A Naples museum dedicated to Neapolitan Street Food!

In Naples, there is a new museum dedicated to the history of Neapolitan cuisine. Since April 24, 2024, the Bonelli Collection of the Museum of Naples has opened a location entirely focused on food and wine. The museum showcases ancient documents, memorabilia, and historical artifacts to narrate three centuries of traditions and street food. Naples, a city known for its vibrant colors and history, has a strong connection to food. It's worth noting that pizza, the world's most famous and consumed dish, originated here. While the Museum of Naples has been in existence since 2017, with 19 thematic areas showcasing a repertoire of artifacts, the new section, 'Food and Wine History of our City,' was inaugurated on April 24, 2024. This section, entirely dedicated to Neapolitan cuisine, is located in Piazza Riario Sforza and aims to illustrate how food culture has evolved over the last three centuries.


Thus, the Bonelli Collection, created through a private initiative and hosted at the Casa dello Scugnizzo Foundation in Materdei, becomes the object of the first widespread museum in the city - that is, with collections spread across various locations. Gaetano Bonelli, journalist and historian by passion, has concentrated over the last four decades (since he was only 12 years old!) on a variety of thematic threads, putting together a multi-voiced story on the truest 'Neapolitanness'. Urban planning and transport, politics, domestic economics and migration, in a series of original finds discovered and arranged in an exhibition by sector, so that "this treasure was no longer just mine, but of every Neapolitan", he declared.

Talking about the gastronomic history of Naples means passing through street food. In fact, pasta, pizza and fried cuoppi were consumed in public and on the fly, well before the birth of the completely modern concept of a restaurant. The recent flourishing of kiosks, stalls and kitchen counters at the market would lead one to think of a recent fashion, a contemporary trend (so much so that even some great chefs try their hand at it). However, things are not exactly like that. To stay in our part of the world - in the East, eating out has never gone out of fashion - let's think about Ancient Rome: almost no one was wealthy enough to have a room dedicated to preparing food, and therefore order a meal from one of public counters was the norm.These are the thermopolia, the popinae and the cauponae which can still be seen, perfectly intact, even in Pompeii. In Naples the custom remained more pronounced, affecting for example the grand foreign tourists passing through in the 17th and 18th centuries, who observed the inhabitants eating their spaghetti - or rather, macaroni - at every street corner and with their bare hands. Thus the pizza, either sliced or fried, was served individually to passers-by. While it is true that the first pizzeria in Naples dates back to 1738 (the Antica Pizzeria Port'Alba), the spread of places used for its consumption actually occurred on a large scale much later.

The exhibits at the Museum of Naples showcase not only pizza and macaroni, but also a wide range of historical artifacts. You can visit Domus 19, located next to the Cathedral of Naples in the historic center, to view these exhibits. With the collaboration of the Polito family, who owns the space, Gaetano Bonelli has curated a collection of memorabilia. This includes documents related to pizzerias, trattorias, ancient cafés, and roasteries from the eighteenth century to the present day, as well as postcards and photographs related to liquor factories, breweries, chocolate shops, pastry shops, and street food vendors. Some notable items in the collection include a credit form dated 1720 for a supply of wine worth 6 ducats and 14 grana, a 'potegaro de Frutti' license granted to Vincenzo Lauria in 1765, and the menu of the seventh congress of Italian scientists in 1845. Other memorabilia include a 100-cup copper coffee pot from the historic Gran Caffè Fontana alla Torretta, an original photograph of the 'mangiamaccheroni' of the 1950s, and a poster of the Gran Circo Varietà from the exhibition of wines, spirits, and chocolate held in 1893.


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