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The Limonata Stand at Song’E Napule as a Symbol of Owner Ciro Iovine’s Spirit

The free, potentially-messy limonata doled out to New Yorkers at Song'E Napule is a Neapolitan-inspired gift on warm summer days.

The limonata stand at Song'E Napule.

The Limonata stand at Song’E Napule. Photo by Andrew Cotto.

We had our Appetito media launch party at the new, expanded Song'E Napule on Manhattan’s W. Houston Street for a reason. Yes, we love their celebrated Neapolitan pizzas and exquisite trattoria fare, but our favorite thing about the Song’E Napule experience is the owner, Ciro Iovine. To us, he is a Vissuvious of passion and positive energy, a man of great warmth and generous spirit that extends to his entire staff (whom he calls “family”).

Evidence of such character can be found on any given day at any of the four Song’E Napule locations (three in Manhattan; one in New Jersey) when he is on hand. Look for the man with the shiny head and radiant smile, a whirlwind of hand gestures and hugs and laughter.

When Ciro says, “You know me. I love everybody,” he means it.

Ciro Iovine at Song'E Napule.
Song'E Napule owner Ciro Iovine at their 132 W. Houston Street location.

This love is born in and inspired by his home city of Naples. The love is on the menu (where almost every single ingredient is imported from the best Italian purveyors), the decor (an homage to Napoli among azzure, lemons and Diego Maradonna - the patron saint of Naples’ soccer club). A symbol of Ciro’s ethos is found in the limonata stand outside of their new and expanded location at 132 W. Houston Street. Tucked among the sidewalk seating, within a vine-adorned stand, is a metal counter with a juice presser and a bowl of lemons.

Strollers by this Song’E Napule location on warm afternoons are often greeted by Ciro or one of his staff with a call of, “Welcome to Naples. Have a limonata.” What most Americans don’t get, having experienced lemonade stands manned by little kids after high-margin profits is that a glass of Neapolitan lemonade is on the house at Song’E Napule.

“I don’t like to charge the people,” Ciro says. “I like to represent my city very well, and the people of Napoli do many beautiful things, like a caffè sospeso or when you can eat the pizza today but pay for it later. This is the Neapolitan way. For the people.”

Ciro Iovine (center) behind his limonata stand, flanked by Italian food influencers Tony Mangia (left) and Gennaro Pecchia.

What the people of New York will get from the limonata stand at Song’E Napule is also distinct from the American version. A tradtional Neapolitan limonata is fresh lemons, sparkling water, and a spoonful of baking soda that erupts upon stirring, requiring the contents to be consumed in one long sip while utilizing a special stance.

“They have to open their legs,” Ciro says with a coy smile. “Sometimes people don’t understand what we mean by ‘open legs’ — they think it's something else, but without open legs the limonata spills all over the front of their pants.”

Basically, the play, to keep the limonata off your clothes is to take a wide stance and lean forward while drinking. There will be some on your chin, but the refreshment it provides on a hot day is worth the effort.

See for yourself in the video below when I stumbled by Ciro and his guys on a sweltering August day.

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