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15 Irresistible Neapolitan Desserts and Pastries

Discover 15 Neapolitan desserts and pastries that are impossible to resist whether you’re at a pasticceria in Naples or your local Italian bakery.

Pastries at Pasticceria Poppella in Naples
Image: ©2foodtrippers

Naples is world-famous for its pizza but most people outside of Italy aren’t aware of the greatness of Neapolitan desserts. Sometimes sophisticated, often rustic and always satisfying, the sweet treats in Naples are some of the tastiest in Italy as well as the entire world.

And the best part? Neapolitan pastries are super easy to find in neighborhoods throughout the chaotic city. In fact, it’s rare to find a street in Naples without a pasticceria – some even have two or three bakeries on the same block. They’re also easy to find at coffee shops, gelateria and restaurants throughout the city.

Pastries from Above at Scaturchio at Napoli Centrale
Pastries are easy to find in Naples. We found this sweet selection at Pasticceria Giovanni Scaturchio inside Napoli Centrale, the city’s central train station. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

Interestingly, not all Neapolitan desserts and pastries were invented in the city of Naples. Some have Campanian roots in nearby spots like Aversa, Capri, Salerno and Sorrento. Then there’s gelato which has roots in Florence. All of the the sweet treats featured in this guide are beloved in Naples and that’s what really matters.

Our Favorite Neapolitan Desserts and Pastries

Finding and eating the best Neapolitan food has been our mission for more than a decade. Recently, we expanded this mission to include desserts and pastries that are indigenous to both the city of Naples as well as the Compania region.

As you plan your Naples itinerary, be sure to save time and calories for the following Neapolitan sweet treats:

1. Sfogliatella

Sfogliatella at Martucci in Caserta
We’ve yet to eat at Sfogliatella that we haven’t liked including this flaky Sfogliatella Riccia at Martucci in Caserta. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

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 found in its home city of Napoli. And, while it’s debatable that the Sfogliatella is the best Neapolitan pastry, there’s no debate that it’s the most popular.

But what is it?

For the uninitiated, a Sfogliatella is an addictively tasty pastry that comes in two main styles – riccia and frolla. The Sfogliatella Riccia is a flaky, layered pastry while the Sfogliatella Frolla has a shortcrust pastry shell. Both versions are stuffed with cream filling made with sweet ricotta and candied orange.

Santa Rosa at Sfogliatella Mary in Naples
We fulfulled our daily dessert quota when we ate this luscious Sfogliatella Santa Rosa at Sfogliatella Mary inside Naples’ impressive Galleria Umberto I. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

You need to try both standard Sfogliatlla versions to find your favorite. Eating them warm out of the oven is key for this ‘research’ project. And, if you’re hardcore, the next step is to try Sfogliatella variations like the Sfogliatella Santa Rosa topped with amarena cherries.

Pro Tip
Pair your Sfogliatella with coffee to create the ideal Naples breakfast.

2. Fiocco Di Neve

Il Fiocco di Neve at Pasticceria Poppella in Naples
Move over Sfogliatella. The Fiocco di Neve is the new ‘it’ pastry in Naples. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

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. And, in case you don’t speak Italian, fiocco di neve translates to snowflake in English.

Invented and perfected by Ciro Scognamillo at Pasticceria Popella in the Rione Sanità neighborhood, the Fiocco di Neve appears to be nothing more than a cream-filled brioche bun dusted with powdered sugar. In fact, you may wonder why people queue to eat this seemingly simple pastry that’s quickly challenging the Sfogliatella as the pastry to eat in Naples.

Chocolate Il Fiocco di Neve at Pasticceria Poppella in Naples
We couldn’t resist eating this Fiocco di Neve topped with chocolate icing and filled with chocolate cream. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

You’ll understand the Fiocco di Neve‘s popularity after your first bite. Sweet ricotta cream will likely explode out of the bun and into your mouth. And, if you’re like us, you’ll return again and again to enjoy the explosive experience.

Pro Tip
Order an original vanilla Fiocco di Neve when you visit Pasticceria Popella for the first time. You can try varieties like chocolate and pistachio during future visits. If you’re lucky, you can also try a caramel Fiocco di Neve but that flavor isn’t typically on the menu.

3. Babà Al Rum

Baba at Pasticceria DiCostanzo in Naples
We paused to admire this rum-soaked Babà al Rum at Naples’ Pasticceria DiCostanzo before we took our first bites. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

Francophiles will be happy to find the Italian version of France’s Babà au Rhum in Naples. Just like its French cousin, the Neapolitan Babà is soaked in rum and is shaped like a mushroom.

You can try a Babà at one of the thousands of pasticcerias 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 or a limoncello spritz for an extra kick.

