I chose a Saturday afternoon smack in the middle of the holiday season to take a walk through one of Napoli's snazzy chic parts of town. A crispy clear cold sunny day, you know - the kind that Naples is famous for this time of year. I chose that particular Saturday to take an early afternoon stroll, window shop, but most importantly - have lunch at Staj Noodle Bar.
Staj - opened up last June and is noted as the first (and only) noodle bar in Naples. To some a risky decision taken by Chef Lucio Paciello and Rosario del Priore. Naples loves their pizza and traditional dishes. We'll see.
I arrived a few minutes before 1 pm - right before the lunch rush. That was a good thing, because I needed some time to study the menu, absorb all that Staj had to offer. I must confess that I was a little overwhelmed at the choices - I didn't know where to start. That's where Paciello stepped in, and sat down.
|Chef Lucio Paciello|
|Yakitori - grilled chicken skewers, glazed in soy sauce, with sesame and chives|
|Fried ravioli filled with vegetables, mustard mayonnaise and rice vinegar|
|Fried tofu cubes, with spicy mayo and shitake mushrooms marinated in black tea and soy sauce|
We narrowed the choices down to two...
|Bao bun with fried chicken - tartar sauce, daikon, pickled carrots, coriander and toasted sesame|
|Bao bun with braised pork belly - daikon, pickled carrots, soy glaze and crunchy almonds|
I still had some room - for what really had my curiosity. Ramen! Not that add hot water to a cup ramen that got many of us through our college on a budget years - but that real ramen. Like the type that I enjoyed when I lived in Japan. That type that you see in the anime movies, as my son would say. It has been over 25 years since I have eaten real ramen and had forgotten how complex this noodle dish can be. Paciello and I decided on Ramen Shoyu and he even invited me into the kitchen as he plated up.
Ramen Shoyu - chicken and dashi broth, chashu pork shoulder, soft yolk egg, noodles, daikon, narutomaki and watercress. By the way, Paciello's noodles are homemade, prepared with soft wheat flour and with buckwheat.
I followed the dish out to my corner table. Paciello followed me. He was curious if I knew/remembered how to eat ramen the right way. He gave me a quick lesson. Raise the ramen out of the broth with my chopsticks and place the spoon underneath. Blow softly to cool it down. Then the crucial part - eat. Eat it all, without breaking it up. In other words slurp!
Here's how it went down. You be the judge.
Fantasticaaa! - In fact the whole meal - including the beer of choice -
So back to my earlier observation - you know - the one about opening a noodle bar in Naples. Was it risky? Sure! As the saying goes - you gotta play to win. Months of full houses and hot press tells me that the risk is paying off.
So glad I finally staj-ed!