To experience typical Neapolitan home cooking the best area to go to is the Spanish Quarter. There are quite a few small trattorias and cantinas here serving Cucina Tipica Napoletana at bargain prices. I’ve listed three below in order of preference.
Trattoria da Nennella (Elementary A), 105 Vico Lungo Teatro Nuovo (between the cross streets Vico Figuerelle a Montecalvario and Vico Teatro Nuovo, which you will find at 323 Via Toledo), Tel. 081 414338. GEM ALERT!
I stumbled upon this place many years ago when I was wandering aimlessly around, well off the tourist track. There were several locals waiting outside which I took as a good sign so I put my name down and joined the queue. When my turn came, the waiters renamed me Raffa and plonked me at a table with some builders for company who kindly helped me choose what to eat.
All I had was a slab of Lasagna with tiny meatballs inside it, and a plate of Friarielli, a local green which looks similar to spinach but is actually from the broccoli family, and is particular to Campania. This quick meal was one of the most delicious things I’d ever eaten and ridiculously cheap, around €4 (in 2005).
The place also stuck in my head because of the funny waiters who occupied themselves during quiet moments by throwing empty plastic water bottles at each other over the heads of their customers.
I tried to find it again every time I went back to the city but to no avail, until I finally tracked it down again in 2011.
The sawdust on the floor has disappeared and they now have an outside terrace, which means they can seat more customers, but you still have to arrive early to avoid queuing.
The food was the same as I remembered; good basic fare with no pretensions, and very, very cheap, although sadly the lasagna of my dreams was not on the menu that day.
Instead I had Pasta e Patate con Provola; mixed shape pasta with potatoes and melting lumps of Provola cheese, very simple and carb heavy and made even more delicious with a heaped tablespoon of parmesan sprinkled over it (B+).
Next Polipo in Cassuola, a whole baby octopus stewed with cherry tomatoes until very tender. It looked a bit daunting at first, but tasted very nice (B).
My contorno once again was Friarielli in Padella (from the frying pan) (B).
They don’t do desserts but I got a plastic cup of cherries to finish.
All this came with bread, water, and a big unlabelled bottle of white wine, all for the astounding price of €12. I challenge you to find better value, tasty food anywhere else in the city.
The waiters haven’t changed either, it’s the same two brothers who seem to run the place. At one point there was a sudden blast of sound as a salsa tape was put on and an unsuspecting customer was pulled out of her chair and whirled around the tables by one of the brothers.
Conclusion: great food and entertainment, what more could you ask?
Hostal Toledo (Elementary B), 78 Vico Giardinetto, www.hosteriatoledo.it
I came here for Sunday lunch in 2015. It’s fairly atmospheric and quite popular with locals and tourists alike. Service is friendly and efficient.
I started with the Antipasti Toledo (grilled peppers, two types of mushrooms, potatoes, grilled aubergine and deep-fried mozzarella and aubergine frittura) which was okay (B).
Then Ziti al Ragu; tubes of pasta with a simple tomato sauce (B). Ziti are a type of penne but are longer and have square cut edges. The name can also refer to a dish that uses penne.
To drink, a white wine from Ischia from Parrazzo, the oldest winery on the island www.perrazzo.it. This was the only let down (C), mainly because it was unchilled. For this reason I think it’s best to stick to red in these kinds of places. The limoncello was a bit pricey at €4.
Total cost with water and service €37. Conclusion: a nice place serving good food. My choices could have been a bit better,
Cantina della Tofa (Elementary B), 71 Vico della Tofa, Tel.081 406 840.
Yet another purveyor of Cucina Tipica Napoletana. The decor is modern and bright and the service is very friendly . The proprietor is an ex rugby player and the Asian waiter a runaway from the Sri Lankan army. They also have free Wi-Fi, an unusual bonus. It’s fairly cheap with most prices are in single figures. You could in theory eat three courses for €19.
You might want to get a table away from the door though, or suffer the car fumes (i gas di scarico) from the street outside, although they shut the door and switched the aircon on when I asked to be moved. None of the antipasti really inspired me so I went for Bruschette Classiche, diced tomatoes on hard, possibly stale bread, which was a bit heavy but fine (B-).
Next, Pasta con Soffrito which was Ziti with diced liver (fegato), lungs (pulmone) and intestines in a tomato sauce. It isn’t so bad if you don’t think about it too much (B).
Polpette a Ragu meatballs in tomato sauce, never good to look at but always very tasty (B).
For my contorno, yet another dish of Friarelli which is really nice when sprinkled with peperoncino. The house white is ok (C+) and the red is drinkable (C-).
To finish two types of Baba, the famous rum-soaked Neapolitan cake (Polish and Slavic in origin but brought to Naples by the Bourbon kings), with squirty cream and cherries on the side. It was ok (C) but I’ve had better, perhaps with better quality rum.
To go with this, a few slugs of complementary limoncello from a large bottle that was left on the table. Total cost, a paltry €35.
Conclusion: a nice spot which I will return to because of its friendliness, but other local places are probably better, as the lack of customers might signify. And the fumes from the street can really spoil the experience.
See also my Pignasecca post for a couple more trattorias nearby that are of a similar ilk.