Naples Potpourri by Bill Barnett

January 2021 sounds exciting to me and I’m sure many of you too. My thinking is it can’t get much worse and being the eternal optimist that I am I see a bright New Year with good things on the horizon. I literally can’t talk about Covid, CDC, masks, or anything that deals with this subject. It’s all been said ad nauseum. I am optimistic about the vaccine and I’ll be the first to say that as soon as it’s available to me I want it! To those who
say they won’t take it I say good luck.

For those of you who have followed my Life in Naples articles you know that food has always played a big part of my life and what better way to share with you then to start at the beginning of my culinary story. And, by the way each month from here on out I will reach way back in the past and share some Naples History that I was a part of. 2021 will mark 48 years of living in the City of Naples so I have definitely seen a lot.

Back to my story. Growing up as an only child and having parents that at the time were relatively old when I was born my mother was 37 and my father was 40. I can distinctly remember that my mother was no expert in the kitchen and my father had ulcers, so the words bland diet growing
up were commonplace to me. No salad, nothing spicy, etc, but I didn’t know any better until I turned 16, started driving, and started hanging
around with a classmate who was from a huge Italian family. He is still one of my best friends today.

My first real food adventure was a Sunday dinner invitation to his home for a traditional (which I learned was every Sunday) Italian meal. There were at least twenty family members that I met that day, and to this day I remember them all having fun at my expense at that meal. I had no way of knowing anything about Italian tradition, and their great love of food and how important those Sunday meals were. Nor did I know that you took your time through the many courses served.

The first course was served, and I had never tasted anything so good in my life and I did what any novice would do, I ate until I couldn’t eat another mouthful. I think that was the absolute beginning of my love for not only Italian food, but over the last 60 plus years just about every ethnic variety I could try. Back to that Sunday I was somewhat embarrassed when I realized there were at least three more courses coming but I was a good sport and his family after realizing I didn’t have a clue about Italian tradition made me feel comfortable and over the years I enjoyed many a Sunday meal with them.

I could never figure out why my mother subscribed to Gourmet magazine when she couldn’t cook. But, around the same time I discovered Italian food and more I started taking those Gourmet magazines and when my parents travelled or went on vacation, I started taking easy recipes out of them and preparing them. I suppose I owe Gourmet a lot because it led to a lifetime of cooking for me. I still have some of those recipes because I would cut them out and save them. If you asked me my favorite recipe that I like to prepare my answer is baked stuffed Maine lobster which took me many years to perfect if I say so myself!

Moving to Naples from New York in 1973 it was a bit of a food culture shock for me considering there were only two restaurants to choose from. As Naples started to grow and prosper so did the restaurants. Because this is the New Year’s edition and I am space constricted I will continue this
article in my next issue as I have lots more to say.

I wish each and every one of you a Happy, Healthy, 2021. We all need a well-deserved break, and we are all blessed to be able to say we live in Naples, Florida. Please remember to support our local businesses during these tough times, we need them and they need us.

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