11 Famous Neapolitan Foods to Try out in Naples, Italy
Neapolitan cuisine is characterized by its emphasis on simplicity, fresh ingredients, and a deep pride for their ancient culinary heritage. Napoli’s rich and spicy food is certainly a reflection of the people, who are warm and energetic, as well as of the city itself, a lively and vibrant historical place.
Naples is renowned for its rich culinary tradition and delicious food, encompassing some of the most iconic dishes known worldwide, such as pizza, to name the most symbolic. In Naples, as in many other regions in Italy, the cuisine stems from basic, rudimentary cooking techniques due to the impoverished conditions which southern Italy experienced for a long time.
The 18th and 19th centuries marked a period of economic hardship for the city, and the local cuisine adapted to the limited resources. Pasta became a staple, and dishes such as pasta e fagioli (pasta and bean soup) became popular due to their affordability and simplicity. In the 20th century, however, Naples experienced a culinary renaissance.
The city’s traditional dishes gained international recognition, and the Neapolitan pizza became known worldwide. The post-war period also saw the rise of street food, with vendors selling frittura (fried food) and cuoppo (paper cones filled with fried treats) on the streets.
Today, Neapolitan cuisine continues to evolve while maintaining a strong connection to its historical roots. Local markets, such as the vibrant Mercato di Porta Nolana, showcase the diversity of ingredients that contribute to the delicious tapestry of Neapolitan food.
1. Pizza Margherita
Naples is widely considered the birthplace of pizza, with Pizza Margherita being the undisputed Queen of all pizzas and, indeed, the culinary symbol of the country. Legend has it that the Margherita was invented in 1889 to honor Queen Margherita of Italy, as it bears the iconic colors of the Italian tricolore.
Where to eat the best Pizza Margherita in Naples:
L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele
Established in 1870 by the Condurro family, this pizzeria is one of the oldest in the city. After winning a much-deserved Michelin star, the pizzeria additionally gained international recognition after being featured in the movie “Eat Pray Love.”
Sorbillo is undoubtedly the most symbolic pizzeria in Naples thanks to the incredibly talented Gino Sorbillo. Gino grew up in the family pizzeria and soon learnt the secrets of the true Neapolitan pizza, which he perfectly conveys through his delicious pizzas. Don’t be put off by the hour-long wait in the queue, it will definitely be repaid!
2. Pasta alla Puttanesca
Known for its bold, flavorful sauce and its characteristic name, pasta alla puttanesca is a classic Neapolitan dish and one of the most popular pasta dishes in Italy. The dish is thought to have originated in the Quartieri Spagnoli, a district which, at the beginning of the 20th century, was renowned for its brothels, hence the name meaning prostitute in Italian.
Legend has it that one day the owner of one of the brothels decided to spice up the lunch of his guests by preparing this hot and peppery dish, which from then on became their staple lunch.
Where to eat the best Pasta alla Puttanesca in Naples:
120 Grammi is a small, colorful kiosk which does takeaway pasta – yes, you read that right. Despite the Italian stereotype of being categorically against this Americanized concept, all Neapolitans decidedly agree that this restaurant probably makes the best Puttanesca pasta in town! And when a local claims it, it’s definitely worth giving it a try.
Trattoria Pizzeria 7 Soldi
Nestled in a narrow street in the historic part of town, this rustic family-run restaurant offers some of the most exquisite traditional Italian dishes. Its impossible not to mention the mouth-watering Puttanesca pasta served with their home-made vermicelli and their locally-grown capers.
3. Ragù Napoletano
We are all certainly very familiar with ragù, generally referred to as bolognese outside of Italy. Indeed, the city of Bologna came to be known for its tasty meaty sauce, yet, few people know how distinctively delicious and unique the recipe from Naples is!
While the concept remains the same, the main difference between the two consists in the ingredients used.
The Neapolitan version of the ragù includes a wider variety of meats, such as beef, veal, pork ribs and sausages, which are all chopped up and placed in a casserole where they slow cook for almost 6 hours together with the other ingredients. And of course, what makes the ragù incomparably unique is the use of locally grown San Marzano tomatoes.
