La Voce del Mare, Naples, 16/20

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THERE is a certain kind of fish restaurant you find in fishing countries, which sounds like a statement of the obvious except when you think about this country you don’t find them in Grimsby or Hull, Aberdeen or Glasgow, Swansea or Newport etc. Or anywhere.

Usually they are run by men in jackets that don’t quite fit, often it will have a mural, wooden tables, fish is bought by the standard weight and baked or grilled and there will be a shovel-load of shellfish laid up on ice. They have a suspicious similarity and quality, like they are really a front for an illicit network. Order the monkfish and it means you need to see the boss; that gurnard might come with some contraband pearls inside; the bream with some gold leaf skimmed off the frame of a stolen master painting.

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Equally they might operate a quasi social security system for local elderly with the night’s leftover soup and casseroles being delivered late at night by means of a discreet knock at the door.

Or possibly there is a tick tack system: by ordering a particular dish instructions might be relaid. Monkfish with peas means… pick up your money, with carrots means… sell the stash quick.

However all of this is quietly dispelled dockside by the customers who are alarmingly normal and quite a few female. Torre del Greco is not on the tourist route (although there are English and probably German menus too). You are 15 minutes from Pompei and were Vesuvius overhead to erupt again you feel all of this is so ingrained it would just be pushed into the sea, extended, rather than overrun.

Nevertheless these tenements belong to Elena Ferrante’s childhood. A woman is hanging out washing from under the railway arches. The boats in the harbor are neither yachts nor trawlers but small scale scooters for tripping up the coast. Next door is the carpainters, which this being Naples, you sort of feel secure to know where your car will be repaired after what could be an inevitable bump. The fish is the economic miracle of these parts. Tablecloths are another. You are given a glass of prosecco as you sit down.

There is a starter which is a choice of the fish of the day, all cooked antipasto style in different ways

Anchovies are marinated, the salmon almost sashimi as ceviche, the squid with pesto, the prawns and cuttlefish deepfried, the octpus is served with olives which is a standout dish for me, the kind of thing you might only find in a port.

And then of course we have pasta from a list of nearly a dozen variations…IMG_4969 (1)This counts as a half portion, split between two. Naples clams seem to be bigger than most.

Meanwhile sea bream has been baking in the oven with sliced Charlotte style waxy potatoes…IMG_4972The head left on one plate, the tail on the other.

I should also mention that even in Naples, the ice cream was sensational.

On the harbourside is a rather bizarre contrast of architectures – a Victorian brick dockworks like you might find in Gloucestershire or Liverpool. To the other side is a bright pistachio coloured modern flats that did not quite emerge as art décor and is now also covered in washing.

You might eat here for 40 or 10 euros a head depending on your mood…It is not the only Voice of the Sea in these parts, there is a hotel of the same name and another restaurant further down the coast, so it takes a bit of finding on Google. Students of vintage retro web sites will admire http://www.ristorantelavocedelmare.it

Sri Via Spiaggia Del Fronte n 22 Torre del Greco  081 358 0406IMG_4978

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