Not sure what to eat in Naples? Follow me in this article and discover all the interesting facts about Naples cuisine, where food is a real art form!
Naples, a vibrant and fascinating city, is famous not only for its rich history and culture, but also for its extraordinary culinary tradition. Located on the southern coast of Italy, this city overlooking the Mediterranean Sea offers a wide range of gastronomic delicacies that capture the hearts and palates of visitors from around the world.
Its historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, enchants visitors with its historic monuments, art, architecture, and quaint alleyways. As you visit the city, you will find that every corner of it is special: descend into the depths of the “Toledo” metro station to discover the combination of engineering and artistic beauty that makes it the most beautiful in Europe. Everything about Naples is unique: the breathtaking views over its gulf, the towering Mount Vesuvius, the warmth of the people, and above all the typical Neapolitan cuisine.
If you are looking for cuisine made up of both land and sea dishes, with elaborate but also poor dishes, you will love Neapolitan gastronomic specialties. Get ready for a tasty journey through the streets of Naples, where food is a true art form. Strolling through the streets of this wonderful city is sure to make your mouth water: savor street food, with the characteristic portfolio pizzas or crispy sfogliatelle (you’ll be captivated by the delicious variety of flavors), or sit down in one of the many trattorias or restaurants to enjoy a full Neapolitan menu.
To enjoy true Neapolitan dishes, appreciated in Italy and around the world, you have to take advantage of your trip to Naples. A few gastronomic souvenirs such as Gragnano pasta, Neapolitan taralli, coffee and other delicious specialties will remind you of this truly unique adventure.
Naples cuisine has also been celebrated by numerous movies such as, “Eat, Pray Love”, starring Julia Roberts or “Naples in Veils”, where the main character becomes a cooking enthusiast while investigating a mysterious murder, and many more…
Now follow me through this article as we discover together what to eat in Naples. Get ready to immerse yourself in all that this city has to offer and enjoy your journey through the best Neapolitan dishes, from street food to meals suitable for any time of day, from breakfast to traditional Neapolitan dinner.
Ready to have this culinary experience through the streets of Naples? Buckle up and get ready for this delicious adventure! 😋
The most famous Naples food specialties
1. Street food
On the streets of Naples, there can be no shortage of small kiosks and stalls offering a variety of traditional foods, ready to delight the palate of anyone who ventures out to taste them. Among the typical Neapolitan street food dishes, you absolutely must try:
- Crocché: these are potato croquettes, often prepared with mashed potatoes mixed with grated cheese, eggs and parsley. The whole is then fried until a golden, crispy crust is obtained.
- Paste Cresciute: these are small, fluffy pancakes made with a batter of flour, yeast, water and salt. Stuffed with ham and cheese, they are fried until light and stringy.
- Palle ‘e Riso: these are rice balls topped with meat sauce or meat sauce, cheese and peas. They are breaded and then fried until crispy. We can call them arancini, a classic Sicilian street food that has also made its way to Naples.
- Seafood Cuoppo: is a straw paper cone filled with fried fish and seafood, such as squid, shrimp, squid and much more local catch. Usually, this Napoli food is served with a touch of lemon. A treat for lovers of fish and traditional Neapolitan cuisine!
- Per ‘e ‘o Muss: these are fresh mussels cooked in a rich sauce made with tomato, garlic, parsley and spices. They are served hot and accompanied by crusty bread.
- Taralli ‘nzogna e Pepe: these are savory cookies typical of southern Italy. They are made with flour, lard (nzogna), black pepper and other spices. They are great to eat as a snack among the lively streets of the city center.
2. Mozzarella in carrozza
This is a delicious Neapolitan dish that can be described as a kind of fried sandwich. It is prepared by taking two slices of white bread, between which is placed mozzarella di bufala or fior di latte cheese, and sometimes the whole thing is enriched with cooked ham or anchovies. This sandwich is then dipped in a batter of eggs and milk, breaded in breadcrumbs and fried until golden and crispy. The result is a warm, creamy and irresistible bite.
Casatiello is a traditional Neapolitan dish prepared during the Easter season. There are two main versions: salty casatiello and sweet casatiello.
- Casatiello Salato: This variant is a rustic cake made with leavened dough, cheese, cold cuts such as bacon and salami, hard-boiled eggs and black pepper. All this is blended together to form a richly flavored dough, baked in a traditional doughnut format. Its preparation is great fun and the result satisfying. A traditional Neapolitan product that will make you experience the true spirit of Naples.
