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Naples Food: 33 Traditional Foods You Must Try in Naples

Naples—the vibrant heart of southern Italy boasts a treasure trove of cultural and historical wonders. It is famous for its magnificent churches, world-class museums, eclectic architecture, lively street culture, and bustling markets. But let’s talk about the food in Naples. If you’re wondering what to eat in Naples, read on to discover 33 must-eat Naples food favorites that you simply cannot miss when visiting the Campanian capital. Andiamo!

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What is Traditional Neapolitan Food?

Naples offers more than just the world’s best pizza. Traditional Neapolitan food serves up a diverse array of soul-satisfying, belly-filling, oh-my-goodness-this-is-delicious types of dishes that food lovers will appreciate.

What I love about Neapolitan food is that it’s much more than just a combination of flavors and ingredients—it’s a vivid narrative of the city’s history, geography, and the lively spirit of the people of my favorite city in the world. 

Neapolitan cuisine today is a beautiful fusion of centuries of culinary evolution, blending simple local ingredients with complex flavors. It’s a tapestry woven through centuries of influences, from the Greek founders of Naples to Spanish conquerors, each leaving a lasting imprint on the city’s culinary culture.

The food culture of Naples is deeply woven into the city’s fabric. In Naples, food isn’t just about satisfying hunger, it’s the heartbeat of the city. It’s about community, tradition, and sharing moments with friends and loved ones.

Streets are dotted with family-run trattorias, pizzerias, and pasticcerias, where age-old recipes are lovingly prepared. 

From fresh, farm-to-table ingredients to traditional cooking techniques passed down generations, every Naples food dish has a story to tell. And in savoring these flavors, you’re not just exploring a culinary landscape; you’re embracing the rich, vibrant culture that is quintessentially Naples.

Naples Food: Pizza Napoletana (Neapolitan Pizza)

No conversation about Naples food can begin without a shout-out to its most famous culinary export – Pizza Napoletana or Neapolitan Pizza. 

So, what makes Neapolitan pizza so special? First, it’s the technique. The dough is made from a type of high-grade wheat flour, natural Neapolitan yeast or brewer’s yeast, salt, and water.

It’s hand-kneaded, never rolled with a pin, or mechanically prepared. The result is a crust that’s soft, thin, and pliable, with a slightly chewy, tender mouthfeel.

The toppings for a classic Neapolitan pizza are straightforward, but high quality. It comes with San Marzano tomatoes, a type of plum tomato with a sweet flavor and low acidity, and mozzarella cheese. Fresh basil, sea salt, and extra-virgin olive oil complete the topping. 

Next, it’s cooked in a blisteringly hot wood-fired oven at 485°C for 60 to 90 seconds, being rotated around the fire and allowing the crust to puff up and keep the pizza from burning. The result is a pizza that’s characterized by a puffy and beautifully charred crust, with a slightly smoky flavor. 

Authentic Neapolitan pizza is slightly soupy or wet in the middle – it’s not meant to be ultra crispy or overloaded with toppings. 

There are many types of Neapolitan pizzas, and toppings can vary widely depending on personal preference and seasonal ingredients. However, the three official variants of the Neapolitan Pizza are – 

Pizza: The famous Neapolitan Pizza Marinara

a. Pizza Marinara: An older, classic variant of the Neapolitan pizza, the Marinara is topped with tomatoes, garlic, oregano, and extra-virgin olive oil. Despite its name, it doesn’t contain any seafood. The name refers to “la marinara” — the seaman’s wife, who traditionally prepared this pizza for her seafaring husband when he returned from fishing trips in the Bay of Naples.

I love how the limited number of ingredients allows each one to shine, celebrating their natural flavors. The use of garlic offers a pungent kick, while the oregano provides an earthy, aromatic touch.

When you experience the harmony of tastes between the sauce, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, and fragrant herbs, you’ll thank the heavens. The Marinara is something everyone must try at least once. 

Finally, Pizza Marinara is naturally vegan, as it doesn’t include cheese or any other animal products making it a go-to choice for anyone following a plant-based diet.

b. Pizza Margherita: This classic pizza features a topping of tomatoes, cow’s milk mozzarella (Fior di Latte), fresh basil, salt, and extra-virgin olive oil. It’s known for its balance of sweetness from the tomatoes, creaminess from the mozzarella, and freshness from the basil.

According to popular lore, Raffaele Esposito, a baker from Naples, is credited with creating this pizza to honor the visit of Queen Margherita of Italy. He topped the pizza with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil to represent the colors of the Italian flag—red, white, and green. 

