After Hours: Champs Elysees, Licola, Italy
January 10, 2010
There’s nothing Parisian about the Champs Elysees.
Well, not when we’re talking about the pastry shop and coffee bar by that name in the Naples, Italy, suburb of Licola, that is. Neither the name nor the lighted Eiffel Tower sign that serves as a beacon have anything to do with the famed street in Paris, the owner maintains.
The Champs Elysees prides itself on traditional and authentic tastes of Neapolitan confections — from its in-house-made pastries and cakes, to its ice cream, coffees and Happy Hour finger foods.
“We pay special attention to detail and tradition,” said owner Pasquale Piazza. “We strive to maintain the Neapolitan tradition.”
Started in 1991, the locale touts itself as a pastry shop, grill, ice cream shop and coffee bar.
The pastries and cakes are made on site daily by bakers with years of experience in the art of creating flaky sfogliatelle and rum-filled baba that beckon diners from behind the glass-encased rows and rows of desserts, Piazza said. During the recent Christmas holidays, Champs Elysees bakers also capitalized on two of Naples’ holiday traditions: They created the famed presepe, or nativity scene, using traditional Italian Christmas sweet sponge cake called pandoro.
“While we are very traditional, we also do try to be creative,” Piazza said, laughing.
This is a place that locals frequent frequently, evident by the cars packed into the parking lot and the throng of parched patrons bellying up to the bar at peak hours for either an aperitif or a shot of the liquid drug Italians call espresso.
The clientele — including the stray dog or two that wander in — come to hang out, relax and have a good time. The gamblers can try their hands at slot machines or the occasional poker game — provided you speak some Italian.
The bar/pastry shop/ice cream parlor hosts a Happy Hour from 6:30 p.m. to about 9:30 p.m. daily except Sundays, during which the parade of finger foods such as bite-sized pizza, fried mozzarella sticks and breaded potato balls are free with the purchase of alcoholic drinks.
During the holidays, the seating area is filled with gift boxes for sale. Many include a smattering of items that capture the period in time, Piazza said, when poor Neapolitans, still wanting to exchange gifts with friends and family, did so with baskets filled with salamis, dried hams and dried beans like lentils.
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Champs ElyseesLocation: Via San Nullo 92, Licola, suburb of Naples.
Directions: From the Naples Tangenziale (bypass), take the Licola exit. Follow road signs toward Licola. You can’t miss the yellow sign. Parking is paid to an attendant, about 1 euro.
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 2, 3, 4 a.m., whenever the last customer leaves.
Food: Pastries made on site; finger food served during Happy Hour and small pizzas available during rest of day.
Prices: On par for most of Naples — less than 1 euro for coffee, little over a euro for cappuccino; pastries 1-2 euros.
English-language menu: No, but you don’t really need one.