Last week, while researching for the new Rough Guide Naples (the first edition will be released in the spring), I surveyed some Neapolitan friends about where they go, aside from home, to eat authentic, home-cooked food. Firmly at the top of everyone’s list was La Cantina di Via Sapienza. This little osteria is located in the centro storico of Naples on the decumanus superiore (the northernmost of the east-west axes in Naples’ ancient Greek grid-planned city). It is a simple place with no more than 12 tables. I was lucky to find a seat during the lunch rush, when the it fills with locals, especially doctors and administrators from the Policlinico (state hospital) nearby.
La Cantina is renowned for its simple, seasonal, Neapolitan fare. There are a few antipasti to choose from (€3-6), and a half-dozen each of first (€4-6) and second (€4-7) courses. For just €2 each, you can get contorni (vegetable side dishes) like zucchine alla scapece (sweet and sour zucchini), caponata (sweet and sour eggplant), melanzane fritte (fried eggplant), or pepperoni fritti (fried peppers).
I skipped antipasto and pasta and went strait for polpette fritte al sugo (fried meatballs in sauce), a dish that is very close to my heart since both grandmothers, Grandpa Parla, Mamma Parla and Papa’ Parla are meatball making masters. The fried exterior of the meatball absorbed the sauce, softening it slightly, and gave way under my fork to tender veal and pork mixed with garlic and herbs. The sauce was light and did not cover the flavor of the polpette, rather complemented them perfectly. I also had a portion each of contorni listed above–not exactly the lightest way to finish a meal, but I hate to pass up the chance to eat all those oil-laden Neapolitan specialties. To counteract the heaviness of the meal, I had some small figs, called settembrini, which I carefully peeled as I contemplated my satisfying meal.
La Cantina di Via Sapienza
Open Mon-Sat 1230-3pm