In Naples, a Grocery Becomes a Trattoria

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Photo by Faith Willinger

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 baba', one of the best in the city. People-watching is at its very best at lunch, Neapolitan 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

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Faith Willinger is a chef, author, and born-again Italian. She moved to Italy in 1973 and has spent over 30 years searching for the best food from the Alps to Sicily. More

Faith Heller Willinger is a born-again Italian. She moved to Italy in 1973 and was seduced by Italian regional cooking. Faith has spent more than 30 years searching for the best food and wine, as well as the world beyond the table from the Alps to Sicily. She has no regrets about mileage or calories. Faith was awarded the prestigious San Pellegrino award for outstanding work as an ambassador of Italian cooking. She lives full-time in Florence with her Tuscan husband, Massimo. Her son Max lives in Milan. She's the author of the bestselling (9th printing) guidebook Eating in Italy, the cookbook Red, White & Greens, and the narrative recipe book Adventures of an Italian Food Lover. Faith teaches in her kitchen in Florence on Wednesdays, supplied with freshly picked produce from her favorite farmers. Check out her web site at www.faithwillinger.com.

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