DANIEL BELLINO ZWICKE
You have to try hard not to drink good coffee in Naples. Every neighborhood bar is a window into the vivacity of that sliver of Neapolitan territory. The first thing I do every morning after rolling out of bed and making myself look generally presentable (locals might argue that lululemon pants and crocs do not qualify as presentable Napoli- and who am I to quibble) is head to the bar across the street from my house. I go for the company. The invasive inquiries into my personal life. The exchange of hyper local recipes and even more hyper local gossip. This is the bar where I start my day. Twelve hours later, I will also end my day here with a spritz or a gingerino and a complex discussion of what was for lunch and what will be for dinner and how I will spend my Easter and whether I will make or buy my pastiera. It may only be February, and yet this is the idle chatter heard in Neapolitan bars everyday across the city. To know Napoli is to know her bars. Below are the most iconic.
Today Bar Mexico is a franchise and the Passalacqua coffee it serves is available in markets all over the South of Italy. The original Bar Mexico in Piazza Garibaldi feels straight out of the 1960s. The harsh artificial lighting, bright orange décor and barista uniforms transport you to booming post WWII Naples. Coffee is richly thick and served sugared and in a hot cup or tazza calda, the way most Neapolitans prefer. Most locals will also tell you this Bar Mexico is home to the best espresso in all of Napoli. The baristas are also among the town’s most talented.
No trip to Napoli is complete without a visit to the Belle Èpoque Gambrinus. You can order your coffee on the go while standing up at the bar. However, I highly suggest indulging in the luxurious seated ritual of sipping afternoon coffee and nibbling on a sweet when visiting Gambrinus. Inside, Gambrinus is drenched in old world tapestried luxury. Outside, on the terrace, you can appreciate views of the Teatro San Carlo. Gambrinus is also a traditional watering hole for the opera loving crowds who flock here before heading to the famed theater across the street. Gambrinus is certainly not where I drink my daily coffee, and nor should it be. This is a place to be savored on special occasions, preferably before heading to the opera.
Down the street from Gambrinus, you will find the slightly more rustic, but charming Vero Bar del Professore. Order the caffè alla nocciola (hazelnut coffee), a perfect shot of whipped cream and hazelnut coffee that is possibly one of the finest afternoon treats I have sampled in Naples, or anywhere for that matter. The congenial baristas will happily explain the history of Naples, coffee and their lives to you if you don’t watch out.
This is not a typical Neapolitan bar, yet in recent years it has grown on me. It offers a tranquil respite in the busy centro storico on the steps of Piazza Bellini- which after sunset becomes a blunt-smoking circus. Nea is calm, plush and has wifi. Better yet, they, unlike most bars in Naples, permit you to work on your laptop here. It is still uncommon to work in coffee bars in Naples. Nea, is of the younger spirit and will happily allow you to pass the day working and sipping away.
The paneled wood interior and busy morning crowds make Gran Caffè Cimmino an indispensible Neapolitan institution. Come here at the height of morning rush hour, around 8, order a caffè and cornetto (croissant) and just watch. Also note that in Naples we don’t eat our brioche and drink our coffee at the same time. First eat your cornetto. Then drink your caffè. To decipher Neapolitan morning rituals, come to Cimmino.
This is my ladies meet-up spot. On Piazza dei Martiri in the heart of classy Chiaia is this lovely old world jewel. Take a seat on the outdoor terrace in the spring, order an espresso and brioche and watch the elegant ladies of Chiaia and their pampered pups stroll down the grand boulevards of Naples.
Explore the central artery of Spaccanapoli and stop at this beloved bar for a piccola pausa caffè. This is one of those bars you don’t appreciate until you leave and live outside of Naples. I used to enjoy an espresso here nearly every morning and never really fully grasped how richly sublime it was until I was stuck drinking burnt Tuscan coffee for two months. The espresso here is so thick you can nearly stick a demi-spoon straight up in it. Perfection.
This is the best coffee in the Vomero. Strictly a stand up, drink and get on your way cafe, this is a spot for serious coffee lovers on the move. If you are seeking seated respite, head up to Piazza Vanvitelli.