The Queen loved it, and this type of pizza has been known as Pizza Margherita ever since. However, later research has revealed that a pizza topped with basil, mozzarella, and tomato had already been in Naples at least since the 1850s.

Traditional Italian Pizza: Beautiful blonde woman with a plate of the classic Pizza Margherita

c. Pizza Margherita Extra (or “DOC”): This is a variant of the Margherita and uses mozzarella di bufala, a silky cheese made from the milk of water buffaloes in the Campania and Lazio regions.  along with tomatoes, fresh basil, and extra-virgin olive oil. 

The addition of buffalo mozzarella to this pizza is the reason why it’s my favorite kind of Neapolitan pizza. Buffalo mozzarella has a soft, moist texture and a slightly elastic feel. 

Buffalo milk contains more fat and protein than cow’s milk, which gives buffalo mozzarella a decadently creamy and smooth texture, with a slightly tangy and sweet, almost grassy undertone. 

The first bite of a Pizza Margherita will make your taste buds dance with pleasure. 

To enhance your Naples pizza experience, I strongly recommend taking a Naples pizza-making course—an immersive, hands-on tutorial that takes you into the heart of one of Italy’s most cherished culinary traditions. A master pizzaiolo will guide you through the process of making Neapolitan pizza from scratch so that you’ll leave with the knowledge and skills to recreate a bit of Naples in your own kitchen.

Naples Food: Appetizers, Street Food & Snacks

1. Pizza Fritta (Fried Pizza)

Man eating Fried Pizza (Pizza Fritta) in Naples, Italy

If you thought pizza couldn’t get any better, meet Pizza Fritta. Literally translated as “fried pizza”, Pizza Fritta is essentially a pizza dough pocket filled with an assortment of ingredients, then deep-fried until golden and crispy. 

The dough used is very similar to regular pizza dough, made with flour, water, salt, and yeast. The frying process gives it an irresistible, light, and puffy texture, with a crispy exterior that’s a joy to bite into.

Naples food: Closeup of the inside of a Pizza Fritta with  ricotta, provolone, pepper, pressed fatty pork cakes (ciccioli), and salami

The fillings can range from the classic tomato, mozzarella, and basil combination, to a more robust filling of ricotta, provolone, pepper, pressed fatty pork cakes (ciccioli), aromatic salami, and other ingredients. 

There’s also a variant known as “Pizza Fritta Montanara” where the fried dough is topped with tomato sauce and cheese, much like a traditional pizza, and then finished off in a wood-fired oven.

As the story goes, Pizza Fritta came about during the post-war period in Naples, when living conditions were tough. Back then, frying was cheaper and more accessible than baking in a wood-fired oven, and thus, Pizza Fritta was born as an affordable street food for the masses. 

It’s typically folded in half, much like a calzone, and served wrapped in paper for easy eating on the go. Today, Pizza Fritta offers a deliciously different take on the conventional oven-baked pizza and is cherished for its hearty, comforting taste. 

It’s a must-try delicacy for anyone visiting Naples and whenever I’m in the city, I always make sure to feast on a couple. After all, who could resist a hot, crispy, deep-fried pocket of cheesy, saucy goodness?

2. Crocchè (Neapolitan Potato Croquettes)

Naples food: A Neapolitan croquette (Crocche) on a plate

Crocchè, sometimes referred to as Crocchè di Patate, are Neapolitan potato croquettes. At their core, they are a delectable blend of mashed potatoes, typically mixed with eggs, grated cheese (usually Parmesan or Pecorino), a bit of nutmeg, parsley, and often some mozzarella for a delightful stringy surprise. Some variations may also include a small amount of cured meats or ham.

Once the ingredients are mixed together, they’re shaped into cylinders, then coated in breadcrumbs. The croquettes are then deep-fried until they reach a beautiful golden-brown color. 

The result is a crunchy, golden exterior giving way to a soft, creamy interior. It’s the perfect contrast of textures in a single bite.

Commonly found in pizzerias and friggitorie (fried food takeaway shops), crocchè are typically served as antipasti or as a snack to be enjoyed on the go.

3. Mozzarella di Bufala (Buffalo Mozzarella)

Italian cuisine: Close up of fresh white buffalo mozzarella soft cheese balls from Campania

While cow’s milk mozzarella (fior di latte) is pretty good, true cheese lovers know that mozzarella di bufala (buffalo mozzarella) is even better.

