Nennella’s: a Slice of (Neapolitan) Life

March 4, 2016 / Local Interest
Naples, Campania

I napoletani can shop right out of their windows: as you stroll Naples’ narrow back alleyways, look up and you might see an elderly lady leaning out of a window, lowering a basket or a plastic bucket to the shopkeeper below, shouting down her order in napoletano. Down below on the street, the grocer – or baker or butcher – grabs the dangling basket, drops in her order, takes out her coins, puts in the change if needed, then shouts up to la signora in napoletano to tug upwards: “O Signo’, tira o’ panaro!

Ah, the clutter, the chaossm

I enjoyed a scene like that right across from my outdoor table at Nennella’s, a favorite Neapolitan trattoria, squeezed into the crowded and “infamous” – watch your bag! – quartieri spagnoli district. And at the same time, in the Nennella dining room, another wicker basket was dropping from the ceiling as the waiters joined in a Neapolitan song.

Nennella tribute on the wall

A card dangles off the basket’s bottom: ‘A mazzetta – pe’ guagliun (in Neapolitan dialect, “a tip for the young boys”). Now and then you’ll hear a voice shout out, “uagliù acalate ‘o panaro!” (“boys, lower the basket”) and when a customer drops in a tip, the red-shirted waiters join in chorus to bellow out their “grazie” in napoletano as the basket heads back up to the ceiling.

Down comes the basket for the tipssm

Nennella’s isn’t for you if you prefer calm and quiet (but then again, Naples isn’t either!). There’s a lot of deep-chested bellowing at Nennella’s: waiters at the kitchen pass-through window lower their heads and boom out food orders to the cooks; the cooks in turn lean out the pass-through shouting for plate pick-ups. Owner Ciro blasts out request for fast table-clearing and table-setting (the customer line in the alleyway is long) while whoever is on the espresso machine – on the trattoria’s corner, which is also a street corner, hanging wash overhead – hollers that espressi are ready in plastic cups.

Lots of goodness out of a small kitchensm
nennella, linesm
Simple localesm
Coffee space!sm

The lusty Neapolitan chaos isn’t the only draw to Nennella’s: hearty and simple food is the main one. Pasta ‘a palate e provola – pasta with potatoes and smoked provola cheese – is this trattoria’s most popular first course.

Pasta with patate e provola, vino in plasticasm

Eggplant polpette (“meatballs”) and mozzarella in carrozza (literally, “mozzarella in the carriage” – or slim mozzarella sandwiches, dipped in egg, rolled in breadcrumbs, then fried) are other favorites. And at Nennella’s, you can’t pass up a plate of garlic/olive oil sautéed friarelli (rough – but not perfect – translation: “broccoli rabe”).

eggplant polpette, mozzarella in carrozzasm

Pablo Trincia, journalist aptly described his lunchtime experience at Nennella’s: “more than an (excellent) meal, it’s a life experience in a quartiere of Naples that’s a huge living reproduction of the famous Neapolitan creche scenes. Whoever has never been in this city, has missed a slice of life.” And missing Nennella’s is missing a slice of life, too.

Ciro and crew around a young authorsm
I couldn't leave without a photo!sm

Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See for more on her Umbria tours. Do see for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

19 Responses to “Nennella’s: a Slice of (Neapolitan) Life”

  1. Brings me right back. Thanks Anne for that perfect start to a Friday morning

  2. Ann Waggoner

    We had to leave Napoli four years ago having lived there for seventeen years. This vibrant scene that you have depicted so well has made me very homesick!

  3. Gian Banchero

    Thank you for the great video, it brought me back to my protracted stays in Napoli and Palermo, AND for the music sites that remind me of the beautiful music once heard loudly on the streets circa fifty years ago, especially the voice of Giacomo Rondinella of which I’ll spend the day looking for his albums over the Internet.

  4. Jack Litewka

    I’ve been to Italy a few times, but never to Naples … until now, when I got a very good taste of the place.

  5. Nancy Mazza

    Anne, what a great story! People are always looking for unique experiences and I think that Nonnella’s certainly fits the bill. I loved it. I loved the baskets dropping and the “lusty” Neapolitans. Will mark it down for my next visit to Naples. Gracie.

  6. Sandra Spector

    Hi Annie, Loved!!! the food at your San Carlos, CA cooking event. Great article. I just googled Nennella. Is this “Pizzeria Nennella” on via S. Caterina di Siena? How do you find these places?
    ps – send me some other restaurant tips. We’ll be in Napoli in maggio

  7. Mary Cappiello

    You told me, when in San Francisco to do your cooking classes, that Naples was your favorite city! After seeing your wonderful article and your pictures and videos here it will definitely be on our next Italy itinerary!

  8. Thanks for the tip Anne, perfect timing!. We will definitely give Nennella’s a try when we are in Naples next week!

  9. Frank and Brit

    Annie, thanks for the visit to Nennella. You made us hungry.

  10. Denise bell

    Thanks for telling us at our cooking class about Italian Notebook. I can get my daily Italy fix.

  11. Anellina

    Yes, Annie you made me hungry….and I’m missing Italy again …..AGAIN ..!

  12. Suzanne and Jack

    Dear Anne,
    We took your recommendation and visited Naples when we were in Italy in 2011. We so grateful for your advice; what an amazing place! Your article brings it all back. Thank you.

  13. Sarah E Grimes

    Anne is the greatest. She really knows the ins and out in Italy and can take you to such interesting places as highlighted in above commentary on Naples. Perfect tour guide to use in such a fascinating country as Italy.

  14. Anne’s delightful article brought back fond memories of my brief visit to Napoli. How well I remember walking along a street when I came to a simple lilttle window through which a young lady was selling slices of pizza. My brother and I could not resist, as the aroma drew us closer. Fantastico! I’ve not had pizza that good since that day. Stories like this one keep those precious memories alive. Grazie.

  15. Sarah Walters

    Ah, as usual, mouth watering photos of food and pics of the locals! Anne, you make all of Italy so welcoming. . .I cannot wait to get there again!


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