Most tourists who visit Naples stay out of the Quartieri Spagnoli after hearing rumours that it’s one of the most dangerous areas in the center. Be this true or not, if you don’t go, you’re definitely missing out on one heck of a Napolitano experience. Screaming kids, freshly laundered white-white sheets and Vespas tearing through the narrow streets…Oh, folks, you can’t get anymore typical than this!
I’ve meandered those busy streets on many an occasion and all of the experiences I’ve had have been positive. In fact, there are so many things to discover, it’s a shame not to spend time in the Quartieri. (Don’t be scared…they can smell the fear. Kidding!!!) On some of my last days in Naples, I made an amazing discovery not too far from via Roma. Tucked in between apartments and stores, you find Fernanda’s pizza fritta store.
I highly suggest that you make da Fernanda a must-stop lunch or dinner destination on your trip. Get hungry for fried pizzas, because that’s just about all she offers! Fernanda has been in the same small shop for many decades, since she herself was a small girl learning the trade from her mom.
Like many great eateries, the actual restaurant isn’t much. In fact, there’s not much of a difference between Fernanda’s shop and your grandmother’s dusty storage cellar. Ancient family portraits and a few knickknacks line the crumbling whitewashed walls. One table with a vinyl tablecloth and a short perch with two barstools serve as the sole places to rest a heavy, hot pizza fritta and cold Peroni while eating. While there, you might take the initiative to grab yourself a cold one from one of the deliciously vintage fridges crowding the room.
Fernanda takes her time to fry each and every pizza to a crispy, golden perfection. Now, the uninitiated might be wondering exactly what a pizza fritta is. Take a healthy serving of pizza dough, fill it with a dollop of ricotta, a spoonful of tomato sauce, and a sprinkle of grated cheese. Don’t forget the fior di latte, salame, ciccoli and a healthy dose of black pepper.
I suggest you go for the pizza fritta grande completa with everything, aka the BIG one. Say hello to the deal of the century! Da Fernanda you can get a meal that will leave you feeling satisfied all day (and then some) for only 2.50. You seriously can’t believe how darn big that steaming hot pizza is until you actually have it in your hands. For those with less voracious appetites, there is also the small. That costs 1.50 and is still a generous portion.
Healthy, not exactly, but it will leave you satisfied for a long time.
While Fernanda expertly crafts her pizzas, we naturally were drawn to ask her about her craft. (If you speak Italiano or better yet, Neapolitan, I highly suggest you do the same.) And she was more than happy to chat with us. You could tell that she was proud that her humble little shop has gotten recognition from regional TV and increasingly, bloggers. She recounted how the shop was passed down to her from her mother, who, yes, made pizza fritta. We naturally asked if her children would be taking over once she was too old to fry. She matter of factly said that they had gone off and started their own activities. Once she is gone, so is her eatery.
That means get it while you can.
I truly believe these simple places like da Fernanda are the inspiration for many places opening up around Naples right now. Small shops serving up one product are popping up like weeds, branded and funded by big name pizzerias in the city. Don’t get me wrong, their pizza frittas are good and the lines are long, so they are doing something right. However, when you find the original, you just know. Fernanda has been doing it right this whole time. Hard work, a commitment to using quality products and a damn good recipe. This, all without the pomp, circumstance and huge crowds of the new places. Others can try, but Fernanda the original.