Table of Contents
- Our History with Naples
- Naples Food Favorites
- Naples Street Food and Snacks
- Neapolitan Pasta
- Local Products
- Neapolitan Desserts
- Naples Quick Facts
- Plan Your Naples Stay
- Hungry for More in Naples?
- Pin It for Later
- About the Authors
Are you wondering what to eat in Naples during your first trip to Southern Italy? Read on to discover 27 must-eat Naples food favorites that you simply should not miss during your trip to the Italy food hotspot that doubles as pizza’s homeland.
Naples is famous around the world for its pizza. However Naples has so much more to offer food travelers.
Home to the world’s oldest operating opera house, numerous castles, a stunning bay and a majestic yet devastating volcano, Naples is a city where graffiti covered buildings stand next to historic churches and crumbling ruins.
But Naples’ greatest claim to fame transcends its prime geographic location, notable architecture and storied past. This is the city where Pizza Margherita and a slew of tasty Italian food staples were born.
While most travelers visit Naples specifically to eat pizza, savvy travelers explore a local cuisine, including pasta and desserts, that rivals some of the best in Europe and beyond. In fact, these foods combine to make Naples one of the best food cities in the world.
Some visitors spend their time grazing through the antique yet chaotic Centro Storico while others make reservations at trattorias and Michelin starred restaurants.
There’s no right or wrong way to eat in Naples so long as you avoid tourist traps. The city is a mecca for food travelers who enjoy digging into a streetside snack as much as a relaxing during a three course meal.
Our History with Naples
Eating Margherita Pizza in its homeland was our original motivation for visiting Naples in 2014. As we quickly learned during that initial trip and during a month-long visit in 2017, pizza is just the apex of a food mountain that challenges nearby Mt. Vesuvius in both breadth and scope.
That month gave us just enough time to find our favorite Naples pizza spots. But we didn’t stop at pizza. We ate seafood out of paper cones and licked gelato piled on top of cookie cones. We also dined at some of the best restaurants in Naples along the way.
As we wandered and ate our way through Naples’ ancient, winding streets, we vowed to return again. After three years and visits to more than a dozen countries in four continents, we finally came ‘home’ to Naples in 2020.
Yes, Naples called us for a third visit during the year of the pandemic. We answered and the result is this Naples food guide showcasing the foods you MUST eat during your visit to the Southern Italian gem called Napoli.
Naples Food Favorites
Neapolitan locals and tourists tend to eat all day long. And who can blame them? Thanks to its Mediterranean location and close proximity to volcanic soil, Naples has access to some of the best food products in both Italy and the world.
Sure, pizza reigns supreme, but this is also a city with a deep culinary culture.
Many Italians immigrated from Naples to America after spending years (and in some cases generations) arranging for safe passage to the new world. It could be argued that much of the American version of Italian cuisine featuring spaghetti, pizza and meatballs sprang from Neapolitan shores.
Some of the best food products in Naples, like buffalo mozzarella and ricotta, are unique to the Campania region. The city is also a central hub for great Southern Italy farm products like tomatoes, fresh greens and gourds as well as Mediterranean citrus fixtures like lemons and oranges
Walking through neighborhoods like Rione Sanità is a unique thrill since food stands burst with a rainbow of unique fruit and produce. If you leave the city, hoop houses line the landscape with farmers taking advantage of some of the finest volcanic soil in the world.
Naples’ location on the Tyrrhenian Sea makes the city a seafood mecca. Neighborhood markets teem with clams and shellfish, and the small yet full-flavored preserved anchovy remains a staple ingredient in Naples cuisine. Fish fans can buy large tins filled with acciughe, plump, salted anchovies loaded with flavor, at grocery stores in the city.
What these foods have in common is that they’re all better versions compared to what you can find at home… unless you live in Naples. As you start your culinary exploration of Italy’s third largest city, we recommend starting with the following Naples food favorites:
The words ‘Naples’ and ‘Pizza’ are inexorably tied together with the city’s pizza rating among the best in the world. Accordingly, you’ll want to eat as much pizza as possible when you visit Naples whether you follow our detailed Naples pizza guide, book a street food tour or attend an interactive pizza-making workshop.
Whichever approach you decide to follow, be sure to eat the following two Naples pizza favorites:
1. Neapolitan Pizza
Neapolitan pizza is famous around the world and Naples’ most famous pie, the Margherita, has become the stuff of legend. Though many attribute the pie’s invention to Queen Margherita’s famous visit in 1889, locals may have been adding the tomato sauce, cheese and basil trio to their pies up to a century earlier.
