The Amalfi Coast, Capri, and Naples Feature

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Neapolitan Classic Cuisine

The city expresses its gastronomic self in many ways. Those in search of nouvelle flights of fantasy served on designer plates should look elsewhere. Although these can be found, the cuisine in Naples is by and large earthy, pungent, and buonissima, as attested to by those signature dishes: mozzarella in carrozza (mozzarella cheese fried in a "carriage" of two slices of bread); polpo alla luciana (octopus stewed with garlic, chili peppers, and tomatoes); risotto ai frutti di mare (seafood risotto); and spaghetti alla puttanesca (streetwalker's spaghetti with black olives and capers in sea salt). In Naples it is still the old reliables that apply—the recipes time-tested by centuries of mammas who still manage to put meat on your bones and smiles on your faces. When it comes to i secondi (main dishes), you won't be disappointed by the salsicce (pork sausages), but the reason visitors to Naples want to eat seafood is a good one: geography. As for seafood Neapolitan style, the best—spigola (sea bass), pesce spada (swordfish), and, if you can find it, San Pietro (sort of a sole for grown-ups)—is grilled simply and ennobled with a splash of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. When it's not on the menu—and many top delicacies are only available if you ask the waiter—go for the pezzogna (blue-spotted bream), as you can be almost sure it hasn't been fish-farmed. Fresh calamari, kissed lightly by a grill, can be exquisitely delicate, but the fried version, which can be uniquely satisfying, is, alas, too often done these days with frozen squid.

Should you stumble across such breaks with tradition, you can always console yourself with a creamy, wonderful pastry. On the whole, Neapolitan pastry tends to suffer from the excesses that mark most southern Italian desserts, but the Neapolitan tradition is an old and venerable one, and the most classic local invention in matters of pasticceria (pastry making), the sfogliatella, is a true baroque masterpiece, with puff pastry cut on a bias and wrapped around a nugget of sugar ricotta to form a simple but intricate shell. These are best eaten hot.

Updated: 2014-04-14

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