Continuing on the posts about my recent adventure to the land of olives, pasta and prosciutto I think it’s time I introduce everyone to Nennella’s. Although it was one of the first places I went, I originally wanted to save writing about this one for last – save the best for last right? I remember starting to write about a few other topics, but somehow ended up with a lot about Nennella’s and not a lot of anything else. I’ll consider it an early Christmas present for the readers.
One of my favorite experiences of the trip in general (I did do more than just eat I’ll have you know), and definitely the most memorable meal, Trattoria da Nennella is a place that can’t be missed (you really should check out the website – the owner, shall we say describes, the menu with a very personal touch). Now, I’ve never eaten at a 3 Michelin Star restaurant, but I know that a restaurant distinguished enough to be awarded a full 3 stars is considered to be “worth a special journey”. Nennella’s may not be a 3 star restaurant (or an any star restaurant according to the professionals), and while I’m not a professional critic, my experience here was nothing short of amazing. Worth a special journey? I would certainly say so!
The food, while quite good, was actually not what made this place so memorable. It was the atmosphere. Nestled in on a small side street in Naples, you could visit the city for a month and never happen across this place. Don’t go thinking this is a small, quiet place to enjoy a peaceful meal. This place is full of genuine energy. The waiters are making fun of each other and getting in each others’ way(and sometimes humping each other), the owner is constantly walking(running) around (I swear, the guy just ran back and forth across the restaurant the entire night. Never saw him take an order or carry anything – he was always just running. I think he graduated from the George Costanza school of how to look busy). If I were to guess, I would say he was running around looking for his missing pair of glasses – I noticed he only had 2 pairs on his head instead of the customary 3.
Usually you find this kind of energy manufactured in chain restaurants and tourists traps, but something about Nennella’s felt genuine. It helped that no-one spoke English – it always made me a little worried when we went to a place where the host or waiter spoke decent English like they knew they would be serving mostly American tourists. Sure we found out about it through the internet, and in looking at it now it seems to have a decent reputation on some travel sites, but this felt more like a restaurant where the owner was just plain passionate about making sure his patrons leave happy.
Speaking of making the patrons happy, it’s about time I threw in a few gratuitous pictures of food…
Food wise, I started with cavatelli in a white wine sauce topped with crumbled sausage and some kind of green leafy stuff (the menu was all in Italian so we pretty much just pointed and prayed for something good). In my opinion, the picture doesn’t do this one justice so don’t let the plain and simple looking pasta fool you. I loved the flavor of the sausage and was very impressed with the dish overall. Proof that there’s more to pasta than spaghetti and meatballs!
For the second course I tried a steak and some fried calamari. Usually I stray away from fried food because it all tastes pretty much the same, but I figured maybe here it would taste different. These two dishes were actually a bit of a disappointment as there was nothing really special about that I haven’t had in a dozen places before. The steak tasted like steak and the calamari tasted like calamari. Not to say they were bad, but after the fantastic pasta course I was a little surprised. At least I can stand by my rule to avoid wasting time on fried foods.
Of course, I wasn’t going to have a meal in Naples without some wine. This was my first introduction to the vino della casa – house wine. They had both a house red and house white, but I prefer red so I drank red. What kind of grapes were they? Not a clue, but it tasted good and went well with the food.
The bill? I used to think I was pretty good at math, but something here just didn’t add up. A two course meal, for two people and three bottles of wine (when in Rome, well, Naples – you get my point) came out to €27. We didn’t get an itemized bill so no idea how that made any sense. The food was supposed to be €12 per person, which if my math skills are still intact means that each bottle of wine was €1. I can’t even get a small bottle of water for that price in NY!!! I’m slightly ashamed I didn’t learn more Italian during my trip, but I quickly learned about “vino della casa” and am convinced that those are the only 3 words you’ll ever need to know to have a good time in Italy.