20 Jan 2018

Naples between coffee and law

Article by Michele Sergio published in “L’Espresso Napoletano” of January 2018

Nicola Valletta the jurist who made the coffee Neapolitans fall in love

At the end of the XVIII century Naples is among the liveliest, most populous and cosmopolitan world capitals. “The Enlightenment Century” is also the birth and diffusion of coffee in Europe. The black drink is no longer an exclusivity of the Arab countries but spreads in all the countries of the old continent, including Italy, in Venice, Turin, Rome but not in Naples!

It is not immediately a thunderbolt between the coffee and the Neapolitans. It is documented that several times in the previous centuries the Arabs had tried to introduce it into our City but without success: the sons of Partenope continued to prefer Campania wine to the “wine of Arabia” that they saw and used only as a medicine.

Who first tried to spread the black infused in his kingdom, was the Queen Maria Carolina who from 1771 proposed it during its lavish receptions to the palace of Caserta to its noble guests. Despite the actual sponsorship, however, many Neapolitans were still opposed to the consumption of the drink due to lack of scientific knowledge, to tell the truth. For a people so bound to superstition coffee was bad because black (like death!), It was a diabolic drink that took away sleep, it was the most suitable means of color and flavor for administering poisons and filters for invoices of all kinds!

Perhaps Naples would not have become the city of coffee if in those years the great kitchen expert Vincenzo Corrado had not put his hand in it. Corrado, a sort of restaurant guru of the time, believed in the importance of coffee, not only as a healthy, tasty, exciting drink, but also as a social catalyst. With a happy intuition he understood that coffee could be a “social icebreaker”, an instrument to facilitate meetings, discussions and exchanges of ideas. He was also convinced (and rightly so) of the positive economic potential of the spread of the beverage, with the opening of a new market and the creation of investment opportunities through the so-called. coffee shops. So how did Corrado make Neapolitans fall in love with coffee?

After the sponsorship of the queen, it was necessary that of the highest authority in matters of jettatura recognized in Naples, that is to say the professor Nicola Valletta, emeritus of law, author of numerous publications, respected and influential personages. The Corrado then published in 1794 a short treatise, “The Maneuver of Chocolate and Coffee”, in which he explained the beneficial effects of infused black and dedicated this work to Valletta. The latter, almost taken aback, but certainly honored by the dedication, returned with his authoritative placet to the work of his friend Corrado (and, consequently, to coffee), which, in turn, dedicated a song entitled ” The coffee”. With such a short composition – a veritable apologetic poetry on coffee – Valletta overcame the thesis of the physician and naturalist Francesco Redi (who had previously written in a highly critical manner on the black drink), arguing that coffee is far from harmful (despite the Valletta says to drink it even three times a day without becoming blind, losing sleep, falling teeth, as the high Redi had supported), was the best of drinks, which only benefited his drinker.

If the most famous connoisseur of the law and the jettatura of Naples approved the coffee, this meant that it could not be bad and that was how the Neapolitans fell in love in a short time. Everyone began to drink it and the City was filled with beautiful cafes and peddlers, new machines for making home-made coffee (the Neapolitan cuccumella), while singers, poets and writers sang and praised them.

In short, Fatal was the meeting between the world of law and coffee because the Neapolitans finally convoluted (eternal!) With the drink that, in a short time, became the official one in the shadow of Vesuvius and made Naples the capital world coffee.