Jul 25, 2009

Italy's Chocoland part III

Some time ago I started seriously broaching my addiction problem on this site. I had made it a point to go to weekly sessions and speak openly about the special places in Italy where said addiction can be fueled. I spilled the beans (no pun intended) on Torino here. Then I told of the temptations in Modica here. I let time and work get in the way of rehab, but today I return to my Chocolate Dependency podium and I will tell you a little about Napoli, the most beautiful city in the world.



Specifically, I will indiscreetly reveal secret information about a sinful place called Gay-Odin. I have a long-standing relationship with the products sold within. I have spent more than I could afford in that joint. I have made up excuses for arriving late at work, so I could sample some of their fares early in the morning, as soon as the pusher opened shop. I lived in Napoli for 2 and a half years and during that time, Gay-Odin had become my obsession.


If you’ve visited Napoli and along with authentic pizza and seafood fare, you have not yet tasted this exquisite chocolate brand, please repair.
The Art Nuveau wood-paneled windows of Gay-Odin chocolatier boutique only allow you to glimpse at the wonders stored inside. Gay-Odin is Neapolitan history in a box of chocolates. If you could travel back in time and found yourself strolling down Napoli’s elegant Via Chiaja during the late 1800s, the aroma in the air would be the first thing to strike you as unusual. The unexpected fragrance of chocolate spreading to alleys, fashion boutiques, cafes and tailor shops would guide you to Isidoro’s little workshop tucked away in a small courtyard. Chocolatier Isidoro Odin had recently transferred his greatest passion from native Alba (Italy’s chocolate epicenter, Piedmont) to Napoli taking with him his craft, his desire to create unfamiliar flavor combinations, experiment with sweetness, and mixing new ingredients.


It is thanks to the penetrating smell of his chocolate creations that Gay-Odin’s history begins, it was in fact the inviting aroma that attracted a growing clientele to his tiny shop. Mostly the socialite Neapolitan glitterati, customers adopting the fashionable habit of buying chocolates at midday, when the smell of production was at its peak. Isidoro's fame grew to the point where in 1922 he was able to open his own manufacturing plant in the heart of the city: five storeys of pleasure, in the rich high class section of town. That same plant is in full function to this day, you can visit the Gay-Odin website for a virtual back in time visit of the master chocolatier's heritage. Further impulse to the growth of business was the marriage to Onorina Gay: the name Gay-Odin is born, shops multiply in town, but the couple continues to work on the artisanal path of chocolate-making. That resist to this day.


Trademark products include “naked” unwrapped pralines of all kinds sold by weight, “Foresta“, a Gay-Odin creation that is a flaky bar of rich chocolate that resembles rough and twisty tree bark (very similar to the British Cadbury Flake bar). The assortment of other chocolate shapes and variations include Tarallini, donut-shaped and filled with Strega liquer, Noci, walnut shaped and enclosed in a wafer-like casing and Ostriche, oyster-shaped and filled with a cream mousse. When I travel to Napoli, I always stock up on Gay-Odin's dark chocolate shot glasses for drinking liqueur and zesty limoncello, the signature pralines, truffles, tablets and block confections, an endless array of lustful bite size morsels of bliss in my otherwise empty suitcase.

Some of the molds used in the chocolate factory...



During holiday season, Neapolitan families stock up on boxes of Gay-Odin goodness to distribute to friends and relatives and in the summer, gelato flavors based on their chocolate concoctions take center stage. Though the “Foresta” is quite delectable, I like the Vesuvius the best. Imagine a solid block of chocolate in the shape of the Mt. Vesuvius volcano, sometimes taking on mammoth proportions...

Aerial view of the real thing


In defense of my drug problem, as a last attempt, I can suggest a few positive aspects of chocolate. It is not all bad skin and extra kilos around the midriff. Romantic lore in fact commonly identifies chocolate as an aphrodisiac. The famed sexual inspiring properties of chocolate are most often associated with the simple sensual pleasure of its consumption. It’s a fact that chocolate’s sweet and fatty nature stimulates the hypothalamus, inducing pleasureable sensations as well as affecting natural levels of cheer and serotonin. Chocolate is in effect a legal psychoactive drug, your honor.



