Friday, May 8, 2015

Just the right restaurant

Corso Vitt. Emanuele, May 8, 2015—
THIS IS HOW THE beginning ended: a big pile of shells, which in fact continued to grow after the photo was taken. I began to feel like one of those Costonoan Indians, who elevated the shellmounds around San Francisco Bay.

We found the place per caso as the Italians say, by chance, rummaging around on the Internet for a logical dinner restaurant. We booked it online, through a third-party reservation service TripAdvisor seems to run, but shortly before leaving for the evening an e-mail came announcing that the restaurant had found it impossible to honor our reservation for 7:30.

Consternation. I immediately called the restaurant, but the line was busy. Then I had an inspiration: perhaps it was a busy night — Friday, after all — and they decided to cancel an unknown American's reservation, to give a table to a regular?

I quickly made another reservation, for half an hour later, under my usual Italian heteronym, used not for sneaky purposes but because my own name is so hard to catch through Italian ears. Here in Italy I'm "di Carlo."

Then another e-mail came: it was the fault of Fork, TripAdvisor's reservation service; our reservation had not been cancelled after all. So we hastily walked and elevatored down to the street, walked a few meters to the funicular station, and just caught the funicular up to via Domenico Cimarosa.

There we found the perfect little restaurant. Opened only last November, Parthenope seats no more than twenty diners. There is a staff of three: the couple who own the place, and the guy who does the cooking. The owners' kids have one of the tables during our dinner there, eating apparently from the menu, playing games on their devices, and conversing with one another remarkably politely since they're all under ten.

We negotiated a fine bottle of white, cautioned the waiter one of us did't eat crustaceans, and settled in to listen to a disquisition on the possibilities. At some point a nice young French couple sat down at the next table; we helped translate things, since they knew no language but their own.

Soon, though, we had happier work. The first course arrived, fresh from the sea: mussels, tiny sweet little clams, Baccalà batttered and fried, alici ditto — sweet small anchovies you simply gobbled down whole.

This took us a while to negotiate, with some of the finest bread I've eaten anywhere. Eventually we got through it all, and went on to a second course: rombo — I forget what this flatfish is called in English, plaice perhaps — cooked simply with a little parsley and served with pommes àla vapeur and halves of lemon. Perfectly delicious.

A simple salad of chopped fresh green lettuce with oil and lemon left us wanting nothing but a digestivo — housemade nocino, not the prevalent sticky limoncello so often served these days — and the check, which was modest. What a fine place this is!

Furore bianco, Mariso Cuomo (Costa d'Amalfi), 2013: engaging, seductive
•Osteria Partenope, Via Domenico Cimarosa 56B, Naples; +39 081 5584006
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

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