Picture of Il Corno family.
Photo Credits: Il Corno Family

Il Corno: A Taste of Neapolitan Hospitality

A new Neapolitan, family-run Panuozzo bar named Il Corno has recently opened in the heart of
the Covered Market, tucked between Gulp Fiction and The Market Tap. Co-founded and owned
by DPhil graduate Fanny Clemente and her parents, Franco and Barbara, the family aim to
bring authentic culinary tradition and concepts straight from Naples into Oxford’s city centre.

The owners describe the store as “a home of good fortune for its guests, a space where people
are protected from the misfortunes of the outside world and are given the chance to experience
a positive and heartening break from their everyday life”. Upon hearing this, we knew we had to
check the space out for ourselves.

Il Corno’s menu offers some of Naples’ most characteristic street foods, including the panuozzo,
a warm half pizza and half panino sandwich that can be served with a variety of fillings,
alongside taralli, a curled biscuit-like snack with the perfect amount of salt and crunch. There is
also a fantastic selection of wines, liqueurs, coffees, and other beverages from the South of
Italy.

The name Il Corno pays tribute to Naples’ superstition of the corno (horn), symbolizing good
fortune and offering protection against the malocchio (evil eye) of Greek and Roman mythology.
It is often turned into amulets, or hung from ceilings and car rear-view mirrors. In Il Corno, you
can spot multicoloured, handcrafted cornos, proudly adorning the shelves.

The rest of the 20-seat store’s design showcases the “esoteric” and “effervescent” sides of
Neapolitan culture and craftsmanship, with a modern and sleek palette, consisting of deep red,
black, white, and “Vesuvian lava-stone” grey highlights, inspired by the bustling San Gregorio
Armeno Street in downtown Naples. Il Corno’s playlist has a tailored mix of jazz and bossa nova
arrangements of popular Neapolitan songs, further making a relaxing atmosphere to watch the
world go by.

The Clementes intend to create an atmosphere “where good food meets good luck”, not just
with the store’s design or products, but also through a series of live events centred on
Neapolitan culture. These may range from discussions about identity and theatre in Naples, to
film showings and cultural classes, which we certainly hope to attend in the future.
We were very kindly invited by Fanny and her family to attend Il Corno’s opening party in
Michaelmas, where we were greeted with firm handshakes, glasses of wine, and big smiles all
around: we were amazed at just how buzzing, yet cosy the entire shop seemed! Il Corno is very
clearly a passion project dear to the hearts of many, evidenced by the overwhelming turnout of
friends and family.

It was a privilege to observe the work in action, with Fanny as the mind, Franco the hands, and
Barbara the heart of the operation. Barbara is a retired lecturer from the University of Naples,
and Franco specialises in Italian design and architecture. With Fanny’s research interests lying
in Neapolitan culture, together they make quite the team. Platters in hand, they whirled around
the bar and provided all in attendance with an incredible guest experience.

A home of good fortune.

We sampled both a regular and vegetarian panuozzo, featuring the Italian broccoli-like friarielli,
as well as one of Il Corno’s zingy white wines, which complemented the rest of the dishes
beautifully. The panuozzi were cheesy and abundant with flavour, but there’s also the option for
a Nutella filling if savoury is not your style. If that wasn’t enough, the Clementes also presented
a beautiful red-corno decorated birthday cake to celebrate the business’ 0th anniversary!

To conclude the festivities, Fanny and her family passed round little red corno charms, allowing
us to partake in a famous Neapolitan ritual. The good luck of the corno only materialises if you
give it to someone else – so by extending your hand and dropping the corno into a friend’s, you
guarantee them protection. As we left the store, we agreed it had been a very fortunate evening indeed.

A couple days later, we met back up with Fanny to discuss Il Corno’s story over limoncello.

Tara Earley: So, what was the inspiration behind Il Corno?

Fanny Clemente: I just completed a PhD in Italian culture with an interest in Neapolitan culture,
and I felt the need to promote the culture, not just through my academic articles. The shop’s
design is inspired by my love of the culture, particularly its folklore and symbols of good luck,
starting with Il Corno. The phallic shape comes from the Greek God Priapus, the God of fertility,
so it symbolises fortune and abundance.

Johannah Mathew: And why did you choose the Covered Market?

FC: When my parents and I first came to the Covered Market, we were immediately struck by
the variety of cuisines and cultures. We thought this would be a great place to fit in and truly
showcase Neapolitan culture. All the traders here are amazing and the atmosphere is
incredible!

TE: Your Instagram has lots of fantastic behind-the-scenes content – what’s been your favourite
part of setting-up?

FC: Social media management is really fun for me – and it’s not just me, it’s my partner too. It’s
amazing because I can make fun of my family in the most lovely and affectionate way, but it’s
also good for the business. It was great to see the exact design I had in mind for the past two
years finally come to life. There were parts before the opening that were not nice to handle, but
when we opened, it was a huge relief when people came and said they really loved the
ambience, and the feel of Naples when you enter the shop.

JM: What would you recommend from the menu?

FC: I would definitely recommend the babĂ  dessert. Actually, yesterday all the babĂ  sold out,
and there were five or six people after who still wanted to have some. I would also try any
panuozzo with friarielli.

TE: How do the items on the menu complement each other?

FC: The drinks, wines, and coffee all come from Campagna. We have authentic expresso,
limoncello, and wines, so they’re the perfect match with the food; especially the white wines.

It was great to see the exact design I had in mind for the past two years finally come to life.

JM: How important are friends and family to the business?

FC: Our company is called Il Corno Family Ltd and that says it all. We are a family of four. My
sister is also fully part of us, but is also a judge in Reggio Calabria, so isn’t currently with us. My
auntie actually flew from Salerno and she’s here for a month and our dear friend Lily, who works
with a tech company, is helping out too. Other friends also gave feedback and advice, especially
from back home in Italy, so we never felt alone, even when I was alone physically a lot of the
time.

TE: How is the symbolism in the restaurant relevant to Il Corno’s business?

FC: The symbol of Il Corno is very popular in Naples, but not enough around the world. It also
works really well as a brand, as it’s easy to pronounce for non-Italian speakers and the red
colour is vibrant, expresses a meaning of life and also is inspired by Pompeian paintings and
frescos, as well as the devilish other world.

JM: What do you want people to take away after coming to Il Corno?

FC: There is not just one Italian cuisine and Naples has a lot to offer, not just in culinary
aspects, but also in cultural aspects. We wanted to offer something else, something more
authentic and refined. The culture of hospitality too is something I love being a part of. In the
future, we’re planning to do culturally rooted events, where we have speakers and
conversations around Italian and Neapolitan culture, such as literature, music, and theatre. I’d
personally love to do a talk on queer Neapolitan culture, for example there is a historically queer identity called the femminiello. Look out for our events coming soon!

Il Corno is open for business in Unit 26 of the Covered Market. Their opening times, full menu,
and other information can be found on their website, as well as on their Instagram page. We
sincerely hope you’ll stop by soon, for a taste of true Neapolitan cuisine and hospitality

Image credit: Il Corno Family

Image description: The four members of Il Corno Family