Saturday, December 4, 2010

2010 Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise on the Seabourn Odyssey - Finding Pizza and What It Means to "Travel"

After an incredible Food & Wine Tasting on the Seabourn Odyssey yesterday, I was faced with another visit to one of my least favorite ports: Naples, Italy...and it is the last day of our cruise.  There has to be something interesting to do, but what?

As it is November, taking a ferry to Capri is a limited option, but let's face it Capri in November is closed.  On a Sunday it is really closed.  Sorrento is also an option, but once again it is effectively closed.  Pompeii for a couple of hours is a possibility, but to just do it to do something didn't feel right.  I mean we have had such a great experience the past few days we needed to "travel"; not be a tourist checking off things.

For all of you that shun the port representative that comes in...or just say, "Tell me what there is to do"...let me tell you want I did.  I said, "Listen, I know Capri is closed and Sorrento is closed because it is a Sunday in November.  Pompeii is not an option.  So I want to do what the locals do AND I want to have true Neapolitan pizza.  Help me!"

On Sunday the shops are open until noon, so we head to Via Toledo to stroll the streets in search of who knows.  On the way we stop at Galleria Umberto, an architectural wonder of a shopping mall.

Once we arrived at the Via Toledo we saw dozens of hawkers selling knock-off pocketbooks next to actual fashion shops next to cheap, imitation fashion shops...and lots of people. 

I stopped in a bakery to sample some Neapolitan pastries; as one does in Naples.

After a good wander - watching the Nigerian hawkers pick up their counterfeit wares when the police drive by and then putting them back down after they leave, we headed off to find the perfect pizza.

Now, how to find the perfect pizza?  This is the key:  I asked the port representative where he goes for pizza after a night out on the town.  He said it was a bit out of the way, and I shouldn't be put off by the name, Amore y Fantasia (Love and Fantasy), but the pizza was excellent.

So we walked away from the shopping area, past some beautiful plazas and then took a right turn...into the real Naples.  Garbage was piled everywhere.  Graffiti was abundant.  People were not.  After walking a while, just when we thought we were never going to find the place, a local told us it was just on the left.  And there it was.

Now I do not know about you, but when you walk into a place that looks like this:

you just know that you are going to get pizza that looks like this:

But there was so much that made me love this place.  It was pretty early for Naples on a Sunday (about 1PM), so the restaurant was just open.  The people were very nice, spoke very little English, and were most concerned about getting the football (soccer) match on the projection television.

The manager comes over, complete in a dark purple shirt and black tie, and "recommends" bufalo mozzarella and tomatoes (Caprese salad) and another appetizer.  We weren't really that hungry, but when a big guy in a dark purple shirt and black tie "recommends" you order something...well, you order it. 

A bottle of local wine (OK, twist my arm) and a couple of local beers and we started watching the football match between Genova (Genoa) and Juventus.  With Juventus playing great it seemed the team to support...until we looked at the faces of the staff. Oops!   Wrong team.  Go Genova!!!

It was then time for Pizza.  And, as you saw, it was great.  Everything you imagine it is supposed to be: a light, crisp yet chewy crust, fresh tomato and stringy, gooey and flavorful cheese...all with a smoky overnote.  (Sounds like wine tasting notes, doesn't it?)

We were pleasantly full...mission accomplished, but (and isn't there always a but) our purple shirted/black tied friend came over and "recommended" a dessert sampler.  OK, he was right.  It was fantastic.  So good, in fact, that getting a photograph of it wasn't even an option!

Yes, folks, that is what "traveling" is all about.  You find the locals, get off the beaten path, go around the piles of garbage, deal with the purple shirted/black tied manager, root for the wrong football team and enjoy the ambiance and cuisine that the locals do.   What a great time...and in Naples, one of my least favorite ports.

It was then a nice, needed, long walk back to the Seabourn Odyssey where, in utter insult, our luggage was set out on our bed.  I am not doing it!  I headed to the forward whirlpool for a 2 hour soak with my friend.  It started raining.  But we endured and loved it.

It was then time for sail-away.  I am still not packing!

It was then time to get ready for dinner.  OK, I better start packing.

One last wonderful dinner and Sommelier Karen was there with a special bottle of wine for us...of course after I had selected a wasabi coated tuna steak.  Perfect.

And that was a great end to a truly fantastic 2010 Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise.