We spent a long weekend in Naples and, while we ate very well there, one restaurant really stood out, La Cantina di Triunfo. We had visited it about ten years ago after very favorable reviews by the NY Times critic R. W. Apple and the S.F. Chronicle reviewer Patricia Unterman. We were impressed then and wanted to try it again.
You need to make a reservation, and we reserved the day we wanted to go. We went on a Saturday night and the other people in the restaurant were Italian. The place is nicely furnished with the initials of the restaurant—CT—on the wall sconces, the damask table covers, and on the plates. We were greeted very warmly at the door by the signora and also later by the waiter.
The kitchen is at one end of the dining room and it is framed by a pulled-back curtain so you can see into the kitchen and watch the chef. There isn’t a written menu and it changes daily depending on what’s available in the market. There are two choices for the first course, two for the second, a number of vegetables, and several choices for dessert. The Cantina was originally an enoteca started by the signora’s father and there is a good selection of wines. They also offer excellent bottles of house wine. We had the Falanghina and it was very nice.
The waiter not only explains each choice, but also describes the ingredients and how the chef combines them to create the dish. The night we were there, the choices for the first course were a spaghetti with a local fish, merluzzo, and a malfatti with broccoli. The first was made with the fish, marsala, nutmeg, and some parmigiano. The second with broccoli, pepperoncino, and parmigiana. While we waited for them, we watched the chef take a loaf of bread out of the oven and slice it, while steam escaped to the ceiling. Both pastas were terrific.
For the second course, the choice was between a sautéed fish steak and a pork steak agrodolce. Since we’re in Naples, we both opted for the fish. It was served with razor clams and topped with a cherry tomato. For vegetables, we had the potatoes roasted with rosemary and black pepper, and the friarelli, a type of broccoli native to Campania.
For dessert, we had the barchetta, a torta shaped like a little boat and filled with a light cream and topped with a type of peach compote. We also had the chocolate torta.
During the meal the Italians at the next table spoke to us about how lucky we were to be eating in such a great place. They had been coming for years. He referred to the chef as an artist.
The cost for all of this was about 40 euros a person, including a bottle of the house wine. It was a bargain for an incredible meal created and served by people who love food. Our only disappointment was that we had waited until our last night to make reservations there. If we had another night, we would have gone back.
La Cantina is a bit off the beaten path, a mile or so south of the Castel del’Ovo near the Piazza della Rpubblica. We took a bus there and then walked back along the bay with a view of Vesuvius in the distance. La Cantina di Triunfo is located at Via Riviera di Chiaia, 64. (Tel. 081-66810)
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