You can eat this historic pie all over Italy and around the world. But, not surprisingly, the best and most authentic Margherita pizzas are only available in Naples.
Pizza shops all over the city serve Margherita pizzas made with the same three toppings (fior di latte or buffalo mozzarella; tomatoes and basil) baked to a blistery brown in high temperature wood-fire ovens. They also serve cheese-free Marinara pies topped with tomatoes, garlic and oregano.
Most Naples pizzerias offer additional toppings and pie variations beyond the two standard bearers and some of these toppings, like buffalo ricotta, anchovy, sausage and fresh yellow piennolo tomatoes, are showstoppers. However, you should start your Naples food exploration by eating a Margherita pie and a Marinara pie. Everything after these two will be a bonus.
2. Pizza Fritta
Pizza Fritta is proof that frying tasty food like pizza is usually a good idea. Most Naples pizza shops serve this pizza variation in addition to pizzas baked in wood-fired ovens.
To make Pizza Fritta, pizzaiolos in Naples fry stuffed pizza dough in hot oil until ‘GBD’ (golden brown and delicious). Typical ingredients include cheese (ricotta, provolone and mozzarella) and meat (salami and ham).
You can find Pizza Fritta at many of the best Naples pizzerias as well as at takeaway stands along Via dei Tribunali in Centro Storico. Whether you eat Pizza Fritta at with a knife and fork at a table or in a paper wrapper on the street, eat it right away. Like most fried food, Pizza Fritta tastes best when it’s fresh and hot.
Naples Street Food and Snacks
While Pizza Fritta may be the popular street food in Naples, the variety of snacks available at food stands and restaurants is astounding. We recommend sampling the following treats as you graze your way around the city:
The Frittatina is proof that pasta fries up just as well as pizza. Neapolitan figgitorie (fried snack stands) and pizza shops sell these deep fried pasta fritters all day, every day throughout the city.
More than just fried pasta, a crispy Frittatina includes ingredients like bechamel sauce and peas. Expect to pay a euro if you buy a Frittatina from a friggitoria and double that at pizzerias.
Unlike America where meatballs are served with spaghetti, Napolitanos eat meatballs called Polpette as starters without pasta. They typically fry them up or smother them with savory tomato sauce. Sometimes they even eat them on a cuzzetiello sandwich.
You can eat fried Polpette as a protein-forward snack food while you’re touring Naples or eat the ragù-topped version at a local trattoria. If you want to try the latter, order Polpette in Sugo when you see it on the menu.
Available in both sweet and savory versions, the Taralli is a classic Neapolitan snack food sold at bakeries throughout the city. Locals also buy bags of the ring-shaped delicacy at local grocery stores and market.
We first ate savory Taralli made with lard and almonds during a Naples food tour and later bought a small version called Tarallini at a neighborhood supermarket near our Airbnb apartment. Sometimes we munched on them between meals and other times we paired them with cured meat and cheese.
How you eat Taralli in Naples is up to you. Be warned! They’re addictive!
The long and winding history (both fictional and non) of pasta transcends Italy and involves Marco Polo, China and even Thomas Jefferson. The American founding father first ate macaroni when he lived in Paris. That, apparently, is true. In reality, Italians have probably been eating pasta for millennia.
While pasta’s origins and history is debatable, there’s no debate that the versatile food is a staple in modern Italian cuisine. Each Italian region has its own approach to pasta and Naples is no exception to this rule. This is a city where grocery stores devote entire rooms to boxes of dry noodles and chefs skillfully boil Neapolitan pasta al dente.
The question isn’t if you’ll eat pasta in Naples but rather which pasta you’ll like the most. To find your favorite, we recommend ordering the following pasta dishes when you see them on a Naples menu:
6. Pasta Ragù
Ragù rivals pizza when it comes to ubiquity in Neapolitan cuisine. The meaty tomato sauce graces a myriad of menus, capitalizing upon the quality of tomatoes grown on nearby volcanic soil.
Pasta Ragù pairs the meaty red sauce with pastas like ziti and rigatoni. Cooked low and slow, Pasta Ragù is commonly eaten on Sundays in Neapolitan homes – a tradition that leaped the pond to northeastern states like New York and New Jersey. However, restaurants in Naples serve the dish all week long.
