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Chef owner Angela Gargiulo calls her restaurant Buatta a trattoria di conversazione – a “conversation eatery.” Tucked in a peaceful corner of Vomero, the Neapolitan shopping district, Buatta is “…a conversation restaurant in the true sense of the word,” Angela tells us. “After cooking, and now that I have excellent collaborators [to help] in the kitchen, I have time to sit next to my customers; I talk to them at the table about the strangest things; it’s as if they came over to my house.” Little by little, the restaurant (whose name, Buatta, from the French boite, is a Neapolitan word that means “jar”) has become a destination for those who love simple and quality cuisine, and for those who love to chat.

Angela, now 52 years old, has brought Buatta to life with the help of her three daughters, Maria Giulia, Sofia, and Eleonora. She had attended the Filippo Palizzi Naples art institute in Naples and worked as a potter, and cooked only as a hobby. A friend of Angela’s – her lawyer – opened a restaurant in Vomero in the summer of 2012; after only three months, the lawyer realized that the operation was very complex and so he asked her to help him in the kitchen. She swapped her pottery tools for kitchen utensils, and on December 12, 2012, the unexpected happened: her friend decided to give up the project and leave this adventure in the hands of the ceramist – now the cook.

Since that day, Angela has considered 12 a magical number. For the past ten years, Buatta has held fast as a charming antidote to the city’s fast food options – here, customers can enjoy traditional Neapolitan cuisine in peace, without ever paying attention to the clock. There are forty seats inside, surrounded by wine bottles on the walls, a fireplace and a permanent nativity scene. In summer, outdoor tables fill the small Vomerese road, an oasis of peace and tranquility. “I hope that this little street will soon become a pedestrian area,” Angela said. “In fact, wait…you too, come and sign the petition to the municipality,” and she makes me sign a paper.

Angela’s signature dish is the Genovese, a dish that we find in dozens and dozens of Neapolitan trattorias, “but here, it is very special, because in addition to meat and onions I put all my passion into it,” she says. “You know that Voiello pasta, a famous brand, has awarded this dish in a national contest. And do you know that my Genovese is now also exported to Japan? Yes, a Japanese gastronomic magazine, Italiazuki, has chosen my Genovese to make a Genovese sauce in a jar,” Angela tells us proudly.

We try two other staples of the restaurant: pasta and potatoes with friarielli (broccoli rabe), an extraordinary invention of Angela’s, followed by the spaghetti with lemon, anchovies and pecorino cheese.

She brings me the mythological meat chop, braciole, one of the secondi piatti which is still made in the ancient way with raisins, pine nuts, garlic, parsley and pecorino cheese. Also among the main dishes here at Angela’s, one cannot ignore the baccalà (cod). “The baccalá here is made in all ways: roasted, in casserole, with papaccelle (a particular type of Neapolitan sweet pepper), endive, chickpeas…but I will let you try it in a very special way,” she says and she brings out a baccalá parmigiana, brilliantly made up of cod slices instead of aubergine.

And then the soups: there are many variations available every day, each made with seasonal vegetables. “I love soups, a humble but very tasty food. My favorite soup is the lentils and broccoli soup, the same one loved by the Neapolitan philosopher Aldo Masullo, who frequented this restaurant,” Angela tells us. “Unfortunately, he died in 2021. He said to me: ‘Angela, you are capable of transforming food that was born poor into a noble dish.’” She takes this chance to add, “Aurelio de Laurentiis, the film producer and owner of Napoli soccer team, also came here to get the braciola chop. And Renzo Arbore, the ambassador of the Neapolitan song in the world, adores my Genovese.”

Despite all the high-profile testimonials, Buatta remains a “backstreet” eatery, with very reasonable prices. One great thing is that customers aren’t charged cover, bread and service here, as is customary at many restaurants across Italy. The wines are regional, all from Campania, and include small producers such as our beloved Cantina La Sibilla and the San Salvatore del Cilento winery.

He said to me: “Angela, you are capable of transforming food that was born poor into a noble dish.”

Just opposite the restaurant, in the narrow alleyway, Angela has realized another little dream: Angelina, “the living room of Buatta,” a delicious tea room serving homemade desserts. Some tables inside and some on the street. The coffee is made in the old way, with the cuccuma, the traditional Neapolitan coffee maker. Angelina’s desserts and dozens of cakes are all displayed on the table and all worth tasting. If you don’t have time for lunch or dinner, we still recommend stopping at Angelina’s for brunch. But nothing compares to dining and chatting by the fireplace with Angela Gargiulo.

This article was originally published on May 18, 2022.

Gianni Cipriano and Sara Smarrazzo

Published on November 06, 2023

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