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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Naples, Italy: Open On Christmas, But Underwhelming Food And Strange Vibe Put Me Off

Antico Trattoria da Peppino
Via Trinità degli Spagnoli, 8
80132 Naples, Italy
Plebiscito/Centro Storico
Phone number +39 081 407649
Facebook Page
Website: None
Prices: €€€€

One of very few restaurants in Naple's centro storico on Christmas Day Eve, so I cannot complain too much. I saw the lights and banners up a side street in Quartieri Spagnoli from Via Toledo, so I went to have a look. The lights were on, but the place was empty at 7:15PM, not unusual by Italian standards. A guy at the door said: "prego, prego", which means "you're welcome ... come in here and spend your money tourist".

I walked in and they sat me at a table, but the way they were looking at each other, whispering, and people (employees) putting their coats on and leaving, I had the feeling they were closing so I asked if I was still welcome. "Si, si" (yes, yes) I was told, so I waited and waited and waited while employees came and went. I did not feel very welcome and not having seen a sole in 5 minutes, got up to leave, but the cameriere (waiter/server) came back, ensuring I was welcome, so I sat back down.

The Insalata Caprese (€8) sounded good, so I told him I would start with that. A quizzical look came over his face, he turned around, went to the kitchen, and came back saying "la mozzarella e finito" (the mozzarella is finished "gone"), So I ordered the Bruschetta (€2). I am glad it was only €2 because it was one large slice of bread cut in half, grilled, brushed with garlic and topped with chopped cherry tomatoes, oregano, and EVO. Not bad, not great.

I decided to try one of my childhood favorites as my main course, Pasta e Fagioli (€10 - aka Pasta "Fazool" in my family and Neapolitan dialect), but this version had mussels, which I also like but never had in pasta fazool. The serving was massive with every type of leftover pasta in the house and cannellini beans in a broth of tomatoes and olive oil, but I could not find any mussels although I could smell them. I finally found six or seven single shelled mussels, a bit stingy based on the €10 price tag (pasta fazool is a peasant dish and usually very cheap). The flavor was OK, but bland, so I asked for some grated Parmigiano which helped immensely. I used the bread, from a bag again, to "fare la scarpetta" or "make the little shoe", a Neapolitan phrase that means that you use the bread to mop up sauce from the plate or bowl and shove it in your pie hole. 
The 1/2 liter of house wine was €5 (it was €2.50 at a trattoria down the street the night before) and the carafe was not even full, and the "coperto" (cover) was €2, bringing the total to €20.50, not a terrific bargain for what I got and what I got was not all that impressive. I did not feel very welcome here, but will give them an extra Bomb for being open on Christmas ... grazie mille!
CombatCritic Gives Antico Trattoria da Peppino 6 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

Six Bombs Equates To:

Translation for Civilians: "Good To Go"

Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

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Title: Naples, Italy, Antico Trattoria da Peppino, antico, trattoria, Peppino, Trinità, Spagnoli, Naples, Italy, Centro Storico, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google, Facebook

Copyright 2017 - 3rd Wave Media Group, LLC and CombatCritic - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, December 24, 2017

DayTripQuip - Italy: Naples To Pompeii, Sorrento, Amalfi Coast And Capri

When in Naples, do as the Neapolitans do! A nice day trip from Naples can take you to Pompeii, Sorrento, the Amalfi Coast, the beautiful island of Capri and points beyond if you so wish. It would be next to impossible to do it all in one day, but you can easily pick one or two destinations and break your day trips up over multiple days.

To visit Pompeii from Naples, take the Circumvesuviana line from the Napoli Centrale (main) train station (click here for schedule), making sure you arrive at least 10-15 minutes early as the Circumvesuviana platforms are a short walk and escalator ride away from the main platforms. You must buy your ticket at the entrance to the Circumvesuviana and, like all trains and buses in Italy, validate your ticket (at the yellow metered boxes) before getting on the train. Even with a valid ticket, if not stamped at one of the meters, you will be fined if a conductor checks your ticket and it does not have a stamp with the proper automated date and time. Once on the Circumvesuviana platform (normally Platform 3), make sure that you get on the "Sorrento" train and get off at the Pompeii Scavi - Villa dei Misteri station, taking about 35 minutes to reach.
Mount Vesuvius Looms In The Background - At Pompeii
When leaving the Pompeii Scavi station, go the the right on the street in front of you and ignore all of the crooks trying to sell you tours. Follow the signs toward the "Archeological Site" and about 100 yards (meters) down the road you will see the entrance on your left where you can buy an entry ticket for €11, adding an audio tour nearby for a few Euros more. There is an information booth next to the ticket window where you can find maps of Pompeii as well as information booklets (A Guide To The Pompeii Excavations) in several languages which provide detailed explanations of the main attractions within the archeological site. 
Famous "Dog - Do Not Enter" 
You do not really need an Audio Tour because Pompeii is broken-up into nine zones on the map and you will find signs with Zone and Site Number in front of each individual attraction (villas, baths, amphitheatre, stores, etc.) , making it easy to find the corresponding explanation in the guide.