I finally began to ‘get’ Naples after a post-lunch visit to this café on Piazza San Domenico Maggiore. The hyper-kinetic movement, the shouting, the bits of cookie crumbs furtively clinging to office workers’ shirts, this is the nucleus (or the under belly) of Napule. I do not suggest sitting down here. To fully experience the Naples pausa caffè (coffee break), one mustcome here, order espresso in a tazza calda, stand up and drink. Don’t burn your lips on the hot cup!
Stendhal called Via Toledo “the most crowded and the gayest street in the universe.” I think he would have enjoyed this bar in the middle of the crowded avenue. Via Toledo is a central shopping hub in Naples, and Bar August is an excellent spot to stop after a long day of shopping and gallivanting. It is more than simply a bar. It is a pasticceria and tavola calda, offering snacks, both sweet and savory throughout the day. Also a prime spot for an afternoon tipple and nibble.
And SECRET ITALIAN
CONIGLIO all ISCHITANA
Drinking the Amalfi Coast, Capri, Positano, Napoli, what do you drink? Well there’s always wine. Yes wine, Campari, an Aperol Spritz, Prosecco, Mineral Water, Cappuccino, Espresso, and you must drink some Lemonade, for after all, you’re in The Land of Lemons of the Devine Coast of Amalfi. Or if you’re on Capri or Ischia, Sorrento or Salerno, or the Capital City of Napoli, it’s all the same. All the same of what you might drink, what the locals drink, business men, travelers, tourists, whoever.
Yes, you will drink Cappuccino and Espresso, it’s good all over, and every Barista takes pride in his coffee making skills and prowess. And when it comes to Espresso, the Neapolitans are the World Champions of making it and drinking it. Espresso that is.
And if on your trip to Positano, Capri, Sorrento, wherever your destination is down there, if you’re in Napoli, try and go to the Gran Caffe Gambrinus for one of the great cafe experiences of your life. The Gran Caffe Gambrinus is heir to the great Neapolitan coffee tradition, for coffee and the art of making and drinking a proper Espresso, is at its highest level in Gambrinus. Espresso in Napoli is rooted in ritual and the habits of each social class. There is a phenomenon in this habitual ritual that makes the simple moment of refreshment an opportunity for culture and socializing. You will experience a moment of great pleasure as you partake in this esteemed ritual known as espresso. But not just any Espresso, but a Neapolitan one. And while at Gambrinus, drinking your Cappuccino, Espresso or Special Gambrinus Caffe, why not treat yourself to a Sfogliatelle as well?
All over the Amalfi Coast, in Naples, and especially popular on the Isle of Capri are Lemonade Stands. It stands to reason that with all the Lemon Groves you find on Capri, in and around Sorrento, and in Minori, Maiori, Atrani, and Amalfi, that they’d be serving that refreshing lemon based drink, Lemonade, yes they do. Though lemons are grown all over the coast and on the islands, there seems to be two places that you see Granita and Lemonade Stands more than in other parts, and those two places are in Napoli and on the Isle of Capri. And when it comes to me personally, I always remember that first Lemonade I ever had there, and that was the Lemonade Stand on the Piazzetta of the Piazza Umberto that’s right there before you, when you get off of the Funicular of Capri, if you happen to be taking it. And if you do take the Funicular from the bottom at Marina Grande, once up are at the top and your ride is over, the first thing you’ll see when you exit the Funicular is that Lemonade Stand that is so very inviting on a hot Summer day. So, just as I did on that day in the Summer of 1988 when I had my first, I got a glass of Lemonade. I got off of the Funicular, saw the Lemonade Stand and I couldn’t resist. I got myself a nice cold refreshing Lemonade made with the Lemons of Capri. Later on, in the trip (i988), I’d have my first Limoncello, that hugely famous after dinner drink made with the local Lemons. So, you see, it’s usually the littlest things that I love most when I travel. Like that lemonade on Capri in the Summer of 1988, my first Campari, Aperol Spritz, and most recently a lovely liquor made in these parts called Finnonchietto (Fennel Liqueur), that the waiter brought for me and my cousin Tony, after dinner at Z’Antonino one night in Sorrento. Wow, I went nuts when I tasted this wonderful liqueur for the first time. It was a revelation. I never had it before, and I absolutely loved it. So much so, that when we finished the dinner and took a little walk, as we passed by a Salumeria that sold Limoncello, Amari, and other liqueurs, including Finnonchietto, I just had to get a bottle, and so I did (8 Euros).
