Neapolitan lunch in Caianello (Caserta)

As we journey through Italy, our travels times depend on Georgia P’s napping and nursing schedule. And so we had to rely on the fates for a late lunch yesterday as we made our way from Montalcino to Melfi in Basilicata, where we slept in the shadow of Mt. Vulture last night.

Tracie P’s one desire was that we cross over into her beloved Campania from Latium before stopping for our repast.

We took the exit for Caianello not knowing that the gods would deliver us to the Ristorante Maracuja (Passionfruit), where manager Gennaro graciously offered to feed us despite the fact that his venue was host to parties celebrating a communion, a baptism, and a teenager’s birthday respectively.

As Tracie P likes to note, it’s difficult to eat badly in Campania. And while Ristorante Maracuja (at least in our experience) is a relatively humble banquet hall (complete with DJ that sings Fred Buscaglione and Dean Martin classics), its food was delicious.

The pièce de résistance was the cortecce with clams (above), thoroughly enjoyed by Georgia P as well.

The parsley in the stewed baby octopus was — hands down — the most flavorful I’d ever had and bordered on piquant. Italian gastronomy is unrivaled in its variety and its richness but no one — anywhere in the world — can compete with the materia prima of southern Italy.

The potatoes and mussels were — there’s no other way to say it — sublime. I would return just for this dish.

Little did we know that we had stumbled onto a corridor that hosts one of the most popular mozzarella mongers in Campania (even our friends in Basilicata knew of it).

This is the best photo of the Caseificio La Pagliara we took and this is the best listing that I can find.

Even at 4 p.m. on a Sunday, the line was literally 20 persons deep.

We didn’t want to wait that long since we had such a long trip and so we went to the Bottega dei Buoni Sapori down the road (I can’t find any listing). When Tracie P entered the shop, the owner said, “o, they must have already closed up the road.” That’s how good La Pagliara must be…

Today we plan to go up to Rio Nero (on Mt. Vulture) before heading to Lecce… Stay tuned! And thanks for reading! :)

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