Plan to eat Pasta Ragù in causal restaurants at tables covered with red-checker tablecloths and make sure you save some bread to sop up the last bits of sauce. The final piece of bread is called scarpetta (or shoe) and will surely be the best bread of your meal.
7. Pasta Genovese
Possibly inspired by traders from Genoa centuries ago, Pasta Genovese is a Naples food staple with no definitive connection to the northern Italian city. Onions take a prominent role in this pasta’s meaty sauce after simmering for several hours. Once the onions melt, the result is a rustic, luxurious, sweet, saucy, meaty bomb.
After eating solid versions at two local restaurants, we hit the Genovese motherlode at Pizzeria Concettina Ai Tre Santi (served in a Frittatina and on the side for good measure) where we literally wanted to lick the bowl. The Genovese sauce was that good.
Where will you find your favorite Genovese version? We recommend trying several in your search for the best pasta in Naples.
8. Linguinie al Cartoccio
Depending on with whom you’re speaking, Linguini al Cartoccio was invented in Abruzzo, Naples or the Amalfi Coast. Regardless of its specific origin, the dish is an Italian classic that involves cooking a mishmash of seafood, pasta, olive, oil, tomatoes and white wine in foil or parchment paper.
One of the possible inventors of the dish, Ristorante Bellini is the place to eat Linguini al Cartoccio in Naples. Expect your pasta to be joined by fruits de mer like mussels, clams and shrimp after the server dramatically unveils the dish at your table. It’s a showstopper.
9. Spaghetti alle Vongole
Although Spaghetti alle Vongole sounds exotic, the name literally translates to Spaghetti with Clams. And that’s exactly what the dish includes plus a few extra ingredients like olive oil, garlic and the occasional volcanic tomato.
Enjoyed all over Italy but invented in Naples, Spaghetti alle Vongole is easy to find at trattorias around the city. It’s the last dish we ate in Naples since we needed a break from pizza. Simple and filling, with a lightly slightly briny sauce and just a hint of fresh tomato, it did not disappoint.
10. Pasta e Patate con Provola
Much of Neapolitan cuisine developed during times when the city and its region (Campania) were poor. Pasta e Patate con Provola is a great example of this culinary history since home cooks prepare the dish with pantry items like potatoes, pasta, root vegetables, olive oil and cheese rinds.
Since we don’t have an Italian cucina (kitchen) or nonna (grandmother), we scratched our potato pasta itch by eating Pasta e Patate con Provola at a neighborhood osteria on a rainy Naples night. You’ll want to do the same if you like comfort food that warms you up from the inside out.
With a location that kisses the Tyrrhenian Sea, Naples has abundance of seafood that locals and visitors can eat with pasta, in soup or on a plate. The truly pizza-obsessed can even eat seafood on top of pizza.
We recommend the following dishes when you crave seafood in Naples:
In Naples, Cuoppo is the sweet spot where seafood and street food temporarily live in harmony inside a paper cone called a cuoppo.
Expect to eat a Cuoppo with a cornucopia of fried items including proteins like cod, anchovies, shrimp and squid as well as vegetables like squash blossoms, zucchini and eggplant. The veggies make the Cuoppo healthy – that and it’s fish.
Considering the availability and quality of seafood dishes in Naples, you might think that salted cod wouldn’t be a popular dish. You would be wrong. Similar to Portuguese cities like Lisbon and Italian cities like Venice, salted cod or Baccalà is considered a luxury item.
Coined the fish that saved the world by author Mark Kurlansky, imported cod from Norway is especially popular in Naples on Fridays during Lent and on Christmas Eve. Locals eat Baccalà with tomatoes and olives in Baccalà alla Napoletana, with pasta in Spaghetti alla Ghiotta and in creamy Baccalà Mantecato.
13. Pesce Crudo
Like Sushi in Japan and Ceviche in South America, Pesce Crudo is a luxury food in Italy that involves raw fish. In many ways, the simplicity of the dish provides a great counterbalance to carb-heavy dishes like pizza and pasta.
In Naples, the addition of a little acid and a little salt elevates lush local fish to higher levels. If you have time to eat Pesce Crudo in Naples, be sure to pair your meal with a carafe (or two) of local wine. The combination is a winner.
Enhanced by a unique terroir that comprises Mount Vesuvius and the Mediterranean Sea, the Campania region, with Naples at its heart, has some of the richest agriculture in the world.
