Naples – San Ferdinando – Piazza Municipio & Castel Nuovo

The Castel Nuovo, also known as the Maschio Angioino, was built in just three years, starting in 1279 when the capital of the Kingdom of Naples was moved from Palermo.

There have been many additions by later residents since of course. The white triumphal arch was added by Catalan architects in 1442 during the period of the Aragonese kings.

There’s not a lot else to see and do around here but there are a couple of good mid-range restaurants near the castle. However only one is probably worth eating at:

A Taverna do Re (Intermediate A-), Fondo Supportico di Separazione, an alley off Piazza Municipio, Tel. 0815522424, open Sunday

Came here for a Sunday lunch and was taken care of by the friendly Massimo. It’s a nice enough spot down a side alley opposite the Castle Nuovo which will be much nicer when they finish building the new metro station in the square.

Feeling in the mood for a long lunch with several courses I turned straight to the tasting menus. The meat option Menu di Vesuvio (meat) for €34 sounded good but I opted for the €39 seafood Menu di Golfo di Napoli.

To start a small bruschetta of salted anchovy and cherry tomatoes (B).

After this came a seafood salad of squid, octopus and prawns. The octopus was some of the nicest I’ve eaten; soft, creamy and delicate (A).

For the pasta course;  Spaghetti alle Vongole e Cozze which was good (B+) but it worried me that not all the barnacles  had been scrubbed off and a couple of the mussels hadn’t opened but that’s probably me being too fussy.

For the main; a delicious half of grilled squid, albeit slightly on the small side with a mixed salad to one side, good already but made more interesting with the addition of a little fresh mint (A).

With this Massimo recommended the fruity dry white Lacryma Christi di Vesuvio 2009, (Coda di Volpe grapes) from Mastoberardino,  a very famous Campanian cantina, which was very good (A) and quite reasonable for €15.

Finally a slice of cake, which was a combination of sponge, biscuit and egg custard cream with strawberries which tasted fine (B) but didn’t hang together very well. A chilled limoncello was essential accompaniment, and it was a good one (A) and came for free. With an IVA surcharge of 10% the total bill came to €57 which is ok for what I had.

Although it’s nice to sit outside, this is the kind of place that is likely to attract an accordion player (I hate music while I’m eating unless it’s in the background) and the hat vendors that share the alley didn’t seem able to speak to each other without bellowing (a particularly Neapolitan habit).

Massimo was very good but had to do everything himself as his hapless sidekick didn’t seem capable of even filling an ice bucket and ran away to get his boss every time I tried to ask him something. I know my Italian isn’t great, but it’s not that bad. The chef is fat but doesn’t look particularly trustworthy. Having said that, about two thirds of the customers were locals. It’s a nice place to come to after visiting the castle nearby but probably not worth going out of your way for unless you can’t find anywhere else on a Sunday.

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