Fishy fish in Napoli, the challenge of finding good food as a first-time tourist and a review of the michelin starred Il Comandante.
- Restaurant: Il Comandante
- Chef: Salvatore Bianco
- Location: Romeo Hotel, Napoli
- Cost: 300 Euro for 2 tasting menus & a bottle of wine * service.
- Jelly Good Food Rating: 5.5/10
Here is a first world problem that’s become a regular feature on Jelly holidays – we start out with good intentions to find authentic, well priced, down-to-earth eateries and pick a place based on Bib Gourmand or Tripadvisor recommendations. We arrive to find it shut for summer holidays, full up or the worst of all – to have bad lighting. We then proceed on a wild goose hunt around the city looking for the next best thing and of course only find more closed or full-up places.
We then stand around on corners, refreshing our mobile browsers, lamenting poor 3G speeds, getting hungry and praying for four Tripadvisor stars or more.
In Napoli, the obvious restaurants by the waterfront and in the city center are generally not that well reviewed. So in the name of our commitment to good food we spend an excess of 3 hours picking our way through the back alleys Napoli in the dark – dodging mopeds and washing lines on our quest for dinner.
After this time, one of us, not saying who, broke down and decided that the only acceptable place in Napoli left to try was the posh Il Comandante on top of the Romeo hotel in the harbor.
That is how we ended up at a michelin star restaurant that specialises in tripe.
We asked for the 6 course tasting menu with a special request to exclude this special ingredient, sorry tripe.
- Various handsome pre-entrees (Pastries, parmesan, pastrami, olive flavours)
- Raw and baked prawns with red quinoa, peaches and white wine
- Egg on Caciocavallo Podolico cheese fondue with a veil of beet, truffles and whole wheat bread
- Olive creation with fishy something
- Pasta parcels with cheese filling and spinach and fishy side sauce of some sort
- Red Snapper with creamy sauce
- Barn egg dessert (passion fruit mousse inside)
- Petit Fours
Jelly found Il Comandante food to be perfectly presented, beautiful and inviting. Some of aesthetic was achieved through smart use of molecular gastronomy techniques, as is now customary for many michelin starred places. The plates looked flawless and it’s plain that a lot of effort has gone into presentation design.
Sadly, appearances can be deceiving. We found many of the dishes, although executed with skill did not agree with our palates.
The main offence for the rest for us was the “fishiness” of the fishy dishes. We come from the school of thought that fresh fish does not smell fishy, and instead it is meaty and delicate. Granted, cooked fish can become concentrated in flavour even when cooked from a very fresh condition, however here we found the strong taste of fish to be overwhelming in several courses. I would like to make an allowance for cultural perceptions. Neapolitan cooking has always used an abundance of seafood from the Tyrrhenian sea and meat is not used as frequently as in the cuisine of Northern Italy. I wonder if this odiferous feature of Napoli seafood, and the presence of fishy flavours in sauces is considered so normal that it is not questioned by Italians. For Jelly however it was mostly too much.
If my comments seem harsh I should mention for context that my judgment of this fishy flavour comes from an experience of living on Scottish and Baltic coasts as a daughter of Seafood export merchant and consuming a large amount of sea produce over my lifetime. The result of this experience is that I’m picky about freshness of fish and how it’s cooked, but ultimately a huge seafood lover.
Saying that, Jelly being carnivorous, we found ourselves disappointed that Il Comandante chose not to serve any meat courses during the 6 course tasting menu.
For full disclosure I can reveal that we did enjoy the raw and baked prawns, the cheesy Egg with beet and truffle as well as the Barn egg dessert but found all the portions to be on the stingy side.
To end on a positive note however – a highlight of Jelly’s Il Comandante experience were the views from this elegant restaurant. Dining here you can enjoy a scenic night harbour as ferries and cruise ships go about their business and as well as a twinkling Napoli city scape. The service is good, the selection of wine huge and overall the restaurant really feels like cosmopolitan mini-world, high above and far away from the gritty Napoli streets below.
Jellygoodfood bottom line:
Come here if you want a break from the madness of Napoli and a bit of refinement after too much pasta on your Italy trip. Order your food very wisely and beware if you don’t like fishy-fish or tripe.