Naples – Centro Storico – Via Mezzocannone
Via Mezzocannone is in the university district, running south off Spaccanapoli from Piazzetta Nilo down to Corso Umberto. If you’re coming from Corso Umberto you want to turn next right after you see this female sphinx.
Half way up the hill on the left are a couple of good restaurants that get mentions in several guides. They are both on different floors of the same building on Rampe San Giovanni Maggiore which looks like the second left on my Google map but it’s a flight of stairs with no access for motor vehicles.
Taverna dell ‘Arte (Intermediate B+) 1a Rampe San Giovanni Maggiore, Tel. 081 5527528.
This is another hidden gem serving exquisite ancient Neapolitan recipes. I would recommend you go just for the nice ambience and very friendly service. The food is generally very good too although there is the odd dish that doesn’t quite cut it for me.
You’ll need to reserve as it only seats about thirty. The tables for small groups outside under the foliage are very pleasant but the interior is warm and welcoming too.
On my last visit in June 2011, five of us started with a complimentary bruschetta with pesto (A).
Also the excellent house antipasti misto which consisted of ‘tittoli’ or triangular pieces of fried polenta (A) and…
… some very thickly cut cured ham (A), mozzarella on slices of plum tomatoes (A) and sundried tomatoes (B).
Sadly the following cold cannellini bean soup was garlicy but otherwise tasteless and dissatisfying (C). As a general rule of thumb, I think it’s probably best to avoid anything calling itself a soup in Italy!
The pasta dish of Rigatoni with Mozzarella and Eggplant (‘eggopants’ on the menu!!) was good (B).
However the following dish of meatballs in tomato sauce didn’t do much for me due to the inclusion of raisins and the odd chewy piece of fat that hadn’t been minced properly (C).
The final Basil ‘ice cream’ was ok (C) but I’d describe it more as a palate-cleansing sorbet rather than a dessert.
To finish a refreshing liqueur (A) made from Mele Annurka (local apples with their own IGT) which is also known locally as Rossolio. See my Sarno post for more info.
The bill was kindly reduced by €10 and came to about €30 a head for four people. I wish I didn’t have to slate some of the food because the people are so nice and the atmosphere is great. I remember it being better the first time I went in 2006 (I especially remember their sublime stuffed zucchini flowers) so hopefully this last visit was just a blip.
Osteria La Chitarra (Low Intermediate B), 1a Rampe San Giovanni Maggiore (under Taverna dell ‘Arte), www.osterialachitarra.it
I’ve went to ‘The Guitar’ a couple of times in March 2015. It’s a friendly place but they don’t speak any English and it’s not as refined as its overhead neighbour.
I can definitely recommend their excellent Risotto alla Pescatore (A).
Also their Pacchieri Allardiati (B+). The sauce is made from cherry tomatoes sautéed in prosciutto lard and served with grated Pecorino.
I also liked their Costatella Amollicata, a boneless pork chop in a sauce of capers, breadcrumbs, garlic and white wine (B+). The tomato salad is great too (B+).
Their wine list is short and reasonable (€11 to €19) and mainly features big names except for one of their more expensive whites (€18) called Kata by Cantine Olivella. This was a new one on me and I quite liked it (B+). This wine is 100% made from Catalanesca grapes (introduced by the Aragonese in 1450) which are grown in the Monte Somma IGP, at the food of Mount Vesuvius.
Conversley the cheapest red on the menu, the Mastro Mastroberardino, was definitely the worst (C+) wine I’ve ever drunk from this famous Cantina. It made me recall the words of a restaurant owner in Pompei who once told me that Mastroberardino was ‘just a name’, thereby implying that there were much better wines to be had. Well lesson learned with this red, although I do still like their white wines.
To finish the Pecorino Vecchio and Cacciota di Bagnoli (B), the latter a local cheese, are both good (B).
And you can’t go wrong with Fragole con Limon and a shot of their delicious homemade limocello (B+).
I like this place because the food is simple and good and the people who run it are nice. It’s not haute cuisine, just solid everyday fare, and the interior is a little dark and gloomy, but I keep going back.
After your meal you can continue up the stairs and walk along Vico San Giovanni Maggiore (turn left at the end) to go for a drink in Largo de San Giovanne Maggiore Pignatelli .
(Or from the other direction, if you come down the hill with Spaccanapoli behind you, the main university building will be on your left. Take the second right along Via Enrico de Marinis and you will quickly come to Largo Pignatelli on the left, in front of the Università “L’Orientale”).
This semi-secret little square buzzes in the evenings as it’s served by a brace of small cheap student bars which allow you to drink outside in the square. The best of these is Keste (B) at #27 www.keste.it which serves food (untried) and has live music late on Fridays and Saturdays. It’s one of my favourite spots for an evening drink.