Locals say that even the air you breathe makes you get fat in Naples. I can’t swear to that, but I can definitely swear that food in Naples is delicious, abundant, varied and that it would be an absolute pity to visit the city and not make the most of all of its flavors. A trip to Naples is as much about its culture, history and sights as it is about its cuisine.
Whether you have a day, a week or a month in Naples, there are certain dishes that you really should not miss. Curious to discover them? Continue reading as I am about to share the best food in Naples, so that you know what to look for during your trip!
For more delicious food to try in Italy, check out my post The Best Traditional Italian Food.
All The Food In Naples You Must Try
Pizza in Naples
Think of Naples food, and the first thing that comes to mind will likely be pizza. No pizza anywhere in the world is quite like the pizza you find in Naples, Italy. It’s said to be the best place on the planet to dine on this classic dish that was invented in the city back in the 1800s. While pizza has taken on many modern forms around the world and even in Naples, the traditional versions of authentic Napoli pizza are still widely available – and actually the best you can have. Because much like for the rest of Italian food, food in Naples – and that includes pizza – is all about simplicity.
There are two types of traditional pizza in Naples – Margherita and Neapolitan. Margherita is the most popular type and it’s topped with tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and extra virgin olive oil. Traditional pizza is cooked at very high temperatures for a short period, and, in Italy, it’s eaten with a knife and fork!
Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba is said to be the oldest pizzeria in the world, and this is just one of the places where you’ll find delicious, traditional pizza. L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, Pizzeria Concettina ai Tre Santi and Pizzeria da Attilio a few other places that sell traditional pizza. The most popular place in town, however, is Sorbillo. You will find several Sorbillos around town, including one on the waterfront, but the best remains the one in Via dei Tribunali.
Care to learn how to make Napoli’s famous pizza? Enroll in a class! To find out more, click here!
Pizza fritta directly translates to fried pizza and it’s a delicious local favorite consisting of fried morsels of pizza dough topped with your toppings of choice. Many people describe it as both chewy and crispy. I describe it as simply delicious. In Naples, popular toppings for this street food include ricotta, salami, black pepper, provola cheese, tomato and basil. Many eateries offer pizza fritta on their menu including Antica Pizzeria e Friggitoria Di Matteo, La Masardona and Pizzeria Ciro Oliva.
Street food and the like
You’ll likely see it in the hands of tourists and locals as they wander the streets of Naples. It’s served in a paper cone that makes it easy to grab and go. I’m talking about the popular Naples street food called Cuoppo. Cuoppo Napoletano, which is the traditional version you typically find in Naples, usually sees the cone stuffed with various fried items including potatoes, cheese, ham, arancini and polenta. More recent variations include fried seafood and vegetables (the one above is just calamari).
Antica friggitoria Spaccanapoli and Il Cuoppo Friggitori Napoletani are just two of the eateries in Naples that are said to offer some of the best Cuoppo in town.
Cuoppo, when referred to a woman in Naples, is actually meant to be a bit of an insult! It means greasy and ugly, much like the paper cone of the cuoppo. Can we agree it should also mean delicious on the inside?
Italian Meatballs, otherwise known as polpette, are likely nothing like the meatballs you grew up with. First of all, they are not usually eaten on top of spaghetti (God forbid!), but instead they are served as a main course. Sometimes they’re added to soup, and they’re not always made with ground beef. In fact, they can be made with any meat including pork or fish, and they can even be mixed with various vegetables. The best polpette, however, are those made with leftover meat from the ragu sauce or from meat used to prepare broth.
In Naples, Polpette alla Napoletana are typically served in a tomato sauce. Hoping to try some Polpette during your visit to Naples? Head to Meatin or Osteria Donna Teresa where some of the best Italian meatballs in town can be found.
Candele alla Genovese
When I first found this dish on the menu of a restaurant in Naples I was confused. What was a dish from Genoa (Genova, in Italian) doing on the menu of a traditional trattoria in Naples? I decided to order it and the mystery was revealed. Candele alla Genovese have nothing to do with Genoa, or with pesto.
Candele alla Genovese is a traditional pasta sauce that originated in Naples. Genovese sauce is an onion-based sauce that is used in various dishes, in particular over candele pasta. Because it takes up to six hours to cook, households often enjoy it as Sunday dinner. The sauce also has meat, usually veal or beef, carrots, black pepper and wine and the finished product can only be described as sweet and rich. While this dish is available in many restaurants around Naples, Mimì alla Ferrovia (where I tried them), Trattoria Malinconico and Hostaria Mediterraneo are said to serve the best in town.