Mozzarella di Bufala is made from the milk of domesticated Italian water buffaloes, traditionally manufactured in select locations in the regions of Campania, Lazio, Apulia, and Molise. It has been granted the status of “DOC” (controlled designation of origin”) and is also registered as an EU and UK “DOP” (“protected designation of origin”) product.

The cheese has a semi-soft, elastic feel, and when you slice into the tender white ball, the gentle release of creamy milk will wake up your taste buds. 

The richness of buffalo mozzarella is palpable. It has a clean, milky taste with a slight tanginess and a hint of earthiness, reflective of the rich diet of the water buffaloes. It’s subtly sweet and savory, with an umami depth that lingers on the palate.

Buffalo Mozzarella is my favorite cheese of all time and I could eat it all day. Needless to say, everyone who worships cheese should travel to Naples and experience the same. Trust me, when you taste it, you’ll be hooked!

4. Frittatina di Pasta

Neapolitan cuisine: Close up of Frittatina di Pasta

Frittatina di Pasta is a classic Neapolitan street food delicacy that has a special place in the hearts of locals and visitors alike. A clever and delicious solution to the age-old problem of leftover pasta, this dish is the epitome of Neapolitan culinary ingenuity.

So, what exactly is Frittatina di Pasta? At its most basic, it’s a deep-fried ball or square of pasta mixed with bechamel sauce, provolone cheese, peas, and sometimes small bits of ham or salami. Some variations might include leftover ragù.

The pasta of choice is typically spaghetti, but other types can be used. The entire thing is then coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried to crisp, golden-brown perfection. 

Frittatina di Pasta is a carb-lovers dream and boy, is it delicious! Its crispy, crunchy exterior and the velvety richness of the bechamel sauce have a mesmerizing taste that simply begs to find its way into your tummy by any means necessary. You’ll be begging for a second and third helping.

Frittatina di Pasta is typically served as a snack or appetizer and is a popular offering in pizzerias and friggitorie. Whether you’re strolling through the streets of Naples or sitting down in a local eatery, this humble yet mouthwatering treat is a must-try! 

5. Cuoppo Napoletano

Naples Food: Woman holding a plate of Cuoppo Napoletana

Cuoppo Napoletano, or simply “cuoppo,” is a cherished Neapolitan street food that’s as much a part of the city’s identity as the iconic Neapolitan Pizza. 

The term “cuoppo” refers to the paper cone in which an assortment of deep-fried seafood and vegetables are served. The word “cuoppo” itself comes from the Neapolitan dialect for “coppo,” meaning “cup,” highlighting the handheld convenience of this treat.

The ingredients inside the cuoppo can vary, but the classic version typically includes a mix of seafood such as small fish, shrimp, squid, anchovies, and sometimes octopus, along with vegetable offerings like zucchini flowers, eggplant, and potato croquettes. 

Each morsel of Cuoppo Napoletana is lightly battered and deep-fried until perfectly crisp. It’s a delicious, portable, and unpretentious testament to Naples’s love for the fruits of the sea, and an essential experience for any food lover in the city.

6. Mozzarella in Carrozza

Neapolitan food: Two slices of Mozzarella in Carrozza

Mozzarella in Carrozza, which translates to “mozzarella in a carriage”, is a beloved Neapolitan dish that could be best described as the city’s gourmet answer to the grilled cheese sandwich.

Two slices of bread are stuffed with mozzarella, dipped in egg, coated in breadcrumbs, and deep-fried until the bread turns a beautiful, crispy golden brown and the mozzarella inside becomes delectably gooey and melted. 

The end result? A heavenly combination of a crunchy exterior and a meltingly cheesy interior.  It’s a cheese lover’s dream come true!

Mozzarella in Carrozza is often served with a side of marinara sauce for dipping, adding a tangy contrast to the rich, cheesy sandwich.

7. Impepata Di Cozze (Peppered Mussels)

Traditional Italian food: Closeup of Impepata Di Cozze (Peppered Mussels)

Impepata di Cozze is a mussel stew that perfectly embodies the rustic, seafood-centric cuisine of Naples.

Fresh, plump mussels are carefully cleaned and then steamed open in a pot. The mussels are cooked in their own juices, often with the addition of a splash of white wine, which adds a layer of complexity to the flavors. 

Garlic, lemon, and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper (hence the name “Impepata”) are added to the pot to infuse the mussels with a kick of heat and a punch of savory goodness.

Once the mussels have opened, they are typically dressed with an abundance of fresh, chopped Italian parsley and a generous drizzle of good-quality extra virgin olive oil. The result is a briny, garlicky, peppery, slurp-worthy concoction you’ll love.