Products include fruits and vegetables which are grown all over the world but somehow taste better in Campania as well as meats and cheeses that make food lovers fly half way around the world.
As two of those food lovers, we implore you not to miss the following local products in Naples:
Tomatoes aren’t indigenous to Naples or even Italy. That honor goes to the Americas. But once those tomatoes seeds were transported to the volcanic Vesuvius soil – Voila – Magic!! Plus, rumor has it that Napolitanos were instrumental in adding tomatoes to pasta.
You don’t have to look hard to find tomatoes in Naples. Restaurants and pizzerias use tomatoes in many of the city’s most popular dishes. Cans of San Marzano tomatoes along with multiple brands of tomato passata in glass jars line supermarket shelves. And multiple varieties, both big and small, tempt all who walk past market stalls around the city.
Eat as many tomatoes in as many ways as possible when you visit Naples. The only tomatoes you’ll regret are the ones you didn’t eat.
Known as Broccoletti in Rome and Broccoli Rabe in American cities like Philadelphia, Friarelli is a leafy green vegetable in Naples that’s sautéed with olive oil and garlic and served as a side dish. Friarelli is especially popular during the cooler months of the year.
Unlike sweet figs and tomatoes grown in Campania, Friarelli has a bitter flavor. When we’re at home, we like to pair sautéed Friarelli with garlic and Italian sausage. However, when we’re in Naples we just call it sausage.
16. Mozzarella di Bufala
While cheesemakers produce buffalo mozzarella all over the world, only cheesemakers in Campania can produce Mozzarella di Bufala Campana. Recognized as a DOP, IGP and DOC product, Campania’s mozzarella has earned respect and protection both within Italy and beyond the country’s boot-shaped borders.
Unlike Fior di Latte which is produced with cow’s milk, Mozzarella di Bufala uses milk from domesticated water buffalo. Expect to eat the hyper-local cheese on Neapolitan pizzas and in Caprese salads. However, the best way to savor the tangy flavor is to eat Mozzarella di Bufala with a fork.
Insider Tip – Upgrade your pizza from Fior di Latte to Mozzarella di Bufala whenever you see the option on the menu. It’s a high value upgrade.
17. Cured Meat
Sharing a charcuterie plate and a bottle of wine is a great way to start an evening from one end of the boot to the other. Whereas Bologna is known for Mortadella, Naples is all about Salumi.
Local Salumi produced in Campania includes ingredients like pork, black pepper and spices, but it’s not the only cured meat in town. Expect to eat meats like like Lardo, Speck and Prosciutto from other Italian regions like Emilia-Romagna, Trentino and Tuscany when you order a tagliere during a Naples aperitivo session. If you’re partial to Bologna’s Mortadella, that will probably be on the board too.
While Naples is world-famous for its pizza, most people outside of Italy aren’t aware of the greatness of Neapolitan pastries. Sometimes sophisticated, sometimes rustic but always satisfying, desserts in Naples are some of our favorites in Europe.
As you plan your Naples itinerary, be sure to save time and calories for the following Neapolitan desserts:
If Naples were to have a signature pastry that pastry would be the Sfogliatella. This flaky pastry is available all over Italy but the best ones are only found in its home city of Napoli.
But what is a Sfogliatella? For the uninitiated, a Sfogliatella is an addictively tasty pastry that comes in two main styles – Riccia and Frolla. Order a Sfogliatella Riccia if you prefer eating a flaky, layered pastry or a Sfogliatella Frolla if you’re partial to a shortcrust pastry shell.
All Sfogliatellas are stuffed with cream filling made with sweet ricotta, Some Sfogliatella variations feature preserved fruits like amarena cherry and spices like cinnamon.
Whichever version you choose, pair your Sfogliatella with coffee to create an ideal Naples breakfast The best sfogliatella are freshly baked and hot out of the oven.
19. Fiocco di Neve
Snowflakes are an anomaly in Naples EXCEPT when they’re filled with sweet cream. This is a city that celebrates dough balls instead of snow balls and the best ball is called Fiocco di Neve.
Invented and perfected at Naples’ Pasticceria Popella, the Fiocco di Neve appears to be nothing more a cream filled brioche dusted with powdered sugar. But after one taste, you’ll know why this seemingly simple pastry is quickly challenging the Sfogliatella as the pastry to eat in Naples.
Order a vanilla Fiocco di Neve when you visit Pasticceria Popella during your first visit. You can then try varieties like chocolate and pistachio to find your favorite flavor.
