The Naples Jaunt 3: Swiss Army Knife Cooking

Posted January 5th, 2017

our street on a brighter morning

I don’t want to be unduly critical of Casa Futura Retrò at vicolo Pietra del Pesce in Salerno, 2. It’s charming, decorated with a modern sensibility (and old photos of kissing couples in the bedroom). I love the gated stair with terracotta tiles that leads to the front entry. The space is lovely, with a large living room and a cozy bedroom decorated with some appealing antique store/thrift store finds. The en suite bathroom (as the advertisements like to say) includes a clothes washer. CFR has free Wi-Fi and the efficient kitchen includes a vast refrigerator.

on the waterfront

The location is great. It’s only a couple-minutes’ walk to the Lungomare Trieste. The neighborhood is crowded with restaurants, cafés, boutiques, shops of every kind.

And somebody is setting off fireworks in the alley. Left over from New Year’s no doubt.

CFR also has a spectacular wine shop across the street. Literally. I look out the balcony doors in the living room to see if they are open. Enoteca Porta Di Mare, via Porta di Mare, 15. They are open Salerno hours, sometimes in the day, often in the evening. I fretted all day, peering through the doors, waiting for them to open. But chiuso, chiuso, chiuso. Then around 5:30, aperto. Flew down the steps, through the gate and picked up three bottles of Prunetto, Barbera d’Alma, 2015.  Clearly something “ordinary,” maybe not quite the Chateau Thames Embankment preferred by Rumpole of the Bailey, but ordinary, except that it is extraordinarily good. And cheap at 8.90 euros a bottle. That’s under a sawbuck give or take the day’s exchange rate. Bought three more bottles.

The devil, however, for a “self-catering apartment,” is in the details.

There are no instructions here for anything.

The expected sheet with Wi-Fi password and various injunctions provides the password and says take the trash out but doesn’t say to where or provide information about recycling. It requests that tenants clean up after themselves, but I had to search for a broom, a mop and cleaning supplies.

It is pointed out that co-owner Nadia is quite the gardener and has decorated with plants; if we think we should, would be please water them? Except that there is no watering pot that I can find.

dinner underway

The biggest issue for me is the kitchen. For us, the point of renting an apartment is being able to cook. Fix a nice breakfast. Shop for yummies for supper. In this apartment, did I not carry a Swiss Army Knife, we’d starve to death.

I’ve had that knife since about 1975. I never travel without it. In fact, I rarely leave home without it. And it helped me earn a graduate degree in art history when slides were things one slipped into a projector one at a time, and the projectors were constantly getting jammed. The knife has a couple of screwdrivers.

But I digress.

Here’s a partial list of things I would expect to find and didn’t, in alphabetical order:

  • All-purpose chef’s type kitchen knife
  • Can opener
  • Cheese grater
  • Cutting board
  • Dish towels
  • Napkins
  • Paper towels
  • Paring knife
  • Potholders
  • Tea kettle or English-style electric kettle
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Working corkscrew

And that doesn’t include the comestibles (tea bags, mustard, pepper, vinegar) that are easily and cheaply provided and an expensive annoyance to buy.

Good thing we didn’t go for that can of tomatoes My Dear One was considering. I haven’t used the can opener on the Swiss Army knife in years. Not sure I still know how to do it.

Swiss Army Knife cooking

Swiss Army Knife Cooking

Dinner was skinny tubes of pasta, tossed with zucchini and garlic I sautéed in olive oil, and topped with nuggets of parmesan. Pretty darned good if I do say so myself.

I crunched the pepper corns on the sink top with the back of a spoon. Yes, they went everywhere and the grind was, uh, coarse. (Next day I discovered that the bottom of a wine bottle in one of the large mugs works better, sort of like mortar and pestle.) I sliced garlic and zucchini with the Swiss Army knife after opening the wine with it. Then I shaved bits of parmesan (that lovely lovely parm aged for 36 months we bought on via del Duomo) with the knife, too.

I’ll leave an honest evaluation of this adorable apartment when we leave—and include the short fallings.

If they upgrade the kitchen furnishings and provide a little more information for the renters, Casa Futura Retro is going to be a thriving business.  I think Vincenzo and Nadia might be newish owners.

I hope the input helps.



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