Tonino, who works the sala, is the kind of Neapolitan restaurant owner I love: so welcoming you feel like you've been friends for years, anxious to show you every corner of the restaurant and share every detail of the manicaretti (tasty delicacies) they are preparing.
The interior of the half century old Leon d'Oro is simple and brightly lit, with checked table cloths and. Inside the pizza oven flanks the kitchen and one of the dining areas. We didn't try the pizza only because we had already decided on other dishes. When a soccer game is on the waiters have half an eye on the game, but still manage to take good care of the customers. And if Naples is playing, well.....
Seafood abounds in Naples and we'd seen some scrumptious looking fresh clams at the market earlier in the day so that was an easy and obvious first choice.
We ordered the eggplant parmesan after our pasta. The eggplant was cooked to perfection with just the right amount of fresh buffalo mozzarella & provolone cheese and a delicate tomato sauce.
A typical Neapolitan dish is the frittata: spaghetti, eggs, tomato sauce and parmesan or pecorino cheese pan fried in a large, deep frying pan and served sliced. Tonino brought it out just as we were finishing our eggplant and served us a slice to try: such a simple dish but wonderfully flavorful.
Based on our experience the first night we decided to have our final lunch at Leon d'Oro and Tonino was clearly pleased to see us again. We had a chard and bean soup and pasta genovese. Genovese is a slow cooked ragu' made from the muscolo cut of meat, frequently pork. It's cooked for hours with olive oil, tomatoes and lots of onions and then served with a short cut bucatini. Often the meat is broken up into pieces or, as in this case, served as one piece.
We finished with mandarini and freshly made graffette, a sugar-coated donut-like dessert made with almost equal parts potatoes and flour, served by our affable waiter Giuseppe.
We left Naples with a freshly baked loaf of bread in hand to take back to Rome and an invitation to come back to cook with Salvatore. In Naples these are not just pleasantries but solid invitations.Although Naples can be crazy and disorderly, Neapolitans are some of the warmest and genuine people I've come across in my travels.