Many visitors to Italy breeze through the Naples airport or train station on their way to the Amalfi Coast. But Naples is a cultural beacon, a land of culinary opportunity, of its own.
When one thinks of the region of Campania, it is natural to think first of Naples, one of Italy’s liveliest and most beautiful cities. Naples is known for many things: rampant crime, ancient artifact, etc. but perhaps its most famous and often-imitated export is pizza. Made simply with flour and water, the pizza of Napoli accomplishes a crunchy crust and bagel-like pull. It is the perfect dichotomy that eludes many pizzaioli in the States and elsewhere on the Italian Peninsula. It is what makes pizza an ideal vessel for condiments and toppings.
Whereas Americans dine in restaurants to eat food that is tastier than what they make at home, Italians dine in restaurants either 1) when they want the night off (because no restaurant could possibly accomplish the heights of deliciousness of the Italian nonna) or 2) to eat something they can’t cook at home. Such is the case with pizza, which is cooked in wood-fired brick ovens at scorchingly high temperatures. Such heat is difficult to recreate in a home kitchen. Neopolitan pizza is also traditionally eaten with a fork and knife (though no mayor of mine would ever eat his or her pizza with a fork).
For fine dining with a view, I like Ristorante Ciro a Mergellina located on the seaside in the Mergellina neighborhood. It is best to visit this restaurant by car as it is easy to park nearby.
Umberto has been operated by the same family since 1916. It is a brilliant combination of Neopolitan hospitality and the high society of the neighborhood. Bersagliera is a jewel box of a restaurant, filled with photography from the turn of the century. With a spectacular view of the harbor, how could you not order something that comes from the neighboring sea? It would be no less than a travesty.