I'm wild about Antichi Sapori, a grocery in the heart of Naples that's evolved into a trattoria. Owner Gennaro Canfora impressed me on my first visit with a taste of spectacular provola cheese that he'd aged himself, and there was a display of artisanal pasta from Setaro and a terrific selection of wines sold at grocery prices (at least a third less than most restaurants). His son Salvatore was in the kitchen with his mother Patrizia, preparing traditional, mostly vegetable dishes, served at tables outside on the sidewalk under wine-colored umbrellas, or to go. Due to popular demand, they've expanded, with an adjacent room for indoor seating. Begin with grocery items like salumi or cheese (son Rosario is behind the counter). Breaded and deep-fried fresh provola, stewed peppers, braised escarole, eggplant in many ways, soups with mixed pasta (my favorite soup pasta, found only in the Naples area), meatballs with or without sauce (but never with spaghetti) and sausage are among the daily offerings. In the evening Gennaro goes to the fish market and buys whatever strikes his fancy, Salvatore's menu expands and diners tend to drink big. Save room for babà, one of the best in the city. People-watching is at its very best at lunch, Neapolitans, men from nearby government offices in jackets and ties, women in adherent jeans and stilettos. An accordion serenade may charm. Or not. Purchase a Neapolitan culinary souvenir at the grocery. Antichi Sapori, in addition to all its other charms, is a bargain.
Antichi Sapori, via Santa Lucia 18, Napoli, tel. 081-245-1183, closed Sunday
-September 2009 link to article published in The Atlantic Magazine