Arrival at Capodichino, Naples’ airport early in the morning. The taxi that takes me to the city center goes as fast as if it were in a car race or as if it were the only one on the road. Actually all cars around us are as fast as that! “Welcome to Naples”, I say to myself. I ask the taxi driver to take me to the central train station, Stazione Napoli Centrale, instead of driving to the apartment I have booked. I’m determined to have for breakfast Neapolitans’ favourite sweet, the famous sfogliatella napoletana and Attanasio that makes the best version is only a few steps away from the station.
I drag my suitcase on the narrow, cobblestone alleys, walk across a local fruit market and feel impatient and hungry. I turn on the street of my destination while a light rain has start falling. Suddenly, a long queue that stretches all the way down the street appears in front of me! What’s going on? The tantalizing smell of freshly baked pastries gives me the answer. After a while, I manage to enter. The bakery is small and crowded. Tourists, locals, young and old ones, frenzy. I get a ticket and pay for two sfogliatelle. A big, bright board shows the numbers changing, a lady and a young man shout loudly for the next customer, while loaded trays of hot pastries keep coming out of the lab. Everybody asks for one to eat right there and takes away a whole package. Trays empty literally every 1-2’. I look around, observing the space and see their motto written on beautifully painted ceramics: “ O’ mare, o’ Vesuvio e e’ sfogliatelle “.
As my turn is approaching I get anxious… Will there by enough for everyone? How many is each taking? How much longer shall I wait, I’m already queuing for 45΄! I’m next…The young man looks at the receipt and asks me something I would only understand in the coming days: “sfogliatella frolla o riccia?”. These are the two kind of sfogliatella, depending on whether it’s made with crust or phyllo pastry. Having no idea which is which, I just show him. He winks and offers me two taralli, the classic, savory Neapolitan bagels. Typical Italian, north or south some things never change!
With my hot sfogliatelle in hand, I get out on the street. The rain is more intense now but the queue is steadily long. I find a shed to cover from the rain and open my small package. “What a strange, elaborate shape”, I think. Numerous phyllo pastries, like small envelops that each is coming out of the other one. I try it and burn my fingers. I also burn my mouth but I want to try. I’ve read so much about this much loved sweet creation! Inside, the filling is a rich cream made of ricotta cheese and semolina with an intense citrus fragrant, pure heaven. I didn’t even realise eating the first one, I’ll slowly enjoy the second. Why on earth did I only get two??? I begin to understand why everyone leaves with a whole package…
In the following days, sfogliatella established as my daily pleasure. And even if I didn’t make it back to Attanasio, luckily there was La Sfogliatella Mary in the city center. Right on Galleria Umberto I’s exit towards the busy commercial avenue Via Torino, a tiny shop, like a canteen, with delicious sfogliatelle and some more traditional sweets. Low prices, hot sfogliatelle straight out of the oven and people queuing. There, I also found a chocolate version. I didn’t try it. I remained faithful to the original one. And the dilemma “sfogliatella frolla o riccia” didn’t even exist anymore as I got both. Every single time!