cover image A Taste of Naples: Neapolitan Culture, Cuisine, and Cooking

A Taste of Naples: Neapolitan Culture, Cuisine, and Cooking

Marlena Spieler. Rowman & Littlefield, $38 (356p) ISBN 978-1-4422-5125-0

Food writer Spieler (Feeding Friends) passionately extols the food and culinary traditions of Naples. With its looming volcano of Vesuvius, overcrowding, and history of organized crime, the gritty city of Naples is often ignored in favor of touristy Tuscany and Rome. Yet Naples gave the world pizza, marinara sauce, and zeppole, Spieler writes, and she begins with an early history of the city, from the Greeks in the seventh century BCE (who named the city Neapolis, or new city) to Italy’s unification in 1860 under Giuseppe Garibaldi (many of his soldiers from the north had never tasted pasta). Spieler includes chapters on pasta and pizza, festivals and celebrations, the fruit and vegetables that flourish in volcanic soil, and “how to eat like a Neapolitan.” The heart of the book, though, is the city’s deeply embedded food culture, which Spieler explains is deeply intertwined with the penny-frugal but taste-rich habits of the poor: there are pages on the abundant San Marzano plum tomato (“fragrant, fleshy... and bright skin that peels off easily”) and also plenty about pasta, such as linguine alle vongole, “one of the most iconic dishes.” Her enthusiasm and knowledge will likely inspire travelers to Italy to add a stop on their trip. (Dec.)