A Tale of Two Neapolitan Dinners

IMG_5473Our two dinners in Naples proved to be as different from each other as poetry and prose, and we enjoyed both of them.

First of all, we love the promenade that proceeds dinner in Italy. When the sun starts going down, people come out and stroll, or go to a public place just to be. In the Piazza Dante we sat and watched boys playing soccer (and crossing themselves like their favorite soccer stars before the penalty kick), the girls at the ballet school taking a break on the balcony to watch the scene before them, couples strolling arm-in-arm and people walking home from work, not to mention many others sitting, just as we were, and watching the world go by.

Our chosen restaurant did not open until 19:00 which is pretty typical in Italy from what we remember. Around that time, we wandered over to AI 53 and were greeted with a handshake and a smile by the headwaiter. (It’s for sure now that we are not in Switzerland.) We chose an outside table and settled in. One of the reasons we chose this place was for its set menu which includes just about everything from drinks and appetizers to firsts and seconds. A bottle of wine, some mineral water (with gas – the bubbly stuff), and a plate of antipasto, Neopolitan fried goodies were followed by the Primi and Segundi. Both were quite tasty.

Fried Antipasto

Fried Antipasto

Nothing was rushed, nor was service slow, but by the time we ate what we could, and enjoyed the strolling musician on his small guitar, it was two hours before the waiter, in his sharp black tux, came out to shake our hands and give us a few pleasantries before we walked back onto the Piazza and back to our flat.

Before our day trip to Pompeii, we had chosen a very different kind of eating establishment for the next dinner (and had pre-located it on a tiny side street). Trattoria da Nannella promised a raucous evening, based on reviews, and we were not disappointed. We also knew to show up around 19.00 or so. Opening time seems to be 19.30, but we walked into the outside eating area and took up residence at a red-checkered table, and soon we were not the only ones waiting for the fun to begin.

The set price menu is photocopied every day, and then one of the waiters in his red Nanella t-shirt comes by and writes in an additional item or so. A bottle of water is plunked down on your table, and soon someone comes by to find out what you want for your first course. We made a good choice of the pasta/potato combo which was probably enough for my whole dinner, but you must order at least one more dish. Most of the food is ready to go, so service is lightning fast, but when the waiter came out with H’s salmon, he proclaimed, “Out of salmon. This is a local fish. Is okay?” Sure, why not?

All the while the waiters are moving around quickly, yelling at each other, greeting customers, slinging food and reminding me of the fish mongers in Seattle’s Pike Place Market.

The couple at the next table asked us about our pasta/potato dish to see if they should order it, too (they opted for the meal with antipasta, so we were one course ahead of them). They hoped that we spoke French, but, alas, we had to make due with what we had. They had a little English, (no German) and it turns out that the husband is Italian, the wife French, and they now live in Geneva. We all remarked at how staid and somber the people in Switzerland are and how fun-loving it is in Italy.

When are almost-finished plates were whipped away (I guess we were done with them!), we saw that the line of customers was getting long, so we made our way to the cashier (who charged us €25 for two €12 dinners) who gave us tokens for coffee and a little dessert bite.

The food was okay, not great, but the price and entertainment value were just right.

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