Where to eat the best Ragù Napoletano in Naples:
Osteria da Carmela
Osteria da Carmela offers a whole variety of pasta-based ragù dishes, all with a wonderfully genuine and homemade taste. The warm and cozy atmosphere elevates even more the authenticity of its traditional dishes.
Imagine a restaurant where everything you order is ragù-based. That’s what you get at Tandem! In fact, this is the first and, so far, only restaurant entirely dedicated to Neapolitan ragù. A paradise for the true aficionados! The ragù is made the old-fashioned way and served with traditional pasta shapes: ziti, rigatoni, and tagliatelle. There’s even the possibility of ordering an extra portion of sauce for the quintessential scarpetta.
4. Melanzane alla Parmigiana
Melanzane alla Parmigiana is a wonderfully rich and tasty dish consisting of thick layers of fried eggplant, layered with tomato sauce and cheese (mozzarella and Parmesan), and garnished with a few leaves of fresh basil.
The dish is baked until the slices of eggplant absorb all the sauce and become deliciously soft and tender. Though incredibly easy, this vegetarian-friendly dish always makes an impression, but don’t worry if you don’t manage to finish it all in one, they say the next it is even better!
Where to eat the best Melanzane alla Parmigiana in Naples:
Ristorante Leon d’Oro
Leon d’Oro is a popular and authentic trattoria in Naples where the Melanzane alla Parmigiana is widely recognized as one of the chef’s unmistakable classics. Located in the heart of Piazza Dante, this restaurant is the perfect place to experience the local cultural atmosphere and cuisine.
Make sure you try Melanzane alla Parmigiana in this modern Neapolitan restaurant, which fuses local gastronic know-how with innovative techniques. While on the one hand embracing innovation, the chef’s motto hanging on the restaurant wall reads: “Cooking is like loving, either you give in completely or you give up.”
5. Gnocchi alla Sorrentina
Originating from Sorrento, near Naples, Gnocchi alla Sorrentina is the culinary symbol of the area, encapsulating the simple and rich flavors of the Mediterranean. Soft potato gnocchi, a creamy tomato sauce, melting mozzarella cheese, and the freshness of basil means this comforting dish requires nothing more to satisfy your soul.
Where to eat the best Gnocchi alla Sorrentina in Naples:
O’Cerriglio Trattoria Tipica
Located in the heart of the city, this authentic Neapolitan restaurant offers a wide variety of local dishes, amongst which the much regularly ordered is Gnocchi alla Sorrentina. Its reasonable prices and welcoming atmosphere reflect the humble and authentic spirit of the restaurant.
Trattoria Napoli Notte
With its typical Parthenopean architecture and traditional cuisine, Napoli Notte is widely considered by locals to be one of the city’s landmarks for savoring Neapolitan specialties.
6. Frittura di Paranza
Frittura di paranza is one of the most popular dishes in various coastal regions of southern Italy which benefit from the abundance of fresh seafood.
Similar to the Turkish hamsi dish, It consists of nothing more than small fish, such as anchovies, squid, shrimp, sardines, which are lightly battered until crispy and golden and served with a squeeze of lemon. The term paranza refers to the typical Neapolitan coastal boats which were historically used for fishing.
Where to eat the best Frittura di Paranza in Naples:
La Trattoria del Buongustaio
This restaurant perfectly represents the image of an authentic Neapolitan trattoria: a family-run eatery with a warm and welcoming atmosphere offering traditional dishes and fish of remarkable freshness. This is by far the most popular place to go and savor an outstanding fried seafood platter.
Trattoria del Sole
If you want to follow the locals to eat frittura di paranza, try Trattoria del Sole. Nestled in a tiny side street, this authentic Neapolitan restaurant offers the most delicious traditional dishes at exceptionally reasonable prices. No doubt that’s why it is one of the most frequented places in the city!
Similar to the frittura di paranza, cuoppo is a mix of deep-fried shellfish served in a paper cone, or basket, as the Neapolitan name cuoppo implies.
Seasoned with salt, pepper, and lemon, cuoppo has become a popular symbol of Neapolitan street food and, indeed, is a great way of keeping up your energy while browsing the historical streets of Naples.
