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Naples,the region's capital, returned to the height of fashion during the first half of the 19th century, when the intelligentsia of Europe gathered there to enjoy a life of pleasure. The expeditions they arranged to Pompeii, Herculaneum, Paestum or Pozzuoli were dedicated as much to the palate as to the spirit

The ordinary Neapolitans, meanwhile, were deriving their pleasures from the spaghetti stalls, where the macaronaro - the macaroni-seller - dished out hot spaghetti, covering it with tomato sauce and Parmesan. From another stall they would buy fritture - tiny savory fritters, or raw seafood, and then finish their ambulatory meal with a GELATO from the gelatiere, who used to wheel his goods around the streets.

To this day, the Neapolitans love to eat out of doors. Pizza is munched in the street after the cinema or during a walk along the sea front on a balmy night. It is in fact hardly ever made or eaten at home, where other vegetable pies, rarely served in restaurants, are prepared. Called torte di verdura, these are made with beet spinach, artichokes, broccoli or escarole sauteed in olive oil, bound with ricotta and eggs, then flavored with cheese, pine nuts, anchovy fillets, etc. The mixture is then encased in PASTA FROLLA, which is sometimes made with ricotta for a lighter, shorter pastry.

Vegetables play such an important role in the local cooking that the Neapolitans were called mangiafoglie, leaf eaters, before they became the great spaghetti eaters they are now. The region's classic pasta sauces are based on the sweet and flavorful plum tomatoes called San Marzano, although on Sunday a much richer RAGU is prepared. Small slices of veal, rolled and stuffed with cheese, garlic, golden raisins and pine nuts, are simmered gently in wine and home-made tomato paste with small and frequent additions of warm water. Maccheroni is dressed with the cooking juices, while the meat is served as a second course.

Neapolitan cuisine is so rich that it has even created the grandest dish for rice, SARTU.

On the whole the local cooking is quick and brief. This is exemplified in the FRITTO MISTO, a dish aptly described in Neapolitan dialect by the expression frienno magnanno, meaning frying and eating. The food must be eaten straight after it comes out of the frying pan.

The cheese which immediately comes to mind when speaking of Naples is mozzarella, which, in union with the tomato, has found its apotheosis in the pizza. But many other cheeses are produced in Campania, both from cow's and sheep's milk: SCAMORZA, PROVOLONE, CACIOCAVALLO and PECORINO, all of which can be fresh or aged and are equally excellent. They are an everyday component of a Neapolitan meal, as is the sublime local fruit. It is only on special occasions that sweets arrive at the table, usually rich and elaborate, reminiscent of Arab cooking, and related to religious feasts.

PASTIERA is typical of Naples as PANFORTE is of Siena and PANETTONE of Milan. STRUFFOLI is generally served at Christmas. Ice cream, a Sicilian import, is also an integral part of Neapolitan culinary traditions

Gastronomy of Italy
Anna Del Conte
Prentice Hall Press


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