There are toilets and cafeterias inside the site, but you can take food and drinks along with you and have a picnic at the place and time of your choosing. Make sure that you note the closing time when buying your ticket because you would not want to find yourself lost and locked into the site after dark as you do not need to scan your ticket when exiting, making it impossible for them to know if there are lost tourists still within the vast complex of streets and alleys. You must also ensure that you exit the same site from which you entered because there are numerous exits which, if used, would leave you with a difficult journey back to the station and a high risk of getting lost.


Another wonderful DayTrip is to the ancient seaside town of Sorrento, just a little over an hour and a half away on the same train. Instead of getting off at Pompeii, continue to the end of the line and the beautiful clifftop city of Sorrento (schedule below or CLICK HERE).

Il Duomo - Sorrento's Cathedral
The train station is actually at the bottom of the cliff, so follow the signs up the steep hill toward "Centro Storico" (historical center). Once at the top of the hill, the main town will be off to your right where you can head down the main street toward the Duomo or turn right onto one of the many streets or alleys filled with restaurants and shopping galore.

Naples-Sorrento Train Schedule
View from Sorrento to Port and Train Station
Another option is to take the fast ferry from the Port of Naples (Molo Beverello - See Map Below) via Alilauro to Sorrento (or Capri, Ischia, Procida, Positano, and Amalfi among others).

To get to Molo Beverello, take the Metropolitana to Stazione Municipio and head directly east toward the port, about 500 meters (1/2 km) away by foot, an easy walk.

The ferry is a bit more expensive than the train, but is much quicker and hassle-free.

Positano and the Amalfi Coast

From Sorrento, take the blue SITA bus (click here for timetables) from the main piazza to scenic Positano, about 40 minutes away and a white knuckle ride along the scenic Amalfi Coast's main road. You can exit at Positano and explore the hillside town or continue on to Praino, Conca, or Amalfi (50 minutes past Positano). Return to Sorrento the same way you came, ensuring that you have enough time to catch the last train (at the very latest) or else you will find yourself looking for a hotel and spending the night in Sorrento.

You can also take the Alilauro ferry directly from Naples as described above. There are also ferries going to Positano and Amalfi directly from Sorrento if the bus frightens you or have motion sickness and the sea is calm. 


From Sorrento, you can go down to the port and take the hydrofoil for a relatively short ride to beautiful Capri for a day of exploring, shopping, and/or eating on this lovely and somewhat expensive tourist destination (click here for schedule). Again, return to the port early enough to go back to Sorrento by hydrofoil and catch your train. Another option is to buy a one way (solo andata) ticket for the hydrofoil from Sorrento, buying a return (ritorno) ticket for the hydrofoil that takes you back to Naples (click for schedule). Once in Naples, you can find a Metropolitana (Metro) station, either at Piazza Garibaldi (if arriving by train) or near the port, for the return journey to your original point of departure.

You can also take the Alilauro ferry to Capri directly from Naples as described above.

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Title: DayTripQuip - Italy: Naples To Pompeii, Sorrento, Amalfi Coast And Capri

Key Words: Napoli, Alilauro, ferry, ferries, Circumvezuviana, train, Metro, Metropolitana, day, trip, quip, Amalfi, Amalfi Coast, coast, DayTripQuip, Italy, Naples, Pompeii, Positano, Sorrento, Capri
Copyright 2017 - 3rd Wave Media Group, LLC and CombatCritic - All Rights Reserved

Naples, Italy: Pleasant Surprise In Napoli's Quartieri Spagnoli - A Good, Reasonably Priced Trattoria

Trattoria da Concetta
Via Speranzella 19
80134 Naples, Italy
Centro Storico/Quartieri Spagnoli
Website: None
Prices: €€€€

Simple, bright trattoria open for lunch and dinner just two short blocks up the hill from the Naples Metropolitana's architecturally heralded Toledo Station.

They open relatively early for dinner by Italian standards, around 7:00PM or 7:15PM, depending on where you look. I had been sick for three days, not eating much and was suddenly famished. I had seen "Da Concetta" the previous evening on my way to the farmacia to get some drugs, but it was early and they were closed. Returning the next evening, the lights were on and bright, almost too bright, and there were guests sitting in the exterior, clear plastic walled tent. I entered.