The city of Naples welcomed me with open arms during my time there. I OD'd on sunshine, awesome seafood, singing fishermen sailing the bay below my terrace, glimmering blue waters, trascendental pizza, gorgeous sunsets, passionate love and Gay-Odin. Despite what it did to my weight, I will forever be grateful to la mia bella Napoli...

Sempre nel mio cuore.

18 comments:

  1. Hello Lola

    I passed through Naples en route to Ischia and have never ever experienced the chaos of traffic quite like they have developed there. They have their own rules and customs - all oblivious to the traffic lights.
    There was even a wedding taking place on a grassy traffic island... Perhaps the medication by chocolate helps the locals to cope...

    Happy days

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  2. How would you choose? You had to visit repeatedly to try and discover which one would be your favorite...that day.

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  3. between the wonderful wood decor and the fragrances eminating from within how could you resist. at least it was the high end drugs and not cheep dime store thrift. smiles. the pics are amazing, hinting at the culture and history contained embedded within the vices. glad you are back. have a great rest of the weekend.

    b

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  4. Really? Napoli? When we drove through there on the way to Sorrento, I was a little frightened. Cars jammed, people yelling at each other. But then, I only saw the major roads and not the true local beauty.

    Any place with such chocolate deserves a place in my heart.

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  5. Yum... I have been to Naples many times, but I will have to find Gay-Odin the next time I'm there!

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  6. Oh Lola! You make it sound sooo enticing!! x

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  7. Often your posts, too, are like chocolate. The pictures are visually enticing, and you describe food so mouthwateringly, the experience is almost like eating it.

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  8. I'm happy to hear praise of Napoli. My grandmother's family came from there but I have never been. Everyone always warns about the negative side of the city...but a city with a heart of chocolate must be lovable and addictive and sensuous to its core. I love chocolate, too--the darker the better. I'm very happy to have discovered your blog and look forward to future visits!

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  9. I'm on my way to death by chocolate (see? you inspire me).

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  10. Ha! I have been living here in Naples for the last 18 months and I plan to finally take my kids to Gay Odin tomorrow. Lucky for me I found your blog! My visit won't be wasted by your description.

    Saluti!
    Barbara
    http://theespressobreak.blogspot.com

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  11. How timely! We're sending our youngest off in one month for a yearlong exchange outside Napoli. I'm sending her a link to this right now--and trying to figure out how I can somehow switch places with her.

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  12. Chocolate shops like these could take even the best down! I could easily be addicted to Gay-Odin, as a daily run. How could we go wrong. Chocolate/Aphrodisiac :)

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  13. Lola! So glad you're back, and returning with gusto with a fantastic post. I loved the photos and the history and all the rest. Now if I could only have some of that stuff!! I loved it. Thank you and welcome back. We missed ya.

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  14. gorgeous photos, you are right the most beautiful city.

    you must be jetlagged still dreaming of all this chocolate.

    how is your journal? will we see some? i plan to revisit this post as soon as i get my taste for chocolate back and maybe champagne too!

    xoxo♥

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  15. A word for those who plan to go there. Just showed up at Gay Odin today (July 27th) and turns out they are basically closed up for the summer months due to the heat. Although they sold a few things, it was rather dark and unimpressive. They told me to come back in October when I can fill my chocolate craving to my heart's content. :)

    Barbara
    http://theespressobreak.blogspot.com

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  16. Now you've given me yet another reason to obsess about visiting Naples...

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  17. First pizza marinara, and now Gay Odin. I love Napoli.

    For a quick fix in Rome, i usually go to Valvani for a bar of cioccolato fondente con noci. or a diavoletto-- that's my heroine.

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