It’s February in Rome and I’m longing for the sea, sun and seafood of Naples. I’m transported to a steamy July day spent eating our way around the city. We were on the hunt for off-the-beaten-path spots but when a dear Neapolitan friend said “You have to visit Borgo Marinari, it’s picturesque and there is one trattoria that I eat at despite it being surrounded by touristy restaurants”. I was sold.
The historic ‘O Tabbaccaro is a short walk from Castel dell’Ovo in Naples. The name ‘O Tabbaccaro speaks to its beginnings. It was a tobacco shop back in 1920. As the shop passed from generation to generation and the neighborhood evolved, it became a trattoria offering classic seafood dishes in a very simple setting (plastic chairs and green, blue and white checkered tablecloths). We were the first people to arrive for dinner. The waiter happily sat us at the water’s edge. My eyes were drawn to the main entrance, next to which was a white six-foot tall rectangular backlit menu with names of dishes dancing in mint green cursive. Plates included impepata di cozze (peppery mussel stew), spaghetti a’ vongole (spaghetti with clams), and frittura di pesce (fried mixed fish platter).
We started with the legendary Zuppa di Cozze e Polpo (mussels and octopus stew) served over friselle. I had a sense of déjà vu as I broke through the friselle. The hard and crispy bread, usually made from durum wholemeal flour, was one of my favorite childhood snacks. At Nonni Aliberti’s house, we’d top them with fresh tomatoes, basil and olive oil. They were perfect for soaking up the seafood stew of tender octopus and plump mussels.
We shared a sweet clam sauté. I love the simple final touch of freshly torn parsley tossed over seafood. The heat releases the green aroma in waves of flavor.
Sigh, I ordered Purptielli alla Luciana just for me. Made with small moscardini or larger veraci octopus, the quality and freshness of the octopus and cooking skills are key to this traditional dish. A pond of sweet cooked summer tomatoes, savory olives and a hint of chili pepper engulfs the-melt-in-your-mouth mollusks. I sopped up the sauce with crusty bread then I ordered fresh fruit and un caffè before the ride home.
When springtime temperatures arrive and outdoor tables appear, ‘O Tabbaccaro can accommodate more than 50 guests but don’t fret if you visit in winter because they have indoor seating for about 25 guests.
Via Luculliana 28
Tel. +39 081 764 63 52
Open for lunch from 1:00 pm and dinner from 8:00 pm
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.