Every corner of Italy has its version of a fritto misto, a mix of fried things. What's in the mix can be seasonal, regional and change daily based on what's available. It can be sweet like the crema fritta (fried cream) that you'll find on Venetian streets during Carnevale or a mix of fried meat stuffed olives in the mountains of Le Marche. In Naples, fritto misto is often a mix of seafood, unless you're in a pizzeria where you will find a mix of zucchini, eggplant, balls of pizza dough, potato croquettes and rice balls (arancine).
Our October 2015 tour kicked-off with a trip to Antica Pizzeria Brandi, the pizzeria established in 1790 first offered this local specialty to the visiting Queen of Italy. Margherita of Savoy was offered this signature dish of Naples topped with mozzarella, crushed tomatoes and basil to imitate the color of Italy's flag. Our guide Riccardo Prencipe met us at Piazza Trento e Trieste and quickly made a phone call to ensure a table would be ready for us. For me, an unabashed lover of this beautiful, obtuse, madness-inducing city, the scent of the wood-fired oven felt like an embrace from Naples itself.
Inside, large families enjoyed their Sunday meal together. At the table behind ours, an extra chair had been pulled up for the family dog who wore baby socks to keep his paws clean.
Before we even ordered our pizza, a sizzling fritto misto landed on our tables. The weary eyes of one guest who had arrived just two hours earlier by plane, grew wide and happy.
Later that week, on our day spent in Irpinia exploring vineyards, we enjoyed a private lunch in the cellar of Feudi di San Gregorio. After salame and cacciocavallo cheese, another fritto misto was served to us.
Though it came from the kitchens of Marenna, a Michelin starred restaurant known for it's exquisite takes on traditional Irpinian cuisine, our fritto misto was served in paper cones, just as they would on the streets of Naples or Avellino. This one included strips of red and green peppers, eggplant, zucchini, cauliflower, potato croquettes and rice balls.
You can make your own fritto misto using whatever is local and in season. Here are some tips I learned from asking waiters and cooks in Italy.
- Use sunflower oil (safflower oil may be easier to find) because of its high smoke point.
- Always use fresh oil and plenty of it. Your misto is done when it floats to the top.
- Dredge your ingredients in 00 flour.
- Drain on a paper towel, but be sure to serve it right away. Fritto misto must be served straight out of the fryer.
- Salt your fritto misto as soon as it is removed from the oil.
PIZZERIA BRANDI - Salita S. Anna di Palazzo 2 - 80132 - Napoli (NA)
FEUDI DI SAN GREGORIO - Contrada Cerza Grossa, 83050 Sorbo Serpico AV, Italy