Sunday, May 10, 2015


Corso Vitt. Emanuele, May 9, 2015—
IN VINO VERITAS, it is said; truth emerges from wine. But so does slumber, and to tell the absolute truth I write this the next morning (as in fact I often do, back-dating); and the slumber began apparently when leaving the restaurant, as I forgot to ask the waiter if he'd noted down our menu.

Only to find this morning an e-mail from him. Past midnight, I hope over a glass of that excellent sparkling Aglianico Rosè he'd started us out with, he typed out the menu and mailed it — while I, having done nothing that day but walk seven or eight miles, and eaten gelato, was sleeping the sleep of the wine-connoisseur. This is what he sent me:

Cena al Veritas 09/05/15

1° Benvenuto dello chef: peperoni arrosto con trancio di coccio scottato
    1° Welcome chef: Grunar with peppers
2° Benvenuto dello chef: trancio di Pezzogna con tapioca al pomodoro, noci, basilico e aglio giovane
     2° Welcome chef: Catch of the day with tapioca tomato, basil, nuts and fresh garlic
Ravioli di melanzane in brodo di anguilla e cipolla con mozzarella di bufala ( Signore )
     Ravioli with aubergine soup, onions, smoked eel and mozzarella
Linguina con vongole e asparagi ( Signora )
     Linguine with clams and asparagus
Anatra con peperoncini verdi e crostini burro e alici ( Signore )
     Brest of duck with green chilies and anchovies crunchy bread
Baccalà con insalata ci fave, sedano rapa e cipolla rossa in agrodolce
     Salt cod fillet with broad beans, celeria and red onion
Zuppetta Napoletana con bagna al calvados mela e cannella ( Signore )
     Neapolitan soup " with calvados, apple and cinnamon

Crema al frutto della passione con spuma di latte di cocco e granita di mente ( Signora )
     Cream passion fruit soup with coconut milk and mint granita

Dubl Aglianico Rosè
Feudi di San Gregorio
A’ Ren’ e’ L’av Azienda agrigola Agnanum

The translations are by the house, and perhaps need some explanation. ( Signora ) is of course my contessa; I am ( Signore ).

Veritas is one of the early choices for restaurants in Naples in Osterie 2015 , a book (and app) published by Slow Food Italy, on which we'll be relying this year; it has the further advantage of being a short walk from our apartment. At quarter past eight we were of course the first diners there; the place was filling up only by the time we left, over two hours later. The room seats about two dozen diners; there is another room whose size I don't know. Our waiter was exceptional: accommodating, graceful, and helpful; and helped by a young woman who served as second waiter.

The two benvenuti dello chef were of course what we call amuse-bouches and appropriately fish-based:
peperoni arrosto con trancio di coccio scottatotrancio di Pezzogna con tapioca al pomodoro…
The first of these was visually very beautiful; these photos never do justice to the subjects. I was struck by the curious blend — and collision — of flavors in the second, and especially by the noci, which means "walnuts" in Italian. When the waitress insisted they were noci and I continued to be curious about them she brought a plate with a few half nuts, some of them chopped: yes: they are pecans, from the United States. So much for the quintessentially Neapolitan cuisine, Osterie 2015 : but cumplimenti on the intelligence and enterprise of the chef, who has made a dish recalling the maritime cosmopolite traditions of Venice, Sicily, and Naples of the medieval and Renaissance periods…

This was true of my ravioli, too: deep, chthonic flavors; though eggplant would not have been known in Mediterranean cuisine, I think, before Columbus. My companion's spaghetti was a delightful Spring-flavored dish, the clams and asparagus making a surprising fresh combination; my ravioli still recalled winter, with a darker flavor almost suggesting chestnuts.

I thought my main course was a bit of a disappointment following these wonderful openers: very good duck, very good sauce, very good green peppers; but rather simple, and reminiscent of a dish at a typical American Chinese restaurant. The crostini seemed more like fritters and tasted of cheese: this butter must have been higher than I'm used to. In any case they were a distraction: I'd have left them off the dish.

Nor did I understand my "Neapolitan soup," which even with both its quotation marks would have made an unlikely and un-integrated dish: a sort of fried cake filled with crème pâtisserie flavored with Calvados and containing three or four little rounds of poached apple. This must be the inspiration for Twinkies, I think. Granted it's much better achieved: still, I wonder what's the point.

The wines were very interestng. The sparkling Aglianico rosé was refreshing; the white Feudi di San Gregorio (blended with moscatella) young, both earthy and invigorating; the red Agnanum forward, rather big, reminiscent of Rhône-style reds, perfect with the duck.

In all a fine restaurant, one I'd go back to any day (though probably not this trip, as there are other things to investigate). And my hat's off to Salvatore Maresca for his kindness in sending me the menu as well as his grace and professionalism in the dining room.

as noted above: Dubl Aglianico Rosè; Feudi di San Gregorio; A’ Ren’ e’ L’av Azienda agrigola Agnanum
•Veritas, Corso Vittorio Emanuele, 141, Napoli; +39 081 660585
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

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