"Where are you staying in Naples?" asked the concierge of La Scalinatella, our quarters for a rich August week in Capri where a lone piece of sidewalk trash would elicit stares.
The Una Napoli Hotel, I told her. Near the main train station. If I had said "The Motel Five on the Southside of Allepo, Syria" no greater look of alarm would have resulted. "It's far too dangerous," MIss Concierge warned.
Nancy was just about to have her cancel our 70 euro-a-night pad for a 250 euro recommendation when I pulled her aside. "She lives in Capri. Her version of dangerous and mine, even yours, is, ya know, different."
So we stayed at the Una Napoli. It was good enough for our 20 hours in Naples, though I could see the Capri point of view. The blocks surrounding the hotel were kinda grimy. But, soon after we started our all-day stroll through the city, it became apparent those blocks near the hotel were not seldom seen in old Napoli. They were typical.
"This whole city needs to be dragged through a car wash," I told Nancy as we walked for kilometers, nearly every wall here in need of a deep mortar cleansing and hi-pressure rinse. I have never seen a more graffiti-splattered city. Every single church. even their Duomo, was spray-painted.
It was my kind of town.
But, not our kind of day. Don't go to Naples on a Monday in mid-August. I had printed out a "36 Hours in Naples" from a January, 2013 New York Times article ( http://travel.nytimes.com/2013/01/13/travel/36-hours-in-naples-italy.html?pagewanted=all ) and, along with some Faith Willinger recommendations, we had places to check. They were all closed.
Except for Da Dora Ristorante. (http://www.ristorantedadora.com/) But, our reservation there was not 'til 9 p.m..
So, for hours we walked. Four hours plus we walked. It was hot, too, about 93 or so. We strolled the nearly deserted waterfront streets Via Caracciolo and Via Partenope and had warm, offensive red wine that even Nancy Silverton couldn't and wouldn't drink. We ambled through Chiaia, the area the NY Times proclaimed the "city's prime night life zone", studded with boutiques, art galleries and wine bars. That Southside of Allepo would have been livelier
So, we stepped early to Da Dora, a mom and pop seafood restaurant on a narrow residential street lined with folding chairs occupied by middle-aged men and women fanning themselves, old teenage girls bouncing babies, and a Andy Garcia "Godfather III" character look-a-like who had a Che Guevara tattoo on his right forearm. Che and his neighbors eyed us without welcome.
At Da Dora, we were told "come back at eight." We debated to cancel and head back to the Una Napoli. No. At least Da Dora was open. We .walked around these drab blocks for another hour. "If there's a murder in this neighborhood tonight," Nancy said, "And the police come around asking these people if they saw any unusual people..." I laughed. She didn't.
The English-speaking waiter Antonio, who, (according to a Chowhound post by "Indy 67" I read two days ago ) is "famous for his knowledge of state capitals," took our order. Linguini with seafood for me, a shellfish platter for her and a fish soup for two.
After finding out we were from Los Angeles, Antonio wasted no time, asking me if I knew the capital of California. Before I responded, he said "Sacramento." Soon we were tossing states back and forth. I know my capitals quite well, but when he said "Kentucky", I had no idea. Even now, now that I know it's Frankfurt, it still doesn't sound right. Tony's gloat didn't last long as i got him wiith Montana ( Helena) and South Dakota, ( Pierre). Mess with me on some U.S. capitals. Italian, please.
Soon, he put the linguini with seafood down. One bite, that's all it took for me to know this was something extraordinary. One bite to make me close my eyes and savour. One bite to know we had been so right to wait.
The pasta was cooked to the right second. The sauce, to call this a "Tomato Sauce" would be like calling Sandy Koufax a pitcher. The assortment of seafood - lobster, shrimp, squid, mussels, clams - was so fresh it seemed like you could hear them talking to each other about what it was like to get captured earlier that day in Naples Bay. (Ok, Mike, back off. That's enough, Just admit here you're not a food writer.)
I'm not a food writer. Clearly . But, that linguini was so damn delicious. it was one of those dishes that, as it began to become clear that it would soon be gone, I slowed my savour down considerably.
Nancy's dish and the fish soup we split were both superb. But, that linguini. I'd go back to Naples on a Monday in August just to have that linguini again.
(WARNING : Read further at own peril.)
Advanced technology reached extraordinary levels during my stay in Naples when the NSA was able to decipher a highly encrypted conversation between the various shellfish on the plate of the above-described linguini.
Clam on the pasta - What you doin' here, Red?
Lobster - You believe this shit? I was chilling in the Bay, taking it in, and all a sudden, Swosh. I'm in a goddamn net.
Large Shrimp - Me 'n my boys, too. Fuck it, Was bound to happen. 'Least i ended up at Da Dora. Heard some my homies got froze to death and shipped out to Dubai.
Lobster - I know what you mean. They boiled the shit out my cousin in China somewhere.
Shrimp - Yeah. You gotta go, might as well be to Da Dora.
Clam - And check it. That's Nancy Silverton eating with this guy.
Shrimp - She's having some assorted.
Lobster - I'd like to "Therma" her-"door", You feel me?
Shrimp - Indeed. I go " Jumbo" on her.
Clam - Incoming!!
(Much static is heard on the leaked NSA recording. The all is quiet, except a human saying "Damn, that was good.")