4. Zeppole Di San Giuseppe

Zeppole di San Giuseppe at Scaturchio in Naples Italy
This Zeppole di San Giuseppe at Pasticceria Giovanni Scaturchio was almost too pretty for us to eat. We somehow summoned the will to break into the Neapolitan choux pastry. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

Fried dough balls called Zeppole are popular in Naples but the one to look for is called Zeppole di San Giuseppe. The colorful choux pastry filled with custard and topped with more custard and amarena cherries is easy to find once it’s on your radar.

Traditionally eaten during the Feast of St. Joseph in March, the Zeppole di San Giuseppe is available at Napoli pasticcerias all year long. The only challenge is deciding whether to eat this Neapolitan pastry with your hands or with a fork.

5. Ministerial

Ministeriale at Scaturchio in Naples Italy
This Ministerial at Pasticceria Giovanni Scaturchio bore a striking resemblance to the city’s manhole covers. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

Despite its formal name, the Ministerial is a fun chocolate dessert that’s 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 Ministerial appears to be shaped like a manhole cover which we assume to be a Neapolitan inside joke. It’s also apparently not available during the summer months. Since we’ve never visited Naples when the temperatures are at their peak, we’ve not yet experienced this issue.

6. Graffa

The Neapolitans love to fry food at stands which sell a variety of savory fried specialties from arancini to croquettes to fried pizza. There are plenty of fried sweets too including the donut-like, teardrop shaped graffa. However, you may be surprised that the humble Graffa has Austrian roots.

The granulated sugar coated Graffa is a traditional Carnival treat that’s available throughout the year. Inspired by Austria’s Krapfen, this fluffy Neapolitan donut is fun to eat for kids of all ages. We recommend eating a Graffa when it’s hot off the grill. Whether you add a topping like Nutella is up to you.

Fun Fact
The traditional Graffa recipe has a surprising ingredient – potatoes.

7. Pastiera

Pastiera at Diego Vitigliano in Bagnoli
This sugar-dusted slice of Pastiera provided a sweet ending to our pizza feast at Diego Vitigliano in Bagnoli. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

According to local lore, the Pastiera was originally created by the Greek siren Parthenope. Traditionally eaten during Easter dinner, the rich cake can now be enjoyed all year long at Naples restaurants and bakeries.

The Pastiera looks like a pie thanks to its shortcrust base and latticed topper; however, it tastes like a Neapolitan cheesecake with benefits. Since those ‘benefits’ include ricotta cheese, candied orange and orange blossom water, the Pastiera is a treasure.

Pro Tip
Travel to Naples in the months prior to Easter if your heart is set on tasting Pastiera at the source. The sweet treat was literally everywhere during our most recent late February visit.

8. Struffoli

Struffoli from Above at Pasticceria Poppella in Naples
Struffoli may be the most festive Neapolitan pastry. We couldn’t resist tasting this one at Pasticceria Poppella in Naples. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

Popular during the Christmas season when it’s shaped like a wreath, Struffoli is proof that Neapolitans bake a special dessert for every important holiday. And, while its roots may derive from Greece’s Loukoumades, it’s a fun treat that screams Naples with its deep-fried crunchy dough balls, multi-colored sprinkles and sticky-sweet honey coating.

However, there’s a catch. Unlike other holiday pastries like the Zeppole di San Giuseppe, Graffa and Pastiera, Struffoli isn’t easy to find throughout the year. In other words, grab one when and if you see this colorful pastry on display.

9. Biscotto all’Amarena

Biscotto all Amarena at Gelateria Giallo Limone in Salerno
This Biscotto all’Amarena at Salerno’s Gelateria Giallo Limone wasn’t the prettiest pastry we ate in Campania but it was one of the tastiest. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

We’re not sure why it took us five visits to Naples to discover Biscotto all’Amarena. Not only is the portable cookie a staple in most of the city’s bakeries, but its tasty filling features two of our favorite dessert ingredients – chocolate and amarena cherries. In retrospect, it’s probably because the nondescript pastry doesn’t provide a visual wow factor compared to other Neapolitan treats.

We’ve now eaten Biscotto all’Amarena at multiple Naples bakeries in our quest to make up for lost time. Ironically, we found our favorite rendition at a Salerno gelato shop. Go figure.

10. Torta Caprese

Torta Caprese at Pasticceria Poppella in Naples
The flourless Torta Caprese is an ideal dessert for chocoholics who travel to Campania. We ate this miniature version at Pasticceria Poppella in Naples. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

Invented a century ago on the Isle of Capri, the Torta Caprese cake qualifies as a Neapolitan pastry since Capri is a Campanian city located in the Napoli province. The flourless chocolate cake is notable for its crunchy exterior and almond flavor as well as for its notorious backstory.

We were intrigued by that backstory which involves mobsters and a baker who forgot to add flour to his chocolate cake recipe. That story had two happy endings – the mobsters liked the cake AND the baker, Carmine Di Fiore, created a uniquely spicy cake that’s become a local favorite.

Pro Tip
Don’t hesitate to order a slice of Torta Caprese if you don’t eat gluten. Unlike most Neapolitan desserts, this one is gluten-free.

