said Mark. "Me neither, " said Monet.  "It's gelato time!" said Leaf.

Some more photos of Naples

Chiesa dei Girolamini

Something catches Mark's eye.  Leaf's eye was already caught.

Sophisticated Naples

Unfortunately, we have no photos of Monet in her Italian boots.  But we promise, she did get a chance to wear them.  And wearing those boots seemed to affect Monet.  She started photographing the sophisticated, sentimental side of the city.

"Here is a cafe that has something called caffe sospeso (Italian for suspended coffee).  It is where people can donate money to pay for free espressos for people who can't afford them. I love the Robin Hood approach to caffeinating the masses!"
"Here's a bar and a bookstore where you can choose to be on exhibit like an animal at the zoo.  I enjoyed observing the two intellectual looking mammals engaged in conversation while sipping on cocktails.  We perused the store's book collection looking for additions to Mark children's illustrated literature but came out empty handed."
Neapolitan Creche- The Presepio

"These are cool.  I would have loved to have brought one back with us.  They are called Presepio and are miniature hand-crafted art pieces made out of wood and porcelain and they are extremely popular in Naples.  Many depict Nativity scenes, but other have fish mongers, butchers, beggars. and even pizzaiolos.  Some of them have both Nativity scenes and pizzaiolos in the same Presepio (only in Naples!)."

Henia Vesuviana

"The fauna in southern Italy definitely paled in comparison to the Galapagos (for example) but I did see this cool centipede that could have immobilized me for up to 20 minutes if it had attacked (okay only if I was the size of a Devil's Coach Horsebeetle). They secrete copious amounts of proteinaceous glue in response to attacks from predators. Kinda like being slimed in Ghostbusters?"
As you can see from the last entry, even in sophisticated Naples, you can't completely impede Monet's need to look at icky bugs.

A montage of Naples graffiti

Souvenir Time

The next morning, we got a typical Italian breakfast, which we would sorely miss: espresso and chocolate croissants. Then we went looking for some souvenirs. Mario, the man who rented us the bikes would soon arrive to pick them up. Then we would hail a cab to the airport and leave Italy behind. Below, you can see Leaf's decision for a souvenir.

Sad to go. . .

We were very sad to be leaving Italy. Before we got a cab, Monet decided to take one last run near the water, while Mark and Leaf hung out by the docks.

"How was your run, Monet?"

"I had an excellent run in Naples along the waterfront.  A speedy Napolese runner passed me with whom I later starting chatting.  He was a neurosurgeon and I took the opportunity to discuss the healthcare system of Italy.  He was very positive about it and had worked in other countries with socialized medicine but said that Italy was different because the physicians had the final say in the order of procedures and could prioritize an individual's procedure if the state of disease made it more urgent.   He also brought up a bushel of things that I had not seen in Naples and the surrounding area hence reinforcing the feeling that I must return to this amazing part of the world."

"Wait a second. . . you were talking to a speedy Italian neurosurgeon who wants to show you more of Naples?" asked Mark.  "Okay, now for sure it's time to go."

Leaf, sad to go

Monet's Mileage Count:

  • Biking from train station to Air BnB  - 2 miles
  • Walking around Naples - 7 miles

Travel Tip:

To avoid getting depressed when leaving a place, immediately start planning your next trip!

Next: Flying, but not on brooms, dammit. . .

No comments:

Post a Comment