Napule Reopens with To-go Menu and Mix of Emotions

Good Bite

BY ANDREW FABIAN SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING TUESDAY APR 28, 2020

Italy quickly became an epicenter for the COVID-19 pandemic, its response reflecting the speed and severity of the virus’s spread within its borders. Their drastic lockdown required proof of destination documents, limited grocery stores to two shoppers at a time and implemented a €600 ($648) fine for those who break the lockdown protocols. “Things are crazy there,” says Peppe Del Sole, co-owner of Napulé in South Sarasota, “you can’t even visit a neighboring town 3 miles away.” The livelihood of Del Sole’s family in his native Ischia, a small island in the Gulf of Naples, was especially affected by the lockdown as the tourism industry it relies on completely shut down. It all makes the social distancing measures in Florida seem lax by comparison, and as Napulé reopens in a to-go configuration, it is with a mix of emotions.

On the one hand, fans of the restaurant were jubilant that it would begin offering again its Neapolitan fare. The abbreviated to-go menu still features a respectable list of soups and salads, appetizers and homemade pasta dishes, entrees, sandwiches, pizzas and desserts—there are even daily specials and 30% off select bottles of wine. The parking lot on the Monday of Napulé’s reopening had a steady flow of traffic, with patrons entering one at a time into the makeshift pick-up foyer. On a table just inside the entrance were boxes of pizzas, aluminum to-go containers stacked inside grocery bags and the accompanying tabs for each order. Longtime regulars, many of them in masks, chatted about the lockdown, the weather, asked about the health of families—there was joy in the air that only the prospect of pasta and pizza can induce. The restaurant is bright and clean with some light techno music playing through the speakers, but juxtaposed against the apparent joy are the empty seats.

The tables in the once-bustling dining area are all 6 feet apart in preparation for the pending scale-back of the protocols that saw every restaurant in the state come to a grinding halt. Chairs are stacked in a corner of the restaurant along with some tables to make more space for what will likely be a 50% capacity limit for restaurants when Florida begins its long, slow trek back to normal. And therein lies the other emotion: wariness. Adding to the dreary reports coming from family in Italy, Del Sole and fellow co-owner Alessandro Di Ferdinando have 4-month-old babies in their respective homes. It’s a divergent set of concerns they must try to reconcile—livelihood versus public and family safety. “I don’t know what the right answer is,” says Del Sole, “but if we can at least break even with to-go orders for now, we can pay some of our employees something.”

Napulé opens Monday through Saturday from 12 pm – 8 pm. Take-out orders can be placed via telephone while delivery is available through Bite Squad.

Pictured: Alessandro Di Fedinando (l) and Guiseppe Del Sole (r) showcase a Piccante and Quattro Stagioni pizza behind their makeshift to-go counter. Photo by Andrew Fabian.

Click for the to-go menu.

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