So, now as we talk of drinking on the Amalfi Coast, we come up to the subject of the Aperitivo and Aperitivo time on the Amalfi Coast or anywhere in Italy for that matter. Well, what is Apertivo anyway you say? Aperitivo is a drink that you have before dinner, and is meant for socializing as well as getting your palate going for the meal to come. Most often when you go for Apertivo (aka Aperitif) and order a drink at the traditional aperitivo time (late-afternoon & early-evening), the waiter will bring you some little snacks along with your drink (Aperitivo). The snacks might be as simple as a bowl of Potato Chips and Olives. In addition, some places might serve canapes (crostini) with various toppings, all for the price of the drink. The most popular forms of Aperitivo drinks are anything made with Campari or Aperol, such as Campari & Soda or OJ, a Negroni, or Aperol Spritz. Prosecco or any wine at the apertivo hours are also considered as aperitivo drinks. You can get any other cocktails made with Vodka, Gin, Rum, Whiskey or other forms of alcohol other than Prosecco, wine, Campari, or Aperol, but these cocktails may be quite a bit more expensive than the traditional Aperitivi.
On a recent trip to Rome and the Amalfi Coast, I partook in the delightful ritual of Apertivo on numerous occasions. It was quite wonderful sharing this ritual with my cousins Tony, Mimmo, Marta, and friends in Salerno, Sorrento, in Positano, and Vietro Sul Mare. My trip started off in Rome for a day before I hopped on the high-speed train to Napoli the next day. After landing in Rome, checking into my hotel, I took a shower and then a nap. Well, more thana nap, I fell asleep for 6 hours. I finally awoke and hopped in the shower again.
Once I showered and got dressed for one more evening out to my beloved Roma, I had a plan. My plan was to walk over to the Metro stop and take a train to near the Piazza Spagna where I would go walk around and enjoy a bit of time at this one of Rome’s most popular spots. I walked up The Spanish Steps, taking pictures along the way and enjoying the scene before me; the people and that view from atop the Spanish Steps is absolutely magnificent. I stayed there to enjoy it for a little while. So, now on to the second phase of the plan.
After spending a half-hour enjoying the Piazza di Spagna, my plan was to walk over to the Piazza di Popolo from there, a short 8 minute walk away. Yes, my plans included going to Piazza di Popolo to see the beautiful little twin churches of Santa Maria Maracoli and Santa Maria Montesanto and to have a Aperitivo at Rosati afterwards. After that, I’d go on to dinner. So after leaving the Spanish Steps behind I made my way along to the Via Babuino leading me to my destination of the Piazza di Popolo and all its offerings.
When I arrived about 10 minutes later, I walked towards the Fountain of Neptune to get a good view of the Twin Churches. I took a few pictures of the churches, then asked a couple if they would take a picture of me in front of them. They took a couple nice pictures that are now part of my wonderful memories of that day, and even back to 1985 and 1986 in Rome. After taking pictures of the two churches and the Piazza and myself, I went over to the churches to go inside. The Chiesa Santa Maria Miracoli was closed, but the doors to Santa Maria Montesanto were open, and there was a Mass being conducted. I went in and sat down to relax there. I listened to the priest and parishioners as they responded to the priest. I said a few prayers for my sister Barbara, myself, my Brothers Jimmy and Michael, and their loved ones, and then I left the church.
After my time at the churches I walked across to Rosati for my little aperitivo. I took a seat at a table outside to watch the World go by the Twin Churches and life on the Piazza Popolo. I ordered a Campari Soda and the waitress brought it to me along with Olives, Potato Chips, and Canapes. And yes, I sat back, sipped my Campari and watched the World go by. I had quite a nice little Aperitivo Time at Roasati and then it was on to dinner.
Drinking? You can’t talk about drinking in Italy without talking about wine. On this recent trip I was briefly in Rome where I drank Frascati with dinner that night, followed by an Amaro of Capo di Stato digestive from Calabria.
