Trattoria Enoteca Campagnola, Naples, Italy

Trattoria Enoteca Campagnola, Naples, Italy

Eating In: Napoli, Italia

Our inability to eat as late as Neapolitans served us incredibly well during our time in Naples. We tried to eat late, as the locals do, but by 7:30 each evening we’d been sightseeing, had a little nap, and were ready to eat. In Naples, it was mostly a trip to a pizzeria, but one night Beth and I insisted that we find a nearby restaurant that specialized in local dishes other than pizza. This was not as easy a task as one might have hoped, but after about half an hour of scouring Yelp, our guidebooks, and Google Maps, we found a place just a few blocks from our B&B: Trattoria Enoteca Campagnola.

When we arrived, it was a few minutes before they opened and we were asked to step outside and wait until they were ready for us. We were the first table seated, but were soon followed by many tables of locals. We tried our best at speaking Italian, but my book-learned, Florence-practiced Italian was hardly a match for the Neapolitan dialect, so we were assigned a waiter who spoke a lot of English.

First question: would we like wine? Yes, please. A carafe of the house red.

Second question: would we like the house appetizer platter? Absolutely.

Within a few minutes, we received a basket of bread and three antipasto plates to share:

1: Lightly cooked tiny fish (a cousin of the anchovy) and sliced octopus tentacles with just a touch of lemon and olive oil.

2: Grilled zucchini, carrot, and eggplant, a ball of fresh mozzarella, and three slices of prosciutto.

3: Tomato bruschetta, stuffed squash blossoms, and mashed potato and cheese fritters.

Plate number one was least loved. I ate one of the tiny fish and it was fine, for a tiny fish, and several pieces of the octopus, which was delicious but a bit chewy. Kevin’s response to the octopus was just “no” – it wasn’t for him and he had only one bite. Beth opted not to try it as she’d eaten octopus before and was not impressed – she wanted to save room for all the other delights. Which is why when our waiter cleared our table we had this little conversation:

Waiter: “You didn’t like the octopus? Why not?”

Me: “Oh, no, no, I liked the octopus. There’s just so much of it. We liked everything.”

He didn’t believe me.

But who is going to eat just the octopus when you have an entire ball of mozzarella to share? And lightly grilled strips of zucchini seasoned with salt and olive oil? And squash blossoms stuffed with cheese and fried? And cheesy mashed potatoes rolled in breadcrumbs and deep fried? I could only eat so much octopus when I had all that to try and knowing that we still had two courses to go.

We chose our second course from the chalkboard on the wall. The entire menu is in Italian only so we took a little time figuring out the English translations. The most difficult part of menu deciphering was keeping track of polipetti (octopus) and polpette (meatballs). Kevin very nearly ordered octopus expecting meatballs.

Ultimately, we each chose a pasta. Beth and Kevin went for Paccheri Ragu e Ricotta – wide noodles with thick tomato sauce and a lump of ricotta cheese. Every element of their dish was amazing. Paccheri Ragu e Ricotta is warm, inviting comfort food so simple I could eat it for dinner several nights a week.

I chose Spaghetti con Frutti di Mare – spaghetti with seafood. I was presented with a bowl of spaghetti topped with all manner of mollusks. Some were familiar, like little neck clams and mussels, others were a little more foreign like a tiny conch, and some were totally new to me like a clam so big it’s neck looked like a tiny tongue.  I found the spaghetti underneath tasty, but forgettable.

For dessert, we tried one of each of the two desserts to share: a piece of chocolate cake  and profiteroles. Both were good, chocolate-y, and not what we expected after our experiences with desserts to that point in Italy. We’d been hoping for something light and refreshing, maybe with lemon, but chocolate is never unwelcome and we enjoyed every bite.

I can’t recommend this restaurant enough: friendly staff, local specialties, clean – what more can you ask? Plus, the kitchen has a big glass window so you can watch the cooks at work. And we had a visit from a street musician with a tambourine who sang three songs and got the locals to join in on a couple of the choruses.

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