Pasta e Patate
Pasta e patate, or pasta and potatoes, might sound like a mix-matched duo, but in reality, it’s a delicious local favorite and in Naples, the traditional variation of it, pasta e patate Napoletana, features cheese rind which makes it even more delicious! The texture is rich and creamy and slightly smoked thanks to the cheese. The dish has roots as a poor peasant dish, but today, many restaurants serve the traditional local variation as a popular main course including Trattoria da Nennella, Osteria Il Gobbetto, Antica Latteria and Trattoria Tufo.
Spaghetti alla Puttanesca
Pasta Puttanesca is traditional pasta topped with puttanesca sauce which, in Naples, is made with tomatoes, olive oil, chili peppers, capers and garlic. The sauce, which is a common one used in pasta dishes around Italy, has a unique flavor that some describe as sweet, savory and spicy. In other areas of Italy, anchovies are also used in puttanesca sauce. If you’d like the try this delicious pasta dish, Ristorante da Ettore and Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba are two great places to start in Naples.
Pasta al Ragù Napoletano
Pasta al Ragù Napoletano is another popular dish of pasta topped with a rich meat sauce. The ragù- not to be confused with ragù alla bolognese, which is typical from Bologna and completely different – is a meat and tomato sauce that is prepared slowly over a low flame.
The variety that you commonly find in Naples is made with red wine instead of white wine as it is in other regions. Olive oil and basil are also added. Another distinct feature of this variation is whole meat is used in the sauce instead of ground meat and the largest chunks of meat are removed to use as a second course or to prepare polpette. A great place to try this dish in Naples is Tandem Ragù Ristorante Napoli.
Spaghetti alle Vongole
Spaghetti alle vongole, or spaghetti with clams, is a dish that’s been around for a long time but it’s more popular now than ever! This Naples specialty doesn’t take a lot of time to prepare but it sure is delicious. Try it at many of the restaurants around the city including ‘A Figlia d’o Marenaro and Mimì alla Ferrovia. The dish photographed above is a slight variation which also has mussels and is prepared with homemade noodled. I had it at Zi Teresa, on the waterfront and close to the Castel dell’Ovo.
Melanzane alla Parmigiana
Melanzane all parmigiana translates to eggplant parmesan in English. This tasty, baked dish is made with fried eggplant, cheese and tomato sauce but in Naples, the eggplant is sometimes replaced by zucchini or artichokes. It can be eaten alone or used in other recipes such as pizza. While many eat it as a side dish, it’s actually a main course – and a rich one. Only restaurants, such as Pizzeria and Arattoria al 22 and Trattoria Pizzeria Spaccanapoli have it on their menu.
Keep in mind that some places prepare melanzane alla parmigiana with ragù sauce instead of plain tomato sauce, and in this case the dish is not vegetarian at all! Make sure to double check before ordering.
Other traditional food in Naples
This vegetable goes with many other things and is used in many traditional Italian dishes, but its bitter, nutty flavor makes it good enough to eat on its too. However, friarielli, also known as broccoli rabe, is a simple leafy green vegetable that grows around Italy and goes best with sausage. Word on the street is Cento Sapori, Benvenuti al Sud and Osteria La Chitarra sell some of the best Friarielli in Naples.
Mozzarella di Bufala
While regular mozzarella cheese is commonly used in a lot of traditional food in Naples, Mozzarella di Bufala is sought out by cheese connoisseurs who seek something beyond the ordinary. This delicious cheese is made from the milk of water buffalo. It’s so good because it has a creamier and richer texture and a sweeter flavor.
It’s considered a mild cheese, so it isn’t too sour which makes a delicious addition to many traditional dishes including pizza. It can also be eaten on its own or with vegetables or salad. If you happen to be in the town of Paestum about an hour away from Naples, there’s a dairy there that sells fresh Mozzarella di Bufala. Otherwise, you can give it a try at Ntretella – Pizzeria Friggitoria or Il Ritrovo dei Sapori, Caseificio Marigliano.
When one becomes hungry in Naples, the best thing to reach for is some taralli. Often compared to pretzels, this crunchy snack food could be part cracker, part bread and part cookie. While you can enjoy them plain, why would you when you can dress them up in so many ways! Sweet taralli are often coated with sugar while savoury ones are topped with fennel seeds, onion, garlic, salt, or hot chili pepper.