Where to eat the best Cuoppo in Naples:
Established in 1938 by Raffaele Acunzo (the same owner of one of the most historical pizzerias in Naples), Friggitoria Vomero is a much-loved place for real gastronomic connoisseurs.
The secret of their undisputed success lies in culinary secrets which have been passed down from generation to generation and which are shared exclusively within the family. This is why very few have sought to even try recreating their authentic deliciousness.
La Passione di Sofì
This place is another renowned spot for the best cuoppo in Naples. This little restaurant bears the name of a Neapolitan lady with whom, according to folklore, Ferdinand I, King of the Two Sicilies, fell in love, in the early 19th century, due to her wonderful culinary creations. And indeed, the delicious cuoppo made here stands up to the excellence of Sofì’s creations.
Casatiello is a savory round bread originating from Naples and traditionally enjoyed during religious festivities, such as Easter or Christmas, as it symbolizes rebirth and abundance. According to tradition, on the day preceding Good Friday, Neapolitan women used to gather to make casatiello for the following day.
Its typical circular shape symbolizes the cyclicity of life. It is usually filled with cured meats such as salami or pancetta, as well as with cheese and eggs, which make it a rich and indulgent treat, generally found in most patisseries and bakeries of Naples.
Where to eat the best Casatiello in Naples:
Chalet Ciro has been one of the most renowned bakeries in Naples for over 70 years. The combination of the highest quality ingredients and the most talented culinary savoir-faire has gained the place the highest reputation. Here you can taste one of the best casatiello in the region.
With almost a century of experience, this historic patisserie is another of the city’s landmarks for casatiello, as well as for many local pastries and baked goods. Make sure you stop by for a bite!
9. Pastiera Napoletana
Pastiera Napoletana may well be the single most loved Neapolitan dessert. This shortcrust pastry cake, filled with ricotta and cream, was traditionally made for Easter.
The top is, in fact, decorated with strips of pastry layered to form the shape of small crosses all over the surface. Today, pastiera Napoletana can be enjoyed throughout the year and continues to be the number one dessert in the region!
Where to eat the best Pastiera Napoletana in Naples:
La Pastiera Napoletana
Bearing the same name as their fabulous piece de resistance, this lovely little patisserie has definitely got you covered for your sweet cravings all year long, even after the Easter period!
Piazza Carità, now known as Piazza Salvo D’Acquisto, is the square where one of the best cafeterias in Naples is located: La Caffetteria Ceraldi. Here you will surely be caught by indecision as you peruse what is on offer, but we can assure you that their pastiera Napoletana is truly excellent, especially when enjoyed with their top-notch cappuccino.
Last but not least, sfogliatella is a delicious way to end your dinner or just to treat yourself to a mid-afternoon snack. This traditional shell-shaped Neapolitan pastry, filled with sweet ricotta cheese, candied fruit, and orange zest is available in every patisserie in Naples.
There are two main types of sfogliatella: riccia, made with puff pastry, or frolla, made with shortcrust pastry. Riccia tends to be the most popular due to its flaky crust.
Where to eat the best Sfogliatella in Naples:
Located in a small alley off Piazza Garibaldi, Attanasio has become one of the most well-known patisseries in the area. The irresistible mouth-watering smell of freshly baked sfogliatelle constantly drifts through the streets, making it impossible to walk past.
Antica Pasticceria Carraturo
In the heart of Porta Capuana lies the historic Pasticceria Carraturo, which opened back in 1837! Whether crunchy and fragrant, or crumbly and flaky, both types of sfogliatelle are pure excellence here, embodying the patisserie’s secular culinary expertise.
The calzone, a classic Neapolitan dish, originated as a popular street food in Naples during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Originally, it served as a convenient and practical way to enjoy pizza on the go. However, this historical tradition has faded, and nowadays, calzones are more commonly found in restaurants than as a portable option.
Calzone was the inspiration for a similar dish with Italian roots – the stromboli. However, stromboli was created in the United States by Italian immigrants and while stromboli looks similar to calzone, there are many differences between the two.