In the difficult years following World War II, in the working class district of Naples, i quartieri spagnoli (“the Spanish quarter”)…………many a creative napoletano became adept at the art of arrangiarsi (literally, “to arrange oneself,” i.e., invent a way to survive). Many depended on some sort of income from the American soldiers, including Elisabetta Vitiello, who opened a small ristoro where she stocked “‘o bbere ‘e ‘mericani,” (in napoletano, “drinks for the Americans”): whisky, coffee and other drinks.
Called “Nennella ” (an affectionate napoletano nickname for little girls or tiny women), she also prepared “ ‘e marenne pè scupature ‘a matina,” that is morning snacks for the street-sweepers. Eventually, she added a few dishes to for her customers: tripe and pasta e fagioli (pasta e beans).
Eventually “Nennella” opened a small dining room with four tables just behind a counter where she cooked all. This was the beginning of Trattoria Nennella…..
…where nowadays, four of Nennella’s grand-children collaborate: Ciro, Gennaro, Salvatore e Geltrude. And Nonna Nennella is there, too: on one of the dining room walls where she is centerpiece in a photo collage:
Nennella’s small locale with seating for 12 of sixty years ago has amplified to three rooms accommodating 120 persons… as well as outdoor seating.
And so popular is this trattoria napoletana that there’s generally a line of customers awaiting seating….
..,everyone eager to taste the Nennella goodness. Their most popular dish is pasta with potatoes and provola cheese:
..and I chose the tasty mixed antipasto plate as well as the mozzarella in carrozza (literally, “mozzarella in a carriage” i.e., breaded) with their polpette (meatballs) doused in a tasty sauce::
Other favorite dishes include the fried zucchini with a touch of mint..
…grilled sausages with flanked by friarelli (a vegetable typical of the Campania region, similar to small broccoli):
…and ah, that eggplant flan!
Fish dishes entice – such as the pasta with a sauce of red and yellow tomatoes and swordfish:
Fried anchovies stuffed with prosciutto and provola cheese:
..and a variety of fresh shellfish arrives daily for various Nennella seafood temptations:
Each dish offers simple napoletano goodness…”come faceva la mamma” (“as mamma made,” Ciro guarantees):
….and at prices “popolari”” – three courses for just 12 Euro:
Il panaro hangs in the main dining room and now and then a voice shouts out, “uagliù acalate ‘o panaro!” (“boys, lower the basket”).
A colorful label hanging off the basket indicates – in napoletano, of course – that the basket is for tips for the “boys. And you can see here, the mazzetta (“wad, a pay-off”) being placed by a customer in the panaro.
Il panaro, (the “bread basket”) is often lowered out the windows of the upper levels of apartment buildings in the quartieri spagnoli so that merchants below can put in food orders. Here atTrattorie Nennella grateful guests can leave tips for the wait staff in that panaro. When it’s time to raise again il panaro, all the staff joins in a loud chorus of “Grazie!”
Here at Nennella’s, you’ll savor not only the typical cucina napoletana but also the warm ambience characteristic of the Neapolitans, that is o burdell (“burdello” – in Italian, “bordello“), a noisy place of great confusion. Shouting waiters often use language as colorful as their red shirts.
In a recent interview, Ciro- Nennella’s grandson …..– was asked what he considered their reason for success. He replied without hesitation, Above all, the cooking…and the economic prices. But we must not exclude ‘la simpatia, dalla goliardia e perche’ no, il folclore’ (‘the congeniality, the unified group spirit and why not? the folklore’). Here one eats well, has a good time and relaxes”:
….and perhaps even joins in the singing:
Drop in soon: Ciro and staff will be ready to cook up some pasta
Read here about one of my first visits to Trattoria Nennella
Read more about Nennella’s, a Naples favorite
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