Step off the street and into this appealing 'little Italy'
Traffic was heavy, but for once, parking was easy, on a hilly street opposite the Napoli Centro Pizzeria, that opened on Glossop Road five months ago.
That was a great start, and the smiling welcome to the compact and cheerful Italian venue only added to the expectation of a pleasant experience.
Federica Pastorelli is a Sheffield University student who spotted a job ad in the window of the pizzeria earlier this year.
From a village just outside Naples herself, she applied for and got the job, clearly loves it there, and we enjoyed chatting to her about her homeland, and its native food and drinks, between courses.
The rustic-style eatery belongs to Ricardo Castagno, who works there himself, and has flour, cheeses, herbs and other ingredients sent over from Naples every week to use in his pizzas and salads.
Watching him lift pizzas from the yawning oven at the rear of the restaurant, with the aromas, the authentic decor, and flowing conversations all around, I could easily believe myself to be in Italy itself.
The menu is effectively simple, and if you like cheese, you will love it here.
We shared some traditional street food from Naples for starters, frittatine with bucatini pasta, bechamel sauce, peas and smoked mozzarella, which was deliciously cheesy and quite filling.
Mozzarelline fritti – deep fried mozzarella balls, were devoured quickly too, rolled in breadcrumbs but with plenty of flavour.
For mains, I had the recommended Salsiccia e friarelli, with smoked provola cheese, Italian fennel sausage, wild broccoli and a touch of chilli.
At first taste, I feared the fennel in the sausage might overwhelm, but it wasn’t the case and I enjoyed the combination of dressings on the tastebuds.
The pizza base was not at all greasy, and substantial rather than thin and crisp, which is my preference. Servings are large – be warned.
Another chosen pizza was the Siciliana, with slow cooked aubergines, fresh ricotta cheese and mushrooms that blended superbly, I was told.
There are three salads to select from, and we went for one with Bufala Mozzarella – a beautiful cheese that appears as a creamy package on a bed of rocket, cherry tomatoes and basil…..lovely.
None of us could actually finish our pizzas completely, but that’s not a problem: Federica took the remainder and packaged them for us to take away for later consumption, should we ever feel hungry again.
As a side note, water was placed on the table when we first sat down, and was refilled twice without our asking.
When we were there, early on a weekday evening, the place was buzzing, and every table was taken (a couple was waiting for ours) when we left. But we were never hurried, and everyone, from a young family, to businessmen, a couple, and a group of friends, all seemed to be having a great time.
Sweets are not a feature. There are none on the menu but we were offered tiramisu – sadly we were too full.
Pizza prices range from £5.50 for the Marinara to £9.50 for Sole Mio. My Salsiccia e friarielli was £9.
There are wines and beers, cocktails, and a range of coffees. The espresso was richly satisfying. One friend tried Amaro, an Italian liqueur with Sambuca, and relished it.
For a two-course meal for three, including drinks, the bill came to £52.30. And we would go again.