They can be enjoyed any time of day, but many people eat them as part of a meal. I think they sound good dipped in wine as some people like to do. Many bakeries around Naples sell taralli including Tarallificio Leopoldo. However, you can also try them out at many eateries around the city including Panificio Coppola, Tarallificio Esposito and Taralleria Napoletana.
Sweets and desserts
I had baba many times before having it in Naples and was reluctant to try it as I have never been particularly impressed. But then I did and boy, did I want more! Nothing beats a sweet Neapolitan dessert after a meal of pasta or pizza and baba is one that locals and visitors have been enjoying for hundreds of years.
It sounds basic, sponge cake soaked in rum, but it’s a delicious treat that also goes well with coffee. Many pastry shops around Naples sell these yummy treats but you can also try them at many eateries around town including, Pasticceria Capparelli, Caffetteria Sfogliatelle e Babà and La Sfogliatella Mary. I had mine at Gambrinus.
Zeppole di San Giuseppe
Another popular traditional sweet treat in Naples is Zeppole di San Giuseppe. Although these pastries are most commonly served on Father’s Day to celebrate the Feast of Saint Joseph, you can enjoy them any time of year, or any time of day for that matter! The pastries are filled with pastry cream and topped with black cherries. Simple, but delicious! At the pastry shop Carraturo, several generations have been making some of the best Zeppole di San Giuseppe you can find in Naples. Tarallificio Leopoldo, Pasticceria Ranaldi and Scaturchio also serve this popular dessert.
Outside of Italy, it’s known as lobster tail because of its shape but there’s no lobster or any kind of seafood in sfogliatelle. They’re actually traditional pastries with a citrusy and vanilla filling mixed with semolina and ricotta. Many people enjoy them in the morning with their coffee, or after a main meal, but they can be eaten as a snack any time of day as long as they are served warm! Sfogliatella Mary, Carraturo and Pintauro are a few of the places around Naples where you’ll find good sfogliatelle.
Among the traditional Easter food in Naples, Pastiera napoletana is so good that it is found throughout the year. Families would typically prepare it on the Holy Thursday before Easter and eat it throughout the period. This is the kind of sweet for which all local families have a secret recipe – obviously the best one! The dough is stuffed with a mix made of cooked wheat, eggs, ricotta cheese, orange water and candied orange peel before being cooked in the oven.
If you fancy trying Pastiera napoletana while in Naples, head to Gran Caffè Gambrinus in Piazza del Plebiscito – it’s one of the nicest cafés in town!
For the best chocolate dessert in Naples, make sure to have torta caprese (caprese cake). Named after Capri, the island where it was first invented by Carmine di Fiore around 1920, this cake is known in the entire region and found in all restaurants menu in Naples. It’s made with chocolate and either almonds or hazelnuts.
Since Naples is often referred to as the City of Coffee, you can bet coffee is everywhere! And it’s good, too. One of the things that make the local coffee better than anywhere else is the traditional brewing method that’s used to make it. Some people also claim that the minerals in the drinking water contribute to the coffee’s distinct flavor.
Coffee shops are everywhere in Naples, so you’ll have no problem finding one at any given time. However, it’s said that Caffé bar Nilo and Le Gran Caffe Gambrinus are some of the best ones around. You might be surprised to see that many traditional coffee shops in the city don’t have seats inside. Customers enjoy their coffee while standing at the bar.
Make sure to also read my post How To Order Coffee In Italy.
Limoncello is one of the most popular liquors made in Italy. It’s made with lemon zest, sugar and alcohol and has an alcohol content of around 30% once it is ready. This delicious beverage is best enjoyed chilled on hot summer days or nights.
Limone is a factory in Naples that produces Limoncello based on traditional recipes and techniques passed down through the generations. During a visit to the factory, you can enjoy a guided tour and see how it’s made and even sample some traditional liquors. Alternatively, you will find plenty of places along the Amalfi Coast where you can do limoncello tasting.
Final Tips To Make The Most Of Food In Naples
With so much food that you may want to try, and with limited time in the city, the best way to learn about food in Naples and its social and cultural relevance would be to join a guided food tour. There are all sorts of food tour you can pick – some focusing on pizza, others on street food, and more. Just take a look at what’s available and build up your appetite!
These other posts may be useful when planning a trip to Naples and its surroundings:
- Is Naples Safe?
- Where To Stay In Naples
- A Guide To Renting A Car In Naples
- The Best Day Trips From Naples
- A Useful Guide To Visiting Pompeii, Italy
- How To Get Tickets To Pompeii
- How To Get From Naples To Pompeii