Disclosure: We returned to Poppella to Fiocco di Neve three times in three days and on the third day missed our train to Rome to enjoy it one last time. Granted, we were mostly late because the metro unexpectedly stopped working. To us, the Fiocco di Neve is one of the best pastries we’ve eaten in all of Europe including Paris.
Francophiles will be happy to find the Italian version of France’s Baba au Rhum in Naples. Just like its French cousin, the Neapolitan Babà is soaked in rum and is typically shaped like a mushroom.
You can try a Babà at one of the thousands of bakeries in the city or as a dessert after dinner at a Naples trattoria or osteria. For a fun twist, try a Babà soaked in Limoncello syrup. Even better, pair it with a shot of the local lemon liqueur for an extra kick.
21. Zeppole di San Giuseppe
Fried dough balls called Zeppole are popular in Naples but the one to look for is called Zeppole di San Giuseppe. Once you know what it looks like, it’s not hard to find the colorful choux pastry filled with custard and topped with more custard and cherries.
Traditionally eaten during the Feast of St. Joseph in March, the Zeppole di San Giuseppe is available at Naples bakeries all year long. The only challenge is deciding whether to eat this Neapolitan pastry with your hands or with a fork.
Despite its formal name, the Ministerial is a fun chocolate dessert shaped like a medallion and filled with liqueur-laden cream. Francesco Scaturchio invented this Neapolitan chocolate dessert more than a century ago and its recipe remains a secret to this day.
The culinarily curious can guess the ingredients when they eat this sweet treat at Pasticceria Giovanni Scaturchio or they can just enjoy the dessert with a cup of coffee. Maybe you’ll be like us and fit into both categories.
Gelato wasn’t invented in Naples but the frozen dessert is as prevalent in the southern Italian city as it is in the rest of the country. Relatively low in fat and high in flavor, a Gelato cone is particularly refreshing on hot summer days.
You won’t have to look hard to Gelato in Naples especially if you follow our Naples gelato guide. The city has both chain gelaterias and individual shops all over the city. Try several cones to find your favorite flavor.
Drinks in Naples flow as deeply as the city’s history. A range of enotecas, beer bars and cafes keep the residents and visitors happily hydrated from morning until night.
Food travelers will want to try a range of drinks beyond Negronis during a trip to Naples. We recommend starting with the following beverages:
The novelty of drinking coffee at a Naples cafe ranks with eating Neapolitan pizza and visiting nearby Pompeii. The unique experience typically starts with a barista manually pulling espresso shots and continues with espresso drinks served at a standing bar.
Plan to start your day with a Cappuccino and pastry. Later in the day, you may want to stop for a quick Caffe or a refreshing Shakerato. Check out our coffee guide if you want the full scoop on drinking coffee in Naples.
Created in Campania, the Nocciola is a coffee drink that easily justifies an afternoon break. Since baristas craft this drink with espresso coffee and hazelnut cream, a Nocciola is as sweet as it is potent.
Although most Neapolitan coffee bars include the Nocciola on their menus, Il Vero Bar del Professore is the most famous spot to imbibe this particular specialty drink. You’ll want to drink one here during a busy day of touring for a sweet jolt of energy.
One of the most popular liqueurs in Italy, Limoncello is easy to find in Naples. This availability makes sense since Italy’s most famous lemons are grown in Sorrento.
Plan to drink chilled Limoncello in tiny ceramic cups after dinner in Naples. Despite its sweet flavor, the lemon liqueur provides a boozy kick with a 30% ABV. Order Crema di Limoncello if you’re in the mood for a richer liquid dessert.
Campania may not be as famous for viticulture as Italian regions like Tuscany, Piedmont and the Veneto but the region still produces great wines. As it turns out, Campania’s wine is as quaffable as it is affordable.
Local winemakers grow grapes in the shadow of both Mount Vesuvius and the Mediterranean Sea using techniques honed over centuries. Typical varietals include Aglianico, Falanghina, Fiano and Greco.
Most Naples restaurants serve carafes of house wine for under €10, not much more than the cost of water. However, you may want to splurge on a bottle instead. Whether you order red or white is up to you and your taste buds.
Naples Quick Facts
Plan Your Naples Stay
Have we convinced you to visit Naples and eat all the food?
Some businesses may revise their hours and menus due to COVID-19. Others may close, either temporarily or permanently, without notice. Be sure to check websites for updated information and make advance reservations where possible.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.