Impepata di Cozze is traditionally served hot, straight from the stove, often with crusty bread for soaking up the tasty, peppery broth. 

Similar to Impepata di Cozze but with tomatoes is Zuppa di Cozze, another popular mussel dish made with chopped tomatoes, a splash of white wine, olive oil, garlic, and red pepper.

8. Parmigiana di Melanzane (Eggplant Parmesan)

Italian Food: Closeup of Parmigiana di Melanzane (Eggplant Parmesan)

Parmigiana di Melanzane is a rich, hearty dish that showcases the humble eggplant in a delectably indulgent way. It is a delicious layered casserole dish, with layers of fried eggplant slices, cheese, tomato sauce, and basil.

Unlike the Italian-American version, the traditional Italian version of eggplant parmesan isn’t breaded before frying. Thus, it’s lighter and allows the rich eggplant flavor to really shine.

The eggplant slices are typically salted to draw out moisture and fried until golden. The tomato sauce is often a simple, homemade marinara made from ripe tomatoes, garlic, and basil, which adds a fresh, tangy flavor to counterbalance the richness of the other ingredients. 

The cheese is usually a combination of mozzarella and Parmesan – the mozzarella adds a creamy, melty element, while the Parmesan brings a sharp, salty kick.

Eggplant Parmesan is a notoriously hard dish to make properly but when done right the flavors meld together to send sparks flying in your mouth. I was amazed at the intense flavor coming from the fresh aubergines. 

Whether it’s served as a main course or a side dish, parmigiana di melanzane is Italian comfort food at its finest.

9. Panuozzo

Naples Food: Neapolitan panuozzo stuffed with lean belly, rocket, pesto walnuts, fior di latte and parmesan cheese on a wooden cutting board

Panuozzo is a wood-fired sandwich made with pizza dough, cut open, and stuffed with various fillings that range from traditional Italian cold cuts, cheeses, grilled vegetables, sausages, or even pizza-style toppings like tomato sauce and mozzarella. It could be best described as the love child of a sandwich and a pizza, making it the perfect comfort food.

This mouthwatering Italian creation was concocted in the early 1980s at Pizzeria Mascolo in Gragnano, a town south of Naples. 

Crispy on the outside, panuozzo is super airy on the inside and really tasty. It is an incredibly versatile and satisfying dish combining the best of Italian cuisine – the wood-fired pizza flavor, the hearty satisfaction of a sandwich, and the fresh, high-quality ingredients. 

Imagine biting into a panuozzo filled with pancetta, champignon mushrooms, and spicy sauce, topped with a generous helping of creamy mozzarella and a drizzle of olive oil. Heaven! It’s a must-try for any food lover exploring the culinary wonders of Naples.

10. Insalata Caprese (Caprese Salad)

Italian Food: Classic Caprese Salad with mozzarella cheese, tomatoes and basil on a white plate

Named after the island of Capri in Italy’s Campania region, a Caprese Salad consists of just a few key components. 

Fresh, ripe tomatoes and creamy buffalo mozzarella are sliced and arranged on a plate, often alternating or layered for a beautiful presentation. A handful of fresh basil leaves – often used to symbolize the green of the Italian flag – are scattered on top.

But it’s not just about piling on the ingredients. A proper Caprese Salad is dressed simply, but thoughtfully. A drizzle of high-quality extra virgin olive oil is a must, bringing a fruity richness that ties all the flavors together. 

A sprinkle of salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a splash of balsamic vinegar or balsamic glaze can be added for seasoning and provides a sweet-tart contrast to the creamy cheese and ripe tomatoes.

Caprese Salad is one of my favorite salads to nosh on. It’s so simple, but oh so impressive. The juicy sweetness of the tomatoes, the milky creaminess of the mozzarella, the fragrant pop of the basil, and the rich smoothness of the olive oil make it incredibly moreish.

Caprese Salad is often enjoyed as a starter or side dish, but it can easily hold its own as a light meal, especially when served with some crusty bread. It’s a staple of Italian summer dining and a must-try for anyone visiting Naples. 

11. Polpo (Octopus)

Neapolitan food: Closeup of  'polpo alla luciana', a stew of octopus with tomatoes, capers, and olives

As seafood is a fundamental part of Neapolitan cuisine, octopus, being plentiful in the Mediterranean, is a natural choice for many traditional dishes.

When cooked properly, octopus has a unique taste that’s slightly sweet and slightly briny, reminiscent of the sea. Its texture is pleasantly firm yet tender, providing a satisfying bite that’s unlike any other seