The Neapolitan stairs are ancient urban routes that connect the upper city (the Vomero district) to the lower city (the historic center). The most famous of these stairs is the Pedamentina di San Martino, a staircase of 414 steps dating back to the 14th century, which starts from the old center and reaches the Castel Sant’Elmo, on the Vomero hill. Along the way there are beautiful panoramic views of Naples.
One reason to walk these Neapolitan stairs (besides the views) is to look for Totò Eduardo E Pasta E Fagioli, an old tavern with an amazing terrace overlooking historic Naples. The name is dedicated to two great masters of Neapolitan theater and cinema: Totò (Antonio de Curtis) and Eduardo de Filippo. The idea was Mario Bianchini’s, the father of the trattoria’s two current owners, the dynamic brothers Francesco and Gaetano. “Dad was a lover of Neapolitan theater and culture, and he also wanted to pay homage to his wife, Rosaria De Curtis, a distant relative of Totò, the most famous actor in the history of Naples,” says Francesco Bianchini.
Today, Corso Vittorio Emanuele, the bustling street that’s home to Totò Eduardo, is certainly not the pleasant place it was decades ago. Here, traffic is king, but the tavern offers a quiet, truly unexpected corner of paradise. In the 1920s, the spot was home to a winery. By the ’70s, Mario – with help from his sons and their mother Rosaria – had taken over the place and introduced a tavern with a menu based on traditional Neapolitan dishes. “Dad was an extraordinary cook, old-fashioned,” says Gaetano, “a cook who had learned the art from his mother, Anna.”
After 50 years, the tavern is a point of reference to test real Neapolitan specialties. Which is all well and good, but we must highlight once more its other strong point: the terrace.
Upon sitting, the waiters immediately recommend a classic Neapolitan appetizer: a mixed fry composed of panzarotti (potato croquettes), arancini (rice balls) and pizzas montanare (fried mini pizzas with tomato and basil). But the most popular dish at the tavern is definitely the pasta and potatoes with provola cheese. In this carb-heavy entrée, different varieties of pasta are mixed together, a much-loved format in Naples. The potatoes become a cream that blankets the pasta with the provola as well as Parmesan and pecorino cheeses, and a hint of spice. Another very simple but delicious dish is pasta and chickpeas, cooked in the old style with some chickpeas partly whole and others almost reduced to a puree. Then there’s the restaurant’s other namesake – the pasta and beans, made in the same style as the chickpeas. Obviously, you can’t have a Neapolitan tavern without the two classic ragù sauces: white (Genovese with onions) and red (simple tomato). We meet Luca Frassinetti, a professor at Vanvitelli University, who has come to Totò Eduardo just to order takeaway ragù. “I love the Genovese of this trattoria,” he says. “I take it already cooked and enjoy it at home.”
Then, of course, there are classic side dishes (which, in reality, are complete meals) of Neapolitan cuisine: eggplant Parmigiana, stuffed peppers and zucchini, and eggplant scarpone. Our recommendation, however, is the scarpariello, a pasta dish of Neapolitan origin – easy, fast and very tasty with cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and pecorino. The word scarpariello comes from scarpa (shoe) and means cobbler. In the old days, cobblers were often paid for their work through bartering with pecorino cheese. Then, at lunch time, they would prepare a quick pasta using the pecorino they had received as payment.
After 50 years, the tavern is a point of reference to test real Neapolitan specialties. Which is all well and good, but we must highlight once more its other strong point: the terrace. The best time to enjoy it is sunset, when the sun illuminates the profile of Vesuvius. From the street, it’s hard to picture that just on the other side of the building there is such a romantic, intimate place – a spot that especially during the week is even more private thanks to a warm-weather terrace that can accommodate up to 70 people. Even inside are two delicious wooden dining rooms with about 50 seats. A group of 12 Florentines are enjoying the color of Vesuvius in the evening during our visit. “When we are in Naples, we love coming here,” says one of them. “This is a real Neapolitan trattoria.”
Another suggestion is to come during lunch, it’s the ideal time to enjoy the outdoor seating. There aren’t as many people as this is not an area with many offices. In the evening, it is almost always crowded, so we recommend booking ahead. It’s family friendly, too – after all, there’s even a pizzeria.
Mario passed away in 2015, and the management was taken on by his sons. Many things have changed – the restaurant has grown quickly and the pizzeria was added, for example. But the identity of the place, one carefully curated by Mario, has remained the same: simplicity, genuineness and quality in quantity. And, of course, a mighty fine terrace.