Neapolitan cuisine

Published in Focus
29 December 2016

A journey through Neapolitan culture, entirely built on flavors, where food is considered first of all a moment of joy and sharing because, for certuries, there was very little of it

Naples: a culture built on tastes. Taking us on this journey through the flavors, history and tradition of Neapolitan cuisine, is Luciano Pignataro, journalist, writer and gastronimist, who dedicated his last book to this theme. The title of the book is “Neapolitan cuisine”, edited by Hoepli.

What is the main ingredient of Neapolitan cuisine?

The joy, the pleasure of gathering and sharing food. In Naples there has always been a great lack of food, for this reason, meals in Naples are always considered a time of pleasure and happiness, when you reach the goal of ending the day. Food is not something foreign to Neapolitans: it is within us. So much that we don’t say "food" but "eating": we identify food with the gesture, so the verb “eating” becomes a noun.

What influence did Neapolitan cuisine have on Italian cuisine?

Essential. In Naples many eating habits  have mixed together over centuries: the ones of invaders, the Roman greek ancient heritage, the legacy of the monks and the new habits that arise in a city that was for centuries the most populated Italian city. Naples also had one of the most important European aristocracies who came here with their cooks. The first gastronomic revolution in Italy took place between the end of the 1700s and the beginning of the 1800s with the court chefs and Monzù. For this reason, Neapolitan cuisine deeply influences Italian cuisine, and the most famous words of Italian cuisine, pasta and pizza, come from Naples.

The most typical Neapolitan food is pizza. Is that so?

Our pizza is special because it’s cooked in specially designed ovens, made to cook at very high temperature, which have a small, moon shaped opening. Other pizzas are more like bread, they are also very good, but pizza is another thing.

Is there a dish that you imported and then characterized as yours?

The Genoese, which is also my favorite dish! It has Ligurian origins: an onion and meat sauce that Neapolitan creativity made into a pasta sauce. Pasta with vegetables is the trademark of Neapolitan cuisine, even more than the seafood.

What are the basic ingredients of your cuisine?

Garlic, olive oil, lard, broccoli, tomatoes, oregano, basil, legumes and vegetables, because in Naples pasta mostly replaces bread.

Which is a typical Neapolitan winter dish?

Maritata (married) soup is a typical Neapolitan dish, which represents the desire for meet which is not really present, a “poor” dish. In our cuisine there is always a trace of meat that is never real meet. In fact Neapolitans developed a cuisine which uses mostly animal guts, with spicy soup, those parts of the animal considered less noble but equally nutrient. Also pasta with beans and pork rind, a very complete dish.