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Among the many pleasures of Sicilian food are delicacies known as cannoli: rolled-up tubes of fried pastry filled with sweet ricotta. Yep, it's as good as it sounds.
At Spacca last Saturday, one of the specials was called cannoli, but the tubes were of thinly sliced grilled eggplant and the filling a ragu made with topside that had flaked after seven hours of slow cooking. It was baked and then topped with truffle cream. Yep, it's as good as it sounds.
We were talked into the dish by its creator, Gaetano Spinosa, whom you last met at his and his wife Leanne's O'Sarracino at the top of Mt Eden Rd. Here, Brazilian-born sous-chef Flavia Nascimento is in the kitchen and Spinosa walks the floor, spruiking the food in mouth-watering tones.
His tone is personable and direct and he loves talking customers out of choosing the obvious. I saw him steer the couple at the next table away from tiramisu because "Everybody-a knows-a tiramisu".
When he suggests that you start with a selection of the day's antipasti just say yes. We had grilled courgettes with wine vinegar and salt; a salad of crisp vegetables and mozzarella; and fat prawns with tomato sorbet by Queen St legend Giapo.
Spacca, named for the main street through old Naples, is a Neapolitan restaurant, not Italian, though oddly its website has a picture of the Trevi Fountain, in Rome. The proprietor, Gino Buonocore, fled the corporate world to return to his family roots. His dad, Antonio, who does the pizzas most nights, ran Italian eateries in the eastern suburbs.
It's a tiny place, with seats for 16 at most so they have sittings at 6pm and 8.30pm. Two diners sit at the window and the waiters, by which I mean the owner and the chef, go out the door and serve them from the street.
But the casual tone and those impromptu antipasti belie the attention to detail that distinguishes the food here. The menu includes a dozen pasta, three seafood and four meat dishes, as well as specials but this is more couth than a cheap-and-cheerful trattoria-style eatery.
One fish dish, consisting of big fillets of gurnard with cherry tomatoes and garlic, poached in a sensational broth, was called acqua pazza (crazy water) and there's a traditional fisherman's soup as well. Both have the heart of street food - as long as it's a portside street - but their handsome presentation would qualify them for serving on white linen in a more upscale establishment. The black truffle gnocchi are bowl-lickingly good.
There's some great Neapolitan pizza around town now, but not here: the standard approach was slightly disappointing, though it's much better than most takeaways. But if you, too, spurn the tiramisu, you may get the polenta and lemon cake or that sponge soaked in a breathalyser-rattling serve of limoncello. You will be very lucky - and very happy - if that happens.
Antipasti $14 pp; Mains $22-$34; desserts $14
Verdict: Back in old Napoli, that's amore . . .