No matter where I go, I have a tendency to turn a trip into a foodie destination. With a place like Naples, there is the obvious specialty to try (pizza!). But even in places like Memphis, Charlotte, and Omaha, there is Yelp or Chowhound or Google to light the way to a local gem to enjoy.
When I went to Italy for my birthday in 2012, I wanted to take it easy and not research as much I usually do (usually months of ecstatic planning). I wanted to just take it easy and let Italy come to me, and it certainly did. The first night I arrived at my friend’s house in Pozzuoli, a suburb of Naples, and we went out to a typical modern restaurant there. They recommended the octopus salad; I tried the octopus salad. Verdict: amazing.
Naples and southern Italy are well-known for the way they use the bounty of the Mediterranean Sea in their cooking. Seafood there is known as ‘frutti di mare,’ literally, fruit of the sea. A few of the essentials that have made up the backbone of southern Italian cuisine for centuries, sometimes even millennia:
anchovies (marinated, fried, or put into soups or sauces) = [I]acciughe[/I]
octopus, squid, and cuttlefish (boiled, fried, and used for their ink) = [I]polpi, calamari, seppie[/I] (and if you think it’s too close a coincidence that sepia is an old ink and seppie are old cuttlefish, you are right!)
shrimp (sauteed, in soups or pastas) = [I]gambetti[/I]
shellfish like mussels or clams (appetizers, in soups) = [I]cozze, vongole[/I]
Instead of the pizza, I was wowed by the amazingly fresh seafood options, and devoured them at every turn, in Pozzuoli, in Naples, and in Sorrento, where I spent a couple days (across the Bay of Naples).
Even though I know much of the magic is in the ingredients and their freshness, it won’t stop me from trying to find some adequate specimens from the Northwest and seeing what I can do!