11. Delizia al Limone

Delizia al Limone at Bro Ciro and Antonio Tutino in Naples
Living up to its name, this Delizia al Limone at Bro Ciro and Antonio Tutino in Naples was both delightful and full of lemon flavor. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

The Delizia al Limone is another Neapolitan dessert that was invented in the Naples province but not the city itself. Located just 30 miles from Napoli, Sorrento gets credit for this über-lemon dessert with a name that literally translates to lemon delight.

We ate our first Delizia al Limone at a Naples pizzeria. The dome-shaped pastry made with lemon sponge cake, lemon cream, lemon liqueur (i.e. limoncello) and lemon glaze provided an ideal finish to a meal filled with savory pizzas. We later ate the delightful lemon pastry for breakfast in Salerno, proving that it’s always a good time to eat a Delizia al Limone.

12. Polacca

The Polacca has roots in Italy’s Aversa, a tiny Campania town located just 12 miles from Naples. We were initially confused by the pastry’s name (which translates to Polish) until we realized that the Polacca‘s inventor was a Polish nun who lived in Aversa’s Cappuccinelle Convent a century ago. However, we were never confused by the Polacca‘s ingredients which include brioche, custard and amarena cherries.

Pastry pilgrims can experience the original Polacca recipe in Aversa – a noble mission to be sure. As for us, we were happy to experience a more modern Polacca at Pasticceria Di Costanzo in Naples’ Rione Sanità neighborhood. More of a pastry than a cake, it was decadently delicious.

13. Scarzetta

We didn’t expect to discover amazing pastries in Salerno but that’s what we found at two pasticcerias – Antica Doleria Pantaleone and Pasticceria Romolo. While the latter has won numerous awards both in Campania and Italy, the former is famous for inventing the Scarzetta pastry in 1920.

Apparently inspired by red headdresses that cardinals sported at the nearby Salerno Cathedral, Mario Pantaleone had the ingenious idea of combining sponge cake with Chantilly cream, wild strawberries and slightly crisp strawberry icing. However, the addition of herbaceous Strega liqueur ensured that the pastry would be as popular today as when it was invented.

14. Crostata di Frutta

Strawberry Pastry at Pasticceria Romolo in Salerno
We couldn’t resist eating a wild straweberry Crostina di Frutta at Pasticceria Romolo once we spotted the colorful tarts in the popular bakery’s pastry case. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

Essentially shortbread pastry crust that’s filled with sweet custard and fresh fruit, a seasonal Crostata di Frutta might feature berries, figs or even kiwis. The miniature Crostina di Frutta we ate at Salerno’s Pasticceria Romolo was topped with wild strawberries.

While fruit tarts aren’t unique to Campania or Italy, the Crostata di Frutta may have Bourbon roots. While we can’t confirm that rumor since the Bourbon dynasty ended in 1861, we can confirm that the Crostina di Frutta we ate tasted great.

15. Gelato

Gelato Cone at Gelateria Soave 1950 in Naples
It’s always a good idea to eat Gelato in Naples. We ate these scoops at Gelateria Soave 1950 in the city’s tony Vomero neighborhood. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

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 especially 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.

Our Favorite Neapolitan Pastry Shops

Scaturchio in Naples Italy
Pasterccerias like Pasticceria Giovanni Scaturchio are an integral part of every Naples neighborhood. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

While it’s practically impossible to find a bad pastry shop in Naples, the following are ones that justify a special visit (or two or three):

Chances are high that your Naples journey will include a trip to the Amalfi Coast. If so, be sure to visit the following two pasticcerias when you pass through Salerno:

Frequently Asked Questions

What do Neapolitan people eat for dessert?

People in Naples eat a range of sweet treats that include cakes, pastries and gelato.

What pastry is Naples known for?

The Sfogliatella is the most famous Italian pastry with Neapolitan roots. Filled with sweet ricotta cream that’s flavored with candied orange bits, the flaky Sfogliatella is easy to find at bakeries in and around Naples.

What’s the most popular Christmas dessert in Naples?

The Struffoli is the most popular Neapolitan Christmas dessert. The unique pastry is a mishmash of deep-fried dough balls, sweet honey and colorful sprinkles.

What’s the most popular Easter dessert in Naples?

The Pastiera is the most popular Neapolitan Easter dessert. Similar to cheesecake, the Pastiera is baked with ricotta cheese, candied orange and orange blossom water.

Naples Planning Checklist

Check out our guide to eating in Italy as well as our picks for the best Italian foods and the best Italian desserts before your trip so that you don’t miss a delicious bite.

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About the Authors

Daryl and 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. Since launching the site in 2012, they’ve traveled to over 40 countries in their quest to bring readers a unique taste of the world.

Disclosures

Article Updates
We update our articles regularly. Some updates are major while others are minor link changes and spelling corrections. Let us know if you see anything that needs to be updated in this article.

Funding
We purchased and ate the desserts and pastries featured in this article.

Original Publication Date: February 25, 2024

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