- Sweet Casatiello: Sweet casatiello is similar in shape to savory, but the ingredients are different. It is prepared with a sweet leavened dough enriched with eggs, sugar, butter and candied fruit. This version is often associated with the Christmas holidays.
4. Potato gattò
Potato gattò, or gateau, is a typical Neapolitan dish, often served as an appetizer or side dish, made with mashed potatoes, eggs, cheese, ham or salami. These ingredients are mixed together to create a homogeneous mixture, which is then baked in a baking dish until the outside has a golden, crispy crust and the inside has a stringy, creamy filling.
5. Buffalo mozzarella, Fiordilatte and Provola cheese
- Mozzarella di Bufala: is a fresh stringy cheese produced using buffalo milk. It is one of Italy’s most iconic and delicious cheeses, with a soft, malleable texture and a delicate, slightly sweet flavor.
- Fiordilatte: This is another pasta filata cheese, but is made with cow’s milk instead of buffalo milk. It has a similar texture to buffalo mozzarella, but its flavor is generally less intense.
- Provola: is a stringy cheese that can be made from either buffalo or cow’s milk. There are several variations of provola: smoked provola, which has a rich and intense flavor; mild provola, which is more delicate; and spicy provola, which has been aged longer and develops a stronger, spicier flavor.
6. Sausage and Friarelli
An easy preparation that involves sautéing sausage and friarelli together with garlic and olive oil. “Friarelli” are a variety of broccoli or turnip greens, a typical Neapolitan product. The sausage adds a rich and savory flavor to the dish, while the friarelli contribute their characteristic bitter taste. A unique contrast of flavors that will give you a 100% Neapolitan dining experience.
7. Pizza di Scarole and Pizza Rustica
Pizza di Scarole is a traditional Neapolitan dish prepared with stewed escarole leaves, pine nuts, raisins, capers, garlic, olive oil and red pepper. The escarole is cooked until soft and flavorful, then used as a topping for a pizza or focaccia base. Pizza Rustica, also known as Pizza Parigina or Pizza di Pasqua, is a rustic pie typically stuffed with ricotta cheese, eggs, cheese, cold cuts, and black pepper. It is eaten, as the name implies, during the Easter holidays. The name “Parigina” comes from the Neapolitan “p’a reggina”, meaning “for the queen”, thought to be dedicated to a queen of Naples.
8. Sartù di Riso
A traditional Neapolitan dish that consists of a layer of rice cooked in tomato sauce, often mixed with peas, mozzarella cheese, and minced meat such as sausage or chicken. This mixture is placed in a mold and baked until golden brown. It is a festive and delicious dish. With its simple appearance and tasty flavor, it will amaze you!
9. Pasta Omelet
Frittata di Pasta is a simple but tasty preparation. It is an omelet prepared from leftover cooked pasta, often pasta such as ziti or spaghetti. It is then mixed with beaten eggs, cheese, parsley and other ingredients to taste. The frittata subsequently cooked in a pan until golden and slightly crispy. A typical dish that is prepared by Neapolitan families.
10. Pasta, Potatoes and Provola
This is a typical rustic and hearty Neapolitan dish consisting of pasta, potatoes and provolone cheese. Pasta is often cut into small pieces and cooked together with potatoes, provolone cheese, olive oil, black pepper and sometimes tomato. The result is a creamy and richly flavored dish. A traditional, simple but excellent dish that will warm your soul.
11. Pasta Genovese
Although the name may mislead, “Pasta alla Genovese” is a Neapolitan gastronomic specialty. There are several versions about its name: some say that this sauce was devised during the Aragonese era by a cook from Genoa, while others claim that the origin of this dish owes to a Neapolitan cook called o’ Genovese in dialect.
It is a pasta, often ziti or mezze maniche, topped with a sauce made from slowly caramelized onions, beef or pork, and tomato. The key to this dish is the preparation of the onions, which become sweet and creamy during slow cooking; the meat, on the other hand, flakes off and creates a very tasty sauce. For your palate, it will be an explosion of flavors!
12. Soffritto Napoletano or Zuppa Forte
“Soffritto Napoletano”, also known as “Zuppa Forte”, is one of the typical dishes of Neapolitan cuisine. It is a thick and flavorful tomato sauce made with beef or pork. This sauce is simmered until rich and flavorful and is often used to season pasta.
