Executive chef Ettore Laccetti and his sister Paolo Laccetti have found a new kitchen of their own in their new North Naples restaurant, Trattoria Abruzzo Cucina Italiana.
Trattoria Abruzzo refers to the region in Italy where the family is from, but Ettore Laccetti previously earned a following cooking at other local restaurants, including Michelangelo in Naples. Several of his former customers have made sure to peer into the kitchen window to congratulate and say hello to the chef. With the help of Paolo, the smiling face customers see in the dining room, and their mother, Nonna Vanna, who contributes a variety of specials, Trattoria Abruzzo is a little gem of a place.
Trattoria Abruzzo is charming and unpretentious. Located in the Pavilion shopping center in what's evolving as a little culinary destination in Naples — Fleming's, Fit & Fuel Cafe, KC American Bistro and Margarita's Mexican restaurant also call this center home — Ettore Laccetti has chosen a location where parking is a snap and you're insulated from the madness of downtown. It's a relaxing space where being seen isn't nearly as important as the tomato sauce.
And the tomato sauce, by the way, is outstanding. An appetizer special — the free-form baked lasagnette with eggplant and pesto drizzle — was my first introduction to the chef's tomato sauce. The lasagnette ($11) is already one of the most popular appetizers at Trattoria Abruzzo. Even my husband, who usually hates eggplant, tried it and wanted a second helping. The pesto drizzle with tomato sauce was an unexpected marriage of flavors. Those two sauces together is one of those pairings that makes you realize there will never be enough of it, until you eat so much you're too full to eat anymore.
Ettore Laccetti prepares his fresh mozzarella appetizer with prosciutto di Parma and topped with roasted red peppers ($9). The house-made balsamic dressing is great for salads but I found it particularly delicious for dipping. And the olive tapenade served with the bread basket also is scrumptious.
If you go
Trattoria Abruzzo Cucina Italiana
Where: 835 Vanderbilt Beach Road, in the Pavilion shopping center, Naples
When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. lunch; 4 to 9 p.m. dinner Mondays to Saturdays; open seven days a week January through May.
One of the biggest values at Trattoria Abruzzo is the trio dello chef entree ($15). This dish is three portions of traditional Italian favorites, including lasagna, manicotti and cannelloni, the latter of which is filled with meat, spinach and mozzarella and topped with meat sauce. It is the perfect entreé for people who love these dishes but don't want to be limited to one. All are very good and come with the zesty tomato sauce.
Seafood is a significant part of the menu at Trattoria Abruzzo. The slurp-worthy tomato broth is the star of the show of the brodetto alla vastese ($19), a seafood medley with grilled bread, which Laccetti prepares with seasonal fare. He really has a handle on those flavors in sauces.
Another seafood choice is the decadent Santa Lucia ravioli filled with lobster ($18), prepared with a cognac cream sauce that's incredibly smooth and strikes the balance of more savory than sweet. Such creamy sauces are like ribbons of flavor because the creamy consistency and flavors float over your tongue like a satin ribbon runs through your fingers.
Specials change often and can include Nonna's stuffed peppers, polpettone and stuffed calamari.
There are a ton of other menu items with other fresh traditional pasta and protein choices, such as chicken or veal Marsala ($14, $17), shrimp scampi ($17), spaghetti ($10) and agnolotti ($14).
House-made desserts include the all-alluring crème brûlée and tiramisu, among others, which vary in price. The tiramisu is served in the cutest little loaf for the table to share.