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The Neapolitan Potato Croquette

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Crocchè, the Neapolitan potato croquette, is one of the most typical delicacies from the ‘city of the sun’: a little bit fast food and a little bit finger food. Let’s try to understand why such a simple specialty enjoys such a great appeal. Let’s savor it while walking through the ‘vicoli’, the narrow alleys of the historic center, and while meeting its people. Let’s discover the most traditional fry shops where we can savor its most authentic taste!

Crocchè, the Neapolitan potato croquette: the history of Crocchè.

Crocchè the Neapolitan potato croquette: history.

The origins of the Neapolitan potato Crocchè are anything but certain. In this respect, It should be remembered that specialties quite similar to it are part of the gastronomic tradition of many countries in the world.
Nowadays, the most believable theories associate this delicacy to a couple of nations in particular: France and Spain. It’s no coincidence, considering that their past domination over the city of Naples and, more in general, over southern Italy (*1), was in fact particularly significant, deeply influencing also food habits.

  • French Origins: According to this theory, that is also the most popular, the Neapolitan Crocchè could be the evolution of the French ‘croquettes’. Most likely their recipe was introduced in the city during the second half of the 1700s by the French chefs who prepared the court banquets for Ferdinand I of Bourbon (*2) and his wife Maria Carolina of Austria.
  • Spanish Origins: The second hypothesis, generally considered less likely, suggests that the Neapolitan Crocchè could be the evolution of the Spanish ‘croquetas’.

*1: This is the reason why specialties very similar to Crocchè, such as the Sicilian ‘cazzilli’, are prepared in many places of southern Italy.
*2: Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies, ex Ferdinand III of Sicily and Ferdinand IV King of Naples. He was nicknamed ‘Re Nasone’ (‘Big Nose’ King), due to the size of his nose (as evidenced in many portraits of its time), and ‘Re Lazzarone’ (‘King of the Poors’), because he loved to mix (in incognito) with its subjects.

Naples, the birthplace of Crocchè.

Naples, the ‘city of the sun’, is the county seat of Campania region. Its origins date back to the 8th Century BC.

Gulf of Naples, panorama.
Crocchè the Neapolitan potato croquette: Crocchè and Panzerotto: two types of Neapolitan potato croquette.

Crocchè and Panzerotto: two types of Neapolitan potato croquette.

The ‘crocchè’ (the classic potato croquette), is often confused with its ‘big brother’, the ‘panzerotto’, also known as ‘panzarotto’. They are in fact quite similar to each other: the panzerotto differs from the crocchè for its size and the presence of a filling. Let’s give a closer look at these two specialties:

Crocchè, the Neapolitan potato croquette: differences between Crocchè and Panzerotto, the Crocchè.

The ‘crocchè’ is usually quite small, not more than 3/4 centimeters long. Its dark-gold breading looks very appetizing and covers a soft part made with potatoes, eggs, bread crumbs, parsley and black pepper.

Crocchè, the Neapolitan potato croquette: differences between Crocchè and Panzerotto, the Panzerotto.

The ‘panzerotto’ is bigger than a Crocchè: around 7/8 centimeters. Its golden breading covers a soft filling made with potatoes, parsley and black pepper, enriched with smoked provola cheese and/or mozzarella.

Crocchè the Neapolitan potato croquette: the ingredients.

Crocchè the Neapolitan potato croquette: ingredients.

The ingredients used to prepare the Neapolitan potato croquettes are:

Crocchè the Neapolitan potato croquette: the ‘Friggitoria’, part of a long tradition.

The ‘Friggitoria’: part of a long tradition.

The best Crocchè can be bought in the most traditional  ‘friggitorias’: this name comes from ‘friggere’, the Italian for ‘to fry’. As per its name, it’s a food shop selling mainly (but not only) fried stuff. Simple and yet delicious preparations that can be easily eaten while walking. At first sight, there are some similarities between a friggitoria and modern fast foods.

This kind of commercial activities has existed since the distant past, meeting a common need: feeding passers-by. Something that can be easily demonstrated by visiting Pompeii and Herculaneum. These ancient cities are still almost intact: the volcanic ashes that covered them many centuries ago, have also protected them from the passage of time. ‘Thanks’ to Mount Vesuvius, it’s still possible to see these places as they were when Emperor Titus ruled over the Roman Empire. Walking through their streets, it’s easy to come across a ‘caupona’: a small food shop that long ago served food and beverages. The caupona can be considered the ancestor of the friggitoria. Nowadays, there are many ‘friggitorie’ in almost every Italian city: the most famous are in Naples, Genoa and Palermo.

WebFoodCulture: the most traditional restaurants.

The most traditional friggiorias where to eat Crocchè.

Here follows a short list including some of the most traditional places where you can savor a few Crocchè made according to the original recipe:

  • Friggitoria Fiorenzano
    Via Pignasecca, 48, 80134 Naples;
  • Friggitoria Vomero
    Via Domenico Cimarosa, 44, 80129 Naples;
  • Rosticceria Imperatore
    Viale Colli Aminei, 66, 80131 Naples;
Crocchè the Neapolitan potato croquette: calories and nutritional values.

Crocchè the Neapolitan potato croquette: calories and nutritional values.

One hundred grams of Neapolitan potato croquettes (four / five pieces, more or less) contain approximately 180/190 Kcals. Carbohydrates, fats, proteins, fibers and sodium are present.

Crocchè, the Neapolitan potato croquette: eating Crocchè in a ‘vicolo’.

Eating Crocchè in a ‘vicolo’.

The word ‘vicolo’ comes from the Latin ‘viculus’ and means ‘narrow alley’. Great part of these ‘vicoli’ is in the Old Town of many Italian cities. The most interesting and colorful are probably in Naples: their origin dates back to the Sixteenth Century, the period of the Spanish rule on the city.

Not surprisingly, the most characteristic can be found in a district known as ‘Quartieri Spagnoli’ (Spanish district). Even if they are very narrow, they have accommodated for centuries, side by side, the houses of the poor (the ‘bassi’) and many different kinds of shops and small workshops.
A lot of people live in the vicoli still today: these odd roads are like small, self-contained universes. Walking through these places, passersby are immediately surrounded by an incredible variety of human activities.

Strolling through a Neapolitan vicolo is an extraordinary experience that should be enjoyed at least once in life: all your senses are overwhelmed by an incredible mix of sounds, colors, smells and tastes.

Crocchè, the Neapolitan potato croquette: using a ‘cuoppo’ for Crocchè.

Using a ‘cuoppo’ for fried food.

The Neapolitan ‘cuoppo’ (also known as ‘cuopp’) consists in a cone made with straw paper. It’s used by the local people to carry around the delicacies just bought in a ‘friggitoria’ (the typical fried food shop).

What to drink with a crocchè?

What to drink with a crocchè?

Neapolitans usually choose beer. Another good choice could be red wine: something quite tannic, quite soft, and quite fresh.

  • The tannicity balances the greasiness of the frying;
  • The softness balances the saltiness;
  • The acidity balances the sweet tendency of the potato;

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