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Lurking in the Cupboard #5: Napoletana coffee pot

June 16, 2013

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 named because of its popularity in Naples. The reason it’s no longer lurking in my kitchen is because I use one regularly, as does my mother.  Italian stovetop coffee maker

A stovetop Moka user from way back, my mother was converted to the Napoletana after a scary incident years ago. At a family lunch in the eat-in kitchen, an explosion with an impressive B-grade disaster movie geyser interrupted the chat. 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.

Eduardo di Filippo and Napoletana coffee pot

Eduardo di Filippo explains the importance of the spout cover

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 now, with a Moka the preferred stovetop choice. But for me, 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.

The Alessi version

The Alessi version

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.

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12 comments

  1. How do you know so much about film history? Impressed. The Alessi version is so terribly cool though …. might have to save up for that one


  2. Spent over 20 years in the screen industry sector, so comes with the territory, but always been interested in film curiosities. Good luck with the Alessi – when you buy it. We must compare notes!


  3. Ambra, I’m so geeked to find your blog and love this post. The bit about Eduardo di Filippo is fantastic… blog on (please)!


    • Thanks Jeremy. When I decided to write about the Napoletana I just HAD to include di Filippo in the memoir. Have just had a brief look at your blog too. Impressive! Will go back for more. Ciao. (PS – I’m guessing with your blog’s name and your surname, you have a north-eastern Italian heritage?)


  4. What great Sophia Loren footage! A wonderful story Ambra, I can picture your family coffee explosion perfectly well. The Napoletana coffee pot is close to many of our hearts and is a staple in most kitchens. I love the Alessi version of the Napoletana which looks streamlined and classy and SO much depends on a good cup of coffee! Great reading 😀


    • Thanks Merryn. The Napoletana coffee explosion is so vivid: I think I was maybe six or seven and I can still see the stunned looks on everyone’s face. I’ve never questioned not using one – some things are just meant to be! I too look forward to upgrading to an Alessi version one day.


  5. Rad – hadn’t heard about the the napoletana before – glad my blog attracted ya attention! Will have to keep an eye out and give it a whirl.

    You use any other methods? Would be interested in your recipes! Have a go at the No Filter method I just wrote about. Thanks man!


  6. Oh the coffee explosion reminds me of a pressure cooker episode we had … something to do with beef! So, I’ll leave the coffee making to the baristas and look forward to catching up soon with you


  7. Food explosions are so memorable aren’t they. I shared a house with a girl who once cooked a pumpkin soup and let it reduce to such a thick consistency that it started spurting like a volcano all over the kitchen


  8. thank you for writing this article and also adding the link to Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino blog. I’m having the opportunity to get one tomorrow and I was trying to understand how it worked! thanks again!


    • Pleasure, thanks for stopping by. Hope to see you again.



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