A sandwich by any other name

One thing Naples is seriously lacking in is street food. That’s not to say there aren’t places where you can get a quick bite to eat but there are no food carts or, perhaps a strictly North American idea, food trucks. Fast food exists in a totally different dimension here. Sure you can go to a McDonald’s but don’t expect it to be like one of the five McDonald’s within a mile of your house in Smalltown, USA. (They just opened a fancy new McDonald’s outside of town that features a drive-thru, or McDrive, if you will. The excitement is overwhelming. The Neapolitans are probably beside themselves with joy. And I’m pretty sure it’s the only one in the entire area, perhaps the entire country, who knows.) To the discerning palate only the french fries taste the same. And the chicken nuggets. Maybe the cheeseburger. But, and this is what gets me, you need to specifically ask for ketchup. Who do they think they are? Chick-fil-A? Get over yourself already. (Related: can you open a Chick-fil-A franchise in Italy? Need to investigate…looks like that would be a negatory. Bumm. Er.)

Anyway, one of my favorite fast food places to grab something at is Ciao Pizza. They offer standard fare in the way of pizza and panini. (Aside: For those who don’t speak Italian panini is actually the plural of panino and now that you know you can go to restaurants and shake your head at the stupidity of people when they call every grilled sandwich (singular) a panini (plural). Also not every panino need be heated and even if it is not is still a panino because panino means sandwich. And just an FYI: the plural of pizza is pizze. [peetzay]) Just as I do in the states I tend to get hooked on a certain flavor combination once it has proven to be both delicious and safe to eat (see: cheeses I have loved). In this case my go to panino is one with prosciutto crudo and rucola (arugula) on a chewy roll. There are others that have ham, turkey, and even some veggie options. Most of those are served on ciabatta. One thing about Italian panini is that you’ll be hard pressed to find any condiments on them because the idea is the ingredients provide all the flavor you’ll need. Does that mean the panino will be dry? That is a distinct possibility. Will the bread be fresh, chewy, and delicious? Most definitely. Will a drink be required? Certainly. Order a Coke because it’s made with real sugar (just like when you were a kid!) or Fanta because it has real orange juice in it (you can see the pulp floating around!). If you want to be like Greg you’ll order a disgusting bottle of “fizzy water,” which is basically seltzer water, and as everyone knows seltzer water was invented by the devil.

Ciao Pizza also offers a variety of pizza options as well, some of them have pretty interesting combinations. One I’ve always been tempted to try, but just can’t bring myself to eat, is covered with french fries and hot dog slices. I just don’t get it. I’d much prefer the hot dog in a bun with a side of fries. The idea of slapping it on my perfectly good slice of cheese pizza is just nutballs. The kicker with this pizza in particular is that the people I’ve seen order it ask for packets of mayo so they can put the mayo ON the pizza. What? Brain cannot understand.

A couple years ago Greg and I went to check out the town of Tivoli and Villa d’Este. It was a pretty cool place and the Villa has an amazing garden with a huge man made waterfall, fountains, and a water organ. It’s definitely worth the trip. On our way out we stopped at a little cafe and bought some sandwiches. Always one to try something new Greg bought one with tuna and artichoke on white bread. At the time I was skeptical but after tasting it (and I believe eating the whole thing) I was hooked. It’s a super simple sandwich (yay aliteration!) and I make it all the time. You just mix canned tuna with mayo and add some chopped artichoke hearts. It sounds bizarre but it’s delicious. I found it again at a cafe in Rome when my friend Angela came to visit. Being a Roman style sandwich means I can’t find it down here but I’m fine with my prosciutto and arugula.

There are lots of other options at other fast food locations but those are for a different post that I’ll write at some point in the future. Probably. Okay, probably not. Maybe. We’ll see.

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Fantasia Gelati

On my way home this afternoon I stopped at Fantasia Gelati for a little dolce indulgence. One summer when I was here they had an amazing peach gelato that tasted as if I was eating a fresh from the tree peach, it was incredible. Since then I’ve kept my eyes peeled for the reappearance of this tasty treat but I have yet to see it. The beauty of the summertime is, as with the produce markets, that there are gelato flavors that don’t show up any other time of year. While looking for the peach my eyes rested on a container with a bright pink gelato inside it. The great thing about the gelateria is that they put the actual flavor on top of the gelato meaning that if you’re going to pick a lemon flavor you’ll see an actual lemon sitting on top indicating that that flavor is, in fact, lemon. Get it? No? Too bad, I’m moving on anyway.

Sitting on top of this neon pink gelato was a slice of watermelon. Immediately my excitement rose because, as my mom can tell you, I love anything watermelon flavored. If it’s an option I will take it. Given how the minds behind Fantasia Gelati are always coming up with new and interesting flavor combinations I wasn’t at all surprised that they would create a watermelon gelato. I also had no doubt that it would be delicious as I have yet to try one of their gelati that was not amazing. Considering my last battle with a gelato cone didn’t go so well (it melted faster than I could eat it) I decided a cup would be a much safer option. And not wanting to go crazy I ordered a small. In Italy, most gelateria will allow you to choose pretty much as many flavors as you want (within reason) and cram them all into the cone or cup. While this sounds like an excellent way to try a bunch of different flavors at once I can only imagine the gag inducing combinations one could come up with. I like to keep it simple so I asked for just the watermelon; why cover up the flavor with something else? (Aside: When you get a gelato, whether in a cone or a cup, they like to give you this extra mini cone with it. I have yet to figure out exactly why. It’s not like you can create a second cone with it, I mean, you’re not going to walk around double-fisting gelato or anything. You can certainly scoop some up with it but it’s a three bite cone at most, I just don’t see why they include it. There must be something I’m missing. If you know the answer please let me know in the comments.) So! The point! I’m getting there, keep your pants on! Anyway, the guy scooped my gelato, put in on the counter, and after battling my way through the crowd it was in my hand. I walked outside, sat on a bench, and took a picture. What? Did you think I would taste it first? You don’t know me at all. Right after I took the picture I tasted it and I couldn’t get over the flavor, it was the most delicious gelato I had ever tasted. It pretty much blew the peach gelato out of the water. My immediate reaction was a mixture of bliss and regret. The flavor was so fresh and authentic, my brain almost couldn’t process it, I wanted to eat it all right then which is what led to the regret – I should have gotten a bigger cup.

I have no idea how long the flavor will be available but I do plan on trying to get more before it’s gone. I wish you could capture taste in a photograph because then you all could enjoy it with me.