What to eat in Naples when you’ve had enough pizza and pasta
Pol sambol, seeni sambol, string hoppers, egg hoppers, hodi, dhal, devilled chicken, fish curry, fish rolls, mutton rolls, egg rotis, chicken rotis…………….. I could go on and on about the foods I dream of eating from my days of living in Sri Lanka, but you are probably wondering why I am getting nostalgic about coconut and chili laced foods when I am writing about Naples.
So let me explain how our trip to Museo di Capodimonte (info) resulted in us gorging on a real Sri Lankan lunch of rice, dhal, chicken curry and pol sambol, and leaving heavily laden with a selection of short eats (which is what Sri Lankans call snacks like mutton rolls and egg rotis). Wandering around the neighbourhood in which we were staying, Chiaia, we had already seen evidence of a Sri Lankan community, such as posters in Sinhala. Now this might not be particularly exciting for the usual tourist in Naples, but having a Sri Lankan mother and having met my husband and married there, any evidence of Sri Lanka just makes us feel a little more at home and brings back some very happy memories.
[image by Naomi Tomki, see an introduction to Sri Lankan cuisine]
Just a little background as to why there is such a strong Sri Lankan community in Naples. Sri Lankans began to move to Italy in the 1970s in the search of employment, as it seemed easier to find there than in other European countries. It was initially Catholic women that came to work in homes for the elderly as well as Tamils that were migrating. In the 1990s the Sinhalese also began to migrate and it is now estimated that of the more than 50,000 Sri Lankans in Italy somewhere between 70% and 90% are Sinhalese. In Naples there are over 3,000 Sri Lankans with a stay permit and possibly over 8,000 including the undocumented Sri Lankan migrants. The numbers are so rough because alongside the legal migration into Italy there are also many examples of illegal migration. The links below provide a little more information about Sri Lankans in Italy and why they chose to leave their homeland.
- PDF The Sri Lankan Diaspora in Italy, Ranjith Henayaka-Lochbihler
- the rise and fall of Sri Lankan undocumented migration to Italy
Therefore you can imagine our sense of nostalgia and joy when getting off the subway at Piazza Cavour and hearing conversations in Sinhala and seeing more of the distinctive curly wurly text. Soon that joy turned to elation when we realised that with this amount of Sri Lankans in the area we must be able to find somewhere to tuck into some delicious rice and curry.
Our hunt began with a tri-lingual conversation with some men from Negombo that led us downhill on Piazza Cavour before turning either right or left, where we would find a Sri Lankan restaurant on the corner. However after about 12 minutes of walking we turned back and were slightly worried we were not going to get the lunch we now craved.
However we were not totally without hope and Niek used the Italian he’d acquired over the last 2 weeks and his admirable acting skills to ask another passer-by if they knew of this not so easy to find restaurant.
I can now happily tell you that the apparently elusive restaurant was in fact incredibly easy to find, definitely won’t break the bank and was everything we dreamed of. If you find yourselves in Naples, jump on the metro to Stazione Piazza Cavour, then head downhill on Piazza Cavour and take the first left (which is almost immediately) and about 2 or 3 shops in you will find this source of deliciousness. I was close to tears of happiness whilst eating my rice, dhal and chicken curry with pol sambol, and hearing the boy behind the counter being called ‘Mali’ (a term used by everyone, not just family members, that means ‘younger brother’).
If this post has left you with a grumbling stomach and you’re not in Sri Lanka or Naples then follow this link for some delicious Sri Lankan recipes!
if you’re in Naples and don’t want to eat another pizza or pasta: