Naples – Montecalvario – places to eat around Pignasecca
Like the Spanish Quarter, Pignasecca is a good area to experience Cucina Tipica Napoletana. I especially like this place…
La Taverna Buongustaio (Elementary B+), 8 Via Basilo Puoti, first left off Via Pasquale Scura which is at 394 Via Toledo.Tel. 081 551 2626. Open every day for lunch and dinner except Sunday evening.
The ‘Gourmet Tavern’ is a favourite of mine, and of Anthony Bourdain it would seem. (Here’s an out take (in Italian) of his No Reservations show). It’s s a tiny hole in the wall place which somehow manages to squeeze in 26 covers. The decor is plain with cartoon drawings on the walls. Plastic tablecloths complete the ambience.
It’s usually fully booked so try to reserve for when it opens at 8pm. It’ll be full with locals by 9 and have a queue by 10. The menu is spoken (quickly) so it’s best to have some ability in Italian. The Italian word for slowly is ‘lentamente’.
I can recommend the antipasti misto which includes mini versions of bruschetta, deep fried mozzarella, an arancina (rice ball), a croquette, and something ‘di pasta’ which I didn’t quite catch, but it’s all delicious (A).
I can recommend the Spaghetti con Polipetti; pasta with baby octopus in a sauce of cherry tomatoes and parsley (A).
The Rigatoni with bacon, tomato and chilli is good too (B+).
The deep fried Pesce Bandera (a white fish which looks like a long silver band) was nice but the portion is a bit small (B).
You might want a second secondo, perhaps the Salsiccia Napoletana (A) with a side helping of bitter Friarelli (B).
The house white becomes more agreeable after the first few sips as does the red (both C+).
There are no desserts but they have, amongst others, Melannurca; a digestivo made from the famous Campanian apple (see my Sarno post).
My gluttonous bill can come to a mere €30 for four dishes and three drinks, but you could easily spend much less here, say €20, and still be satisfied. The service is now much friendlier than it was.
La Vecchia Cantina (Elementary B+), 14 Via San Nicola alla Carita, which is at 378 Via Toledo.
A pleasant little place with red gingham table cloths, old but spruced up and serving trad Neapolitan dishes. Many things on the menu were indecipherable but so cheap you might as well just order them to see what they are. The service is friendly but non-English speaking, so you should have some ability in Italian if you want to negotiate what’s on offer.
To start I had Zeppoline di Mare for €2.50 (B); deep fried doughballs with “algae” which I presume is seaweed.
I sent the house red back as I couldn’t drink it (D), and had it replaced with a bottle of Falanghina white which got better with time after a poor start (B-). Although it was chilled, they couldn’t supply a wine cooler, although they did keep it in the fridge and poured it out for me when I wanted it.
For my pasta course I had “Spollichini” for €5, which turned out to be a version of Pasta e Fagioli (cannellini beans) but with short spaghettis rather than the usual mixed pasta. Simple but delicious (B for buoni!), especially when sprinkled with peperoncino and oil.
Next I had the house signature dish Filetto Vecchia Cantina, a good quality but small and slightly overdone beef steak (B-), which was the most expensive thing on the menu at €13. Also I’m not fond of the Italian tendency to put shavings of Parmesan on a steak which detracts from the taste of both as far as I’m concerned. I had it with a contorno of Spinaci Burro e Parmagiano (spinach with butter and parmesan) which was great (A) if a bit calorific.
To finish, a warmed piece of Charlotte di Mele (a slice of apple sponge cake) and a mingy glass of slightly chilled limoncello (not frozen which is my preference), which was only €2.50. So I had another.
Conclusion: theoretically you could eat five dishes of good food here with a half litre of ropey wine for under €30. However my bill came to a greedy €46 which was still very good value. Locals were still arriving to eat at 10.30pm.
Antica Pasticceria Pasquale Scaturchio (Intermediate B+), 22-24 Via Portamedina alla Pignasecca, armandoscaturchio.com
This is an old cafe (since 1903) near the Montesanto Metro station. It’s a friendly place that does good coffee and cakes.
I had two small Babas (Babarini) one with ‘panna’, which is cream in English, and the other with ‘crema’, made from sweetened ricotta. It’s easy to get confused!
Not somewhere to go out of your way for but a good place for a pit stop if you’re in the area.
Antiche Delizie (Intermediate A), 14 Via Pasquale Scura
A deli selling cheese, charcuterie, anti-pasti and wines. They are said to sell the best Mozzarella in town and on Fridays they sell Caprignetti, a herb-stuffed goat’s cheese.