Returning from Bellagio after a day out on picturesque Lake Como, we alighted at the ferry wharf and crossed the road from the lake front to Piazza Cavour. On the trip down the lake we had decided on a recommended pizzeria for dinner, and just needed to find it.
While Kent was using Google maps on his phone searching for Napule è Lago Ristorante Pizzeria, one of the local pizzerias suggested by our B&B host. There we were in the piazza still, with many elderly couples enjoying the evening sitting on the benches… Well being old fashioned myself, I simply decided to ask directions from a gentleman who seemed like a local. He gave me a friendly smile, waved his hand signing ‘no English’. However, a lady who sat on a nearby bench, a well-dressed, American actress Betty White look-alike nonna (I will call this lady Nonna from now on) sensed these two Como novices needed help. Nonna stood up from her bench, came over to us, took a look at the address (we knew it was not far), and she insisted taking us there herself! As travellers we had experienced acts of kindness but nothing quite like this…
This Nonna spoke absolutely no English, but it didn’t deter her from sharing her stories and thoughts with us, happily chatting away in Italian during our entire 8-minute walk together. We shared laughter and ‘sì’ with her even though we really had not a clue to what she was saying. This adorable Nonna took us right to the pizzeria’s front door. ‘Grazie mille!’ I kissed her on her cheeks. We couldn’t thank her enough. Well afterwards I regretted not asking Nonna‘s name and Kent for not taking a picture of this wonderfully kind lady.
Map not working for you? Find a nonna! That’s how we found the restaurant; now how was our recommended classic Italian food?
Our Shared Starter: La Pepata
Sure we had pizza in mind, however our waiter suggested that ‘today’s mussels are very good’, and we love mussels, so I ordered a starter to share. La Pepata – local mussels from the Gulf of Oristano, in a lemon and black pepper broth. And it tasted as good as it sounded. The mussels were fresh, juicy and meaty – thanks for the suggestion! What made the hero shine was that lemony and peppery broth, I could have easily drank a bowl of it, well in fact I kind of did. So delicious! Kent also agreed it was a delightful dish to start with.
Kent’s Pizza: Pancetta E Genovese Confit
Kent had his first pizza in Australia many many years ago; whereas I myself can’t remember whether it was Taipei or Perth that I had my first pizza, but we have had plenty more since… We were eager to try at least once the authentic Neapolitan wood-fired pizza. Well we were not actually going to Napoli so this Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN) certified pizzeria in Como may be as close to the original and as authentic as we might find on this trip.
Kent’s choice from the ‘Our Recipes’ menu: based with mixed onion jam prepared with an ancient traditional Neapolitan recipe, rolled local pancetta (kind of bacon); mozzarella cheese from Agerola, Grana Padano DOP flakes (parmesan) and extra virgin olive oil. He really enjoyed the quality and combination of the ingredients.
My Pizza: Napoli
Yes I went for the classic Napoli Pizza with tomato, mozzarella cheese; anchovies from Tirreno, black olives; oregano and extra virgin olive oil. Apparently, the cooking of a Neapolitan pizza is all about managing moisture and, the centre of a pizza should be almost soupy. My crispy-edged pizza did have a soupy centre; in fact, somewhat moister than those contemporary Italian pizzas in Australia.
Did I enjoy it? I did appreciated the generosity of mozzarella cheese and my pizza base was blissfully thin which I love. Kent and I both valued the undoubtable experience of true Neapolitan pizzas. That said, we both felt that the style of pizza cooking has really moved on in the last 20 years and felt, well that we probably prefer the new school over the old! Clearly, our mussel starter was the big winner for me.
Beer For Kent; Limoncello For me
After a glass of Prosecco with my meal, I ordered a glass of Lemoncello at the end of our dinner. Kent went for another glass of local beer. Since Lemoncello is hard to find in Australia, I tried to indulge in it and it’s local varieties as much as I could while in Italy.
A Foodie’s Note
The ambience of dining at Napule è Lago is casual, but not too casual, as it is a licensed restaurant and it provides nicely starched linen napkins. Although it is a lakeside dining choice, there’s no lake view even when you choose to sit outdoors. When we were there in September, it was a pleasant late summer evening so it was great sitting outside enjoying the fresh air… Until a storm blew in in the middle of our meal. We happened to sit right under the edge of the awning and so we asked to move to another table. Of course there was no drama at all to do so and Kent thought it was all part of the fun of alfresco dining.
The price is quite reasonable and the food is authentic and good. Besides our full stomachs, we walked away with a €5 umbrella we purchased from a savvy street vendor. This navy-blue umbrella served us all the way to the end of our Northern Italy journey! The next day we headed down to Piazza Cavour again, in the hope of finding our gracious Nonna, to say thank you and maybe get a shot as a keepsake… We didn’t find her, but if you see her, please say thank you again from Kent and myself.