Now, down to Campania and the Amalfi Coast and the wines down there. This area has some wonderful wines that are sure to please all. There are a lot of very good white wines, as there should be with all the wonderful seafood available and simply for the fact of the heat and being on the coast in Summer, for many people, white wine is the way to go. The White Wines of the area are some of the finest in Italy, in wines like; Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino, Coda, Falanghina, Biancolella, and a few others, with these being the main ones as well as being most popular. When it comes to reds, Aglianico is King, especially in the form of “Taurasi” the most prestigious red wine in all of Southern Italy. The red grape Palumbo, also known as Piedirosso which makes up the local wine that is called Lacryma Christi, meaning “The Tears of Christ.” This grape makes wonderful fruity wines as is in the case of Lacryma Christi. Yes, Aglianico is the most renowned red grape varietal of the region, but the grape Piedirossa and the wines that it makes up are not far behind in stature. The more famous wines are made with Aglianico, the grape that makes up the famed Itaian wine known as Taurasi.
There is a most lovely legend that goes along with the wine Lacryma Christi, which can be found as either white or red wine. As the legend goes, is that when Saint Lucifer (the Devil) was cast away, he took a piece of Heaven with him. When Christ first saw the Bay of Naples, he recognized it as the stolen piece of Heaven and he wept over its loss. It’s said that as Christ wept, where his tears landed on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius is where the grapes that make up Lacryma Christi first sprang up from, and these are the grapes that sprung from the Tears of Christ. So the legend goes, and it’s quite a lovely one at that.
So you see, drinking in Napoli, Capri, and the Amalfi Coast, is a very pleasant pastime, whether drinking Cappuccino in the morning, Espresso later in the day, Lemonade or Limoncello, local wine, a Negroni, Campari, or Aperol Spritz, you’re going to have a good time. You have to? You’re in Amalfi. Enjoy it.
EXCERPTED from POSITANO The AMALFI COAST
by Daniel Bellino Zwicke …. Due for Publication, May 2019
BEST SELLING ITALIAN COOKBOOKS by Daniel
Cocktails at FRANCO’S BAR
APEROL SPRITZ TIME in POSITANO
LEARN HOW to MAKE POSITANO’S “Most Popular Cocktail”
The APEROL SPRITZ
Yes, without question, the Aperol Spritz is Positano’s most popular cocktail. You see them on almost every table, as you pass restaurants and outdoor cafes in Positano, there’s at least one Aperol Spritz on practically every table in town. Other popular drinks are the Negroni, White Wine (& Red), Prosecco, and fresh Lemonade. I first started drinking Aperol Spritz’s way back in 1995, almost 20 years before most Americans ever even heard of it. Now it’s almost as popular as water, and for good reason, it’s the perfect drink for Positano, Capri, or any beach town in Italy or anywhere. It’s light, tasty, and refreshing.
The best places to drink an Aperol Spritz, or any cocktail of your choice, when in Positano, are; the Trident Bar at the Hotel Poseidon, Franco’s Bar at the Hotel Le Sirenuse, or any of the terraces at Buco di Bacco, or Covo d’ Saraceni.
Is COMING SOON
For Now Go To
TOP PLACES to GET a NEGRONI / APEROL SPRITZ
POSITANO The AMALFI COAST
TRIDENT BAR at The HOTEL POSIEDON .. Via Pasitea, Positano
FRANCO’S BAR at Le SIRENUSE Hotel … Via Cristiforo Colombo 30, Positano
Le PERGOLA at BUCA di BACCO HOTEL … Spiaggi Grande, Positano
AMALFI the Town
PANSA … Andrea Pansa Pasticceria Caffe, main Piazza, Amalfi, Italy
Pansa is at the very Heart and Soul of the town of Amalfi. They make some of the best Italian Pastries (Sfogliatelle, Cookies) in the World. You can just have an Espresso or Cappuccino, a Negroni or Aperol Spritz at Aperitivo Time, Sandwiches, Pasta, and wine. Best Selling Italian Cookbook author Daniel Bellino Z says”You haven’t been to Amalfi, if you don’t got to Panssa.”
BAR FAUNO, Piazza del Tasso, Sorrento ITALY
Bar Fauno is at the very heat of Sorrento. This is a wonderful Bar / Caffe / Rsitorante where you can get anything from a simple Cappuccino to a full Italian Meal and everything in-between. Open for Breakfast, Lunch, Aperitivo, Dinner and late night. A must do in Sorrento.
BAR TIBERIUS, Piazza Umbero, Capritown, CAPRI, Italy
BAR FUNICOLARE, Piazza Umberto, CAPRI, Italy