Naples is full of folklore, traditional rituals and food—from caffè sospeso to pizza Napoletana–but let’s not forget the so-called sugo alla genovese. Despite its name this classic, hearty ragu sauce has no connection with Genoa nor Bologna. Genovese is based on carne alla glassa, which is a prime cut of beef that is cooked for hours over a fuoco dolce (sweet flame) until tender. Onion, carrot, celery, parsley, olive oil, butter, lard and prosciutto cotto (ham) are thrown into the mix along with white wine. The reduced, tasty liquid makes a sauce for different pasta dishes. For the genovese, sausages and salami are often included with piles of golden onions cooked in wine to make a dense deep-colored sauce. The succulent beef is sometimes served on its own as the main course.
At the start of winter, I crave comfort food like pasta alla genovese served in a warm and welcoming family run osteria. There’s something about simple delicious flavors combined with Neapolitan hospitality that makes my heart sing. Entering into Osteria La Mattonella you’ll experience what owners Antonietta and her son Massimo have to offer: just this exact combination. In Naples welcoming guests is a given. Neapolitans are known for their ability to make everyone feel like part of the family, no matter where they might come from. This accoglienza, plus the amazing home-cooked food at Osteria La Mattonella, is what the Marangio family is famous for.
A stone’s throw above the fashionable Chiaia district lies the Quartieri Spagnoli or Spanish quarters which doesn’t deserve its unsavory notoriety. It was named so because Spanish garrisons were housed there in the 16th century to help keep the peace. Take the hidden lift beside Ponte di Chiaia and step back in time. Photos of the beloved Neapolitan actor Totò and hand painted tiles from the early 18th century line the walls of the restaurant. La Mattonella started out as a ‘Vini e Oli’ (a shop which sold bulk wine and olive oil) before becoming the historical osteria of today where the Marangio family serves simple classics including–you guessed it–the flavor packed pasta alla genovese. The family recipe for genovese uses a mix of white, yellow and Tropea onions and a few cherry tomatoes in addition to the commonly cited ingredients.
Start with an appetizer of mozzarella fritta (breaded and fried mozzarella cheese), crocché di patate (potato croquettes) and involtini di melanzane (eggplant roulettes stuffed with provola cheese and salami). Then order the pasta alla genovese, pasta e ceci (pasta with chickpeas) or lenticche e friarelli (lentils and broccoli rabe) as a first course.
Enjoy and be sure to say hello to Antonietta and Massimo from us!
Osteria La Mattonella in Naples
Via Giovanni Nicòtera 13
Tel. +39 081 416541 – email@example.com
Open every day for lunch and dinner from 12:30 – 15:00 and 19:00 – 23:00
Closed Sunday evening
Gina Tringali – food lover, certified sommelier, coffee connoisseur, and passionate home cook – is a successful freelance food and travel writer and blogger based between Rome and Southern Italy. She is committed to discovering and sharing with fellow food enthusiasts Italy’s best culinary and wine experiences.