Artisanal Fishmonger: Pescheria Mattiucci in Naples
Pescheria Mattiucci is a fish store by day that transforms itself into a small standing-room-only restaurant a few nights of the week. Mattiucci is an old family operation, but this place is the brainchild of a young son, Luigi Mattiucci. Luigi speaks to me from behind the counter as he preps plates of fish. “There’s a tradition of eating raw fish in southern Italy,” he says. “But it wasn’t a restaurant thing. It was something fishermen did because they couldn’t store all the fish they’d caught.”
He passes me a plate of raw red shrimp with the heads still on, slices of Sicilian tuna, and some amberjack, all of it topped with only a spray of lemon juice and some thick grains of sea salt.
Mattiucci has expanded his family business, which began as an outdoor fish stall in the Quartieri Spagnoli. (Everything artisanal in Naples seems to originate from there, probably because only a poor neighborhood like that could supply the child labor that was the foundation of old-school artisanal culture.) Mattiucci expanded from that original location into this store in posh Chiaia and also bought fishing boats in Sicily so they could eliminate the middleman. He serves me a dish of baby calamari stuffed with friarelli, a distinctively Neapolitan bitter green. Then he offers me a sample of a new dish: the same seafood stuffed with sprigs of spring vegetables, just now in season. Mattiucci, I realize, is someone who’s taking an artisanal approach to the very traditional, and non-artisanal trade of fishmongering. He’s already expanded his restaurant to London and Milan, but Naples is still where he cooks himself. “The fish is freshest here,” he says. “And it’s where it all began.”
Photo by Francesco Lastrucci. Read Tom Downey's "Tailor Made in Naples."