Arthur Schwartz: The Food Maven Arthur Schwartz: The Food Maven
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Around Naples, pettole is a word used for any flat sheet of pasta, like what you would cut lasagna from or other noodles, to use an English word. In this case the sheets were cut into approximately four-inch squares. Giovanni’s mother, who works in the restaurant with his father, who started it many years ago, made the pasta, with eggs, and it was as thin and delicate as pasta can be.


Sausage, Rib, Roll of CoticaAfter the pasta with ragu, we ate the meats that had cooked in and flavored the ragu, one sausage, one rib and one roll of cotica each.


If this had been a sensible meal, we would have stopped there. Okay, some fruit and a dessert. But Giovanni then served loin pork chops with sautéed pickled peppers – pappucelle. And along with that came another pork sausage, browned in a skillet, as opposed to the one that was cooked in sauce – as if … . These meats came accompanied by heads of very young escarole in a dressing with hot pepper – our salad.Peppers



Okay, there was yet another course, minestra maritata, an ancient soup of pork broth and a variety of cooked greens. But the group moaned that it was impossible to eat more, except for one of my tablemates, a thin guy no less, who insisted that since the spoon was already on the table he and I should have at least a small bowl. I just couldn’t do it. I took a sip of the soup, a spoonful of greens, and a taste of the chunk of pork in the center. E basta! And enough! I couldn’t bear another mouthful.



By this time, half the guests were outdoors having a smoke or just sitting with those who like to smoke. (I find it very interesting that Italians, especially Neapolitans, who are rarely mindful of the law, are having no trouble with the one that prohibits smoking in all public places. The really respect that one.) I, however, stayed indoors and at the table with those who were talking politics. This gave me the opportunity to try a new liqueur that one of them had brought along. It’s called Melanurca, a shortened form of mela Anurca, which is the special apple of Campania. It’s a red, sweet and very perfumed apple, and this liqueur is just as perfumed and fresh tasting as the fruit itself. I have to see if I can get a bottle to take home. It has yet to hit the States. Not so incidentally, we not only ate well, but drank well. Among other Aglianco wines, Agliancio being the noble red grape of Southern Italy, there were three vintages of the much vaunted (and available in the U.S.) Terredora Taurasi on the table. I much preferred 2000 to 1999 and 2002.


It took almost two hours to get to Giugliano from Ettore, Massimino and Cecilia’s house in Battipaglia, but only one hour to get home. We drove home so fast that I fell asleep to escape the frightening experience. I woke up to Ventura Highway by America on the radio, a song that is very nostalgic for me (early 1970s), and for a second I thought “Okay, I’m dead.”


So, today, my feeling full didn’t last very long. I couldn’t look at food for breakfast, but by 1:30, lunchtime around here, I was a bit peckish (Hi Debra!). For lunch we had pasta and cauliflower, baked ham and cheese sandwiches (we’d call it “strata”), and some boiled Swiss chard, but I skipped dessert – baked apples.


Tonight, we are going out to a friend’s birreria (beer hall), Mermaid Tavern in Pontecagnano, where, I hope, I think, they serve only snack foods. Maybe I’ll have the will power to not eat at all, but then I don’t want to be impolite. Tomorrow, we have some meetings in Naples, and Cecilia has a restaurant she wants to try. We’ll see.


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