To find Attanasio, you must negotiate your way past the African vendors, wheelie-bag tourists and seemingly interminable building works that surround Naples’ railway station. By the time you reach this unassuming side-street bakery, you’ll have worked up an appetite for its sfogliatelle, succulent, ricotta-filled pastries that locals swear are the best in town. There are two kinds: the riccia, resembling a Venus clam, and the more modest-looking pebble known as frolla. The queue is long but the service fast. Suddenly you have one of each, dusted in sugar, warm and weighty in your palm.
You bite into the riccia first. A crunchy exterior, made from overlapping ribbons of filo-like pastry, quickly turns into something densely chewy, before yielding to a hot, sweet ricotta filling, scented with cinnamon, vanilla and candied citrus. In a spirit of scientific enquiry, you turn to the frolla. The thin shortcrust pastry exoskeleton—only just capable of holding its abundant filling—fragments in buttery abandon. You have no choice but to wolf it down. It leaves you stickily overwhelmed, yet longing for more.
And there are so many more. Every few minutes, tattooed bakers remove fresh batches from the ovens. The wiriest of the team is Francesco Attanasio, who, with his brother Raffaele, runs the business their grandfather set up in 1930. “Nothing has changed,” he says. “We use the same secret family recipe and the same suppliers as 90 years ago, and our ingredients are locally produced to our specifications. Even our kitchen staff are all descendants of the original team.”
Though best eaten hot from the oven, Attanasio’s sfogliatelle can, according to Francesco, be kept for up to 40 hours—provided you reheat them before eating. But who would know? They rarely get more than yards beyond the exit. ~ Isabel Best
€1.20 each; sfogliatelleattanasio.it