I had made a reservation on a competitor's website - who shall remain nameless, but has a much bigger presence in Europe than Yelp (e.g. this trattoria was not even listed on Yelp, but had 160+ reviews on this "other" travel website). In making my reservation through that website's new reservation service, I also received a 20% discount ... HOOAH!
When I entered, they knew who I was, possibly from my profile photo, stating in Italian: "You have a reservation ... yes". I showed them the reservation and was seated. The trattoria is very clean, bright, and trendy by Italian trattoria standards with the "cameriere" ("waiters" - it is a direct translation because most "servers" in Italy are traditionally male, so don't get your knickers in a twist) wearing black pants and "Dodger Blue" (HOOAH) uniform shirts with the trattoria's name and logo on them. My "server" brought a rolled-up paper bag and placed it on the table ... odd.

I started by ordering a bottle of aqua minerale frizzante (sparkling mineral water - €1.50) and mezzo litro di vino rosso della casa (1/2 liter of house red wine - €2.50). They were brought post haste and in an uncouth manner taught to me by my grandfather and despised (along with "scarpetta" - more on that later) by my wife, I dipped some of the bread (yes, that was what was in the paper bag, not poop as first entered my mind) in the deep red wine and savored every bite ... YUM!
The paper bag contained bread of course because every restaurant in Italy serves bread with the meal (except for places that are strictly "pizzerias" and, therefore, not "restaurants" by definition). They were out of Spaghetti Carbonara (€6), so I went with the server's suggestion, Vermicelli alla Nerano (€7), vermicelli pasta tossed in a sauce of sliced zucchini sauteed in olive oil and topped with Parmigiano Reggiano and basil. Unlike some recent experiences, this pasta was a bit bland, so I asked for some extra grated cheese which helped immensely. I wolfed it down.
I decided on a traditional Neapolitan dish and one of my favorites, Salsiccia di Maiale alla Brace (€6 - grilled pork sausage) and a side order of Friarielli (€3 - broccoli rabe, "rapini" in Italian, sauteed in olive oil and garlic ... BUONO!). The sausage was good, a tad too pink pork-wise for my liking, but I took the chance and somehow survived. Taking a little friarielli, which you will find primarily in the Naples area, along with a bit of sausage, I mopped-up the excess olive oil with my bread from the plate ("fare la scarpetta" - literally "making the little shoe") and shoved it all in my pie-hole. Quando facio la scarpetta (when I make the little shoe), it is always frowned upon by my wife, put particularly in public where any self-respecting Italian would NEVER fare la scarpetta. Being American, the grandson of a shoemaker, and NOT a self-respecting Italian, I make the scarpetta anywhere I damn well please, in public or not, because it is the highlight of almost any meal.

With the 20% discount from the nameless travel website's reservation system (hint, hint Yelp), the bill came to €17.20, a bargain for two courses, a 1/2 liter of wine and water, and "coperto" ("cover charge"which includes bread, silverware, napkins, etc.). There was no "servizio" (tip, but literally "service") included, so I left a generous tip * by Italian standards, using the undiscounted amount (€21.50) as my basis.
My meal was very good, the environment clean, although a bit too bright for my eyes, and the service excellent. My only concerns and the reasons for my deduction of "Bombs" are as follows:

1. How could you be out of carbonara?
2. The pasta was a bit bland, needing added parmigiano
3. The sausage was too pink and we all know what undercooked pork and chicken can do to you ... Gordon Ramsey would have had a shit fit!
4. They did not seem overly impressed when I gave them my card and explained who I was ... Don't they know how popular my blog is ... WTFO?

CombatCritic Gives Trattoria da Concetta 7 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!
* Many Italians do not believe in tipping because cameriere (waiters) in Italy are part of a proud and respected profession - food is extremely important here - and are paid fairly well (much better than in the USA), but some will leave a Euro or two no matter what the amount of the bill might be. Additionally, Italian etiquette suggests that if you are served by the owner of the establishment, you should not leave a tip because it is considered a bit of an insult.

Seven Bombs Equates To:

Translation for Civilians: "Shits & Grins"

Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp - Elite '14/'15/'16/'17 - 650,000+ Views A Year

Tabelog - Official Judge (Silver)

Zomato - #1 Ranked "Verified" Foodie - Over  1,890,733 Review And Photo Views

View my food journey on Zomato!

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Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!


Title: Naples, Italy: Pleasant Surprise In Napoli's Quartieri Spagnoli - A Good, Reasonably Priced Trattoria

Key Words: Naples, Italy, Quartieri Spagnoli, Spanish Quarters, Spanish, quarter, trattoria, Trattoria da Concetta, Concetta, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, , review, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google, Facebook

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