Although not everyone arrives in Italy as a foodie, it’s hard to visit Naples without becoming one. It’s Naples, after all, that gave the world pizza – which is a fine gift, don’t you think? Pizza isn’t the only thing to have on your “must eat” list when visiting Naples, however. Here are our picks for famous food to try in Naples.
Any food tastes better in the place where it was born, and that’s absolutely true in Naples. Sure, other cities have put their unique spin on pizza – and done so pretty well – but Naples maintains its most famous dish in its original style. It’s not only delicious and ubiquitous, it’s also cheap. How’s that for an ideal combination?
One could joke that Naples is a bit like the Midwestern US in its love for deep-fried foods. Many restaurants have big windows on the sidewalk that get opened at meal times to serve deep-fried goodies to passers by – it’s a quick afternoon snack, not quite enough for lunch, but definitely tasty. Look for deep-fried zucchini blossoms and even deep-fried pizza (folded for easier munching while walking).
Naples’ favorite pastry is the sfoglatella – pronounced zvol-ya-TELL-ah. It’s got a multi-layered outside that’s flaky like a croissant, but the center is filled with a dense, sweetened ricotta that makes each pastry weigh several times more than you think it should based on its size.
Italians do coffee well throughout the country, but in Naples they’ve got their own twists on this everyday drink. Single shots of espresso are served in tiny cups that have been kept in boiling hot water (so the coffee doesn’t get the least bit cold before you drink it), and true Neapolitan coffee comes with sugar so you don’t even need to empty that paper packet into it before sipping.
Pasta wasn’t born in Naples, but Neapolitans certainly love it. Spaghetti and linguine are popular, most commonly in tomato-based sauces. You might also try gnocchi, made from flour and potatoes – there’s a dish called “gnocchi alla sorrentina” that’s from Sorrento (which you can see from Naples’ harbor) with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese mixed in.
Naples is on the water, so it’s not surprising that seafood features prominently on its menus. You’ll find plenty of fish dishes on offer, including squid, fresh anchovies, and mussels. Pasta dishes frequently feature fish as well, such as spaghetti with clams (vongole).
“Parmigiana di melanzane” (Italian for “eggplant parmesan”) is a typical dish of the Campania region, which includes Naples, as well as several other regions in southern Italy. You can find “parmigiana” dishes made with other things than just eggplant, but this is a classic version.
You might think mozzarella is common all over Italy, and these days that may be true – but the best stuff comes from the Campania region, so it’s a good idea to sample it in Naples. “Mozzarella di bufala,” made from the milk of water buffalos, is particularly prized – you can upgrade any pizza to include this for an added fee.