13. Neapolitan Ragout
Also known as “Ragù alla Napoletana”, it is a rich sauce made from beef and tomato. The meat is cooked slowly and for several hours with tomato, onion, garlic, basil and other flavorings. It is a deeply flavorful sauce that goes perfectly with pasta, often used with spaghetti or bucatini. If you don’t know what to eat in Naples, you should definitely try it in a typical trattoria while strolling the streets of the city.
14. Scarpariello sauce
This is a sauce made with tomato, onion, garlic, basil and chili pepper. It is a simple but tasty preparation, often used to season pasta, such as spaghetti or penne. The name “Scarpariello” may come from the fact that this sauce was traditionally prepared by Neapolitan shoemakers (scarpari).
15. Pizza Napoletana
If you think of Naples, the first food that comes to mind is for sure pizza. It is the culinary symbol of this city and one of the most famous pizzas in the world. It features a thin, fluffy base with a slightly burnt crust and a high edge. Traditional ingredients include San Marzano tomato, buffalo or fior di latte mozzarella, fresh basil and olive oil. Neapolitan pizza is baked in a wood-fired oven at very high temperatures, which gives it its characteristic flavor and texture. The dough and quality ingredients are the strength of this recipe, characterizing it and making it excellent. Neapolitan pizza is so celebrated that in 2017 it was recognized as an “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO, confirming its importance in the Neapolitan culinary tradition.
There are several variations, including the “Pizza a Portafoglio”, which has a collapsible shape for easy consumption on the street. Beloved for its portability and authentic taste, it is often a popular option for a quick snack or dinner.
16. Fried Pizza
As the name implies, it is a pizza that instead of being baked in the oven is fried in olive oil. The dough is stuffed with a variety of ingredients, such as ricotta, cicoli, tomato, mozzarella, or other delicacies. The stuffed pizza is then closed in a crescent shape, sealed, and fried until golden and crispy. Among the best known variations are “Montanare”, which are fried and then topped with tomato, mozzarella, basil and olive oil-simple but the best!
17. Spaghetti with Clams
These are a pasta dish beloved throughout Italy, known for its simplicity and fresh, delicate flavor. In this Neapolitan preparation, spaghetti is seasoned with fresh clams, garlic, olive oil, parsley, black pepper, and sometimes chili pepper. The clams open while cooking and release their delicious flavor, creating a flavorful seafood sauce that envelops the spaghetti. The perfect delicacy to enjoy on the waterfront of the charming city of Naples.
18. Baccalà alla Napoletana
This is dried and salted cod, which is left in cold water for 24 to 36 hours. It is then cooked with tomatoes, olives and capers. It is a flavor-rich preparation that is part of an important culinary tradition: in fact, it is one of the traditional Neapolitan Christmas Eve dishes, to be eaten with family and friends.
19. Eggs in Purgatory
These eggs have a special name: the connection between the name of the dish and Purgatory lies in the spicy, tangy tomato sauce in which the eggs are cooked. It symbolically represents the fire of Purgatory, while the eggs represent souls in purification. This dish has affinities with other cuisines, such as Mexican (Huevos Rancheros) and Jewish (Shakshuka), which involve eggs cooked in a tomato sauce.
20. Peppered Mussels.
Dish made with mussels, which are cooked in a spicy sauce made with black pepper, garlic, parsley, olive oil, and sometimes blended with white wine. The mussels open during cooking and absorb the spicy, tangy flavor of the sauce. It is a delicacy with a bold and enveloping taste. Being a summer dish, it is often eaten at Ferragosto. Great for seafood lovers and those who love to eat Neapolitan!
21. Octopus alla Luciana
This is a tasty dish with a spicy touch, typical of Naples cuisine. Octopus is cooked with tomatoes, garlic, chili peppers, parsley and white wine. The dish can be served as an appetizer or as a main course, often accompanied by slices of toasted bread to be dipped in the tasty sauce.
22. Zucchini alla Scapece
These are zucchini fried and then marinated in a sauce made from vinegar, garlic, mint, black pepper and olive oil. This dish has a combination of fresh and sour flavors.
23. Scarola ‘Mbuttunata
Typical Neapolitan salad made with escarole, a type of bitter lettuce. The escarole is cut into strips and dressed with anchovies, capers, black olives, garlic, chili pepper, olive oil and vinegar. The name “Mbuttunata” comes from the way the escarole is handled and “beaten” to make it soften and absorb the flavors of the marinade.
24. “Mushroom-shaped” Eggplant
On a traditional Neapolitan menu, you will find these diced fried eggplants as a side dish or appetizer. They are served in a sauce made from tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, parsley and chili pepper. The name “mushroom-shaped” comes from their shape, which is vaguely reminiscent of mushrooms.
If you don’t know what to eat in Naples, sfogliatella is one of the most eaten and appreciated sweets by both Italians and foreign visitors. There are two main variations of these very famous Naples foods:
- Sfogliatella Riccia: This variant has an outer layer of crisp puff pastry and a sweet filling of ricotta cheese, sugar, orange zest and cinnamon.
- Sfogliatella Frolla: made with short pastry, it is softer and crumblier. The filling can vary, often including ricotta, custard or other sweet ingredients. Experience an explosion of flavors in every bite!
The famous Neapolitan breakfast. It is a small mushroom or doughnut-shaped cake dipped in a rum syrup. Baba can be enriched with chantilly cream or whipped cream. If you prefer savory, you can try “Ham and Cheese Baba”, where the sweet baba is filled with ham and cheese, often served as an appetizer. A real treat!
27. Zeppole di San Giuseppe
The traditional dessert prepared on the occasion of St. Joseph’s Day on March 19. There are two main delicious variations:
- Zeppole Fritte: are small balls of yeast dough fried and covered with sugar.
- Zeppole al Forno: these are similar to fried zeppole, but are baked in the oven.
In addition, there is the variant of “Zeppole Salate” which can be filled with ham and cheese, ricotta and spinach, or other savory ingredients as desired.
If you plan to visit Naples during the Christmas season, these small fried sweets in the shape of balls or small cylinders will jump out at you. They are prepared by kneading flour, eggs, sugar, grated orange zest and liqueur, often rum or anisette. The dough is then cut into small portions, fried until golden brown and dipped in a sweetened honey syrup. Finally, they are decorated with candied fruit or colored sugared almonds.
29. Pastiera Napoletana
This is one of the most iconic dishes of Neapolitan cuisine. It is traditional to bake this cake at Easter. It is a cake with a pastry shell or puff pastry, filled with a cream made with ricotta cheese, eggs, candied fruit and orange blossom. A characteristic decorative element of the pastiera is the grid of pastry on top, which turns out a golden color after baking. It has a rich and aromatic flavor, with a mix of sweetness and slight acidity from the candied fruit. An unforgettable dessert that is surely the symbol of traditional Neapolitan dishes.
30. Other Neapolitan Sweets
Graffe: during the Carnival festival, you cannot fail to taste this typical Neapolitan dessert. They are fried doughnuts made of leavened dough, sugar, eggs, orange zest and liqueur. They are often covered with powdered sugar and have a soft and sweet texture.
Migliaccio: This is a semolina cake made from durum wheat semolina, milk, lemon zest and vanilla; sometimes it may contain ricotta or orange blossom. It is baked until it becomes a dense, sweet polenta. It is a typical dessert of the Carnival period.
Nougat of the Dead: This is a soft nougat made with honey, almonds and walnuts. It has a soft, sticky texture and is often flavored with cloves or cinnamon. It is prepared during the feast of the dead.
Wines to pair with typical Neapolitan dishes
In the heart of bustling Naples, the culinary arts go beautifully with the Italian wine tradition. When tasting the typical dishes of Naples, it is essential to choose the right wine to complete the gastronomic experience.
The famous Neapolitan pizza, with its soft base and the intense flavors of buffalo mozzarella and San Marzano tomatoes, finds a perfect partner in white wines such as Falanghina or Greco di Tufo. These wines offer a freshness and liveliness that balance the rich flavor of the pizza, also excellent accompanied by a plate of spaghetti with clams.
For pasta alla Genovese, a light red wine such as Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio is recommended. These red wines complement the aromatic sauces and typical Neapolitan ingredients.
Finally, to end a meal with desserts such as sfogliatella or rum baba, a glass of Limoncello, the typical lemon liqueur of Naples, is a classic choice that offers a note of freshness and sweetness. In short, Neapolitan wines are an essential addition to best elevate your trip to the city of Naples!
Now that you know what to eat in Naples, don’t miss this amazing culinary journey; this city is much more than just a tourist destination. Travel to Campania with Italia Delight! 😍
Cover photo: tom-podmore-unsplash
Featured photo: zsolt-cserna-unsplash