The Food and Wine Guide to Naples and Campania by Carla Capalbo,
published by Pallas Athene, ISBN 1-873429-71-1.
To many people, Italians included, the south of Italy is largely unknown, ignored in favour of the wealthier and more fashionable central and northern regions, with their rich artistic and musical heritage and their historical importance; Rome, Venice, Genoa, Florence – all have played significant roles in the development of Italy, the region and the world beyond.
Yet Naples has played a major part in the growth of Italian culture. Initially founded by the Greeks (who brought with them grapes) in the 8th Century BC, the city, with its key location on the Mediterranean, was subject to a succession of invasions (friendly and otherwise) over the centuries, all the while assimilating different cultures and foods while remaining uniquely Neapolitan.
The rich volcanic soil and the sea, abundant in fish, made the region a major supplier of food in Roman times. But it took the arrival of the tomato (amongst other plants) from the Americas during the Renaissance to really give Naples (and by extension Campania and Italy) its own gastronomic identity.
In her book, Carla Capalbo has achieved a very difficult feat: as a guide book, it is logically structured, going from area to area listing the best restaurants, wineries, cheese, olive oil, bars and more but it contains such a wealth of fascinating information, cultural, historical and gastronomical, that it is just a pleasure to read.
The sections dealing specifically with food are especially mouth-watering and at the same time extremely interesting. We learn how mozzarella is made and what makes Neapolitan pizza the best; from pasta to pastries, ragù to ravioli, the book is crammed full of details and photographs which will leave you with a desire to rush out to Carluccio’s (born in Campania incidentally).
Depth of feeling
What makes the book so special however is the people; barely a page goes by without a quote or two from a winemaker, a restaurateur, a cheese maker or olive farmer. The wonderful photographs of them going about their everyday work give the vibrant text added immediacy. And this is what elevates it above conventional guide books; three years in the making, it has a depth of feeling for its subject which is evident on every page.
As someone who spent two years living and working in Naples, in a house that looked out over orange groves to Vesuvio, I find the book irresistible and am sure that anyone who reads it will feel the same.
The Food and Wine Guide to Naples and Campania is available from Amazon.
© 2009 – 2012, Susan Hulme MW. All rights reserved.