While not strictly a hidden treasure, this object deserves a place in my occasional Lurking in the Cupboard series as a cultural curiosity alone.
The Napoletana is a flip-over coffee pot invented in France in 1819, but so-called because of its popularity in Naples. The reason it’s not lurking in my kitchen is because I use one regularly, as does my mother.
A stovetop Moka user from way back, my mother was converted to the Napoletana after a scary incident years ago. At a family lunch, the convivial chat in the eat-in kitchen was interrupted by an explosion followed by an impressive B-grade disaster movie geyser. My mother was making coffee when the malfunctioning Moka vented its fury on our guests, rendering the crisp white men’s shirts (it was the 1950s after all!) murky brown. The pale walls were given a quick coffee coloured makeover. I hid under the table. Enter the caffettiera Napoletana.
Italian film aficionados will know the scene in playwright Eduardo di Filippo’s 1946 work Questi Fantasmi where he discusses making a perfect mid afternoon coffee in a Napoletana, subsequently turning this coffee pot into a Neapolitan original.
The play was filmed as the 1967 farce Ghosts, Italian Style with Sofia Loren and Vittorio Gassman with that particular scene unfaithfully recreated. Loren’s explanation to a male admirer of ‘putting a paper cone over the spout to keep aromas from escaping’ gives double entendres a bad name.
This type of coffee pot is not used much these days, with the simpler to use Moka the preferred stovetop choice. But to my mind, it produces a rounded, full-bodied coffee without the bitterness. As di Filippo says in the film “this is not coffee – it’s chocolate!”. And that’s good enough for me.
In Sydney, you can buy a Napoletana coffee pot at any good Italian kitchenware shop. One day I might upgrade to the Alessi version, commissioned in 1979 and completed after eight years’ research and design by architect Riccardo Dalisi.
Instructions for using a Napoletana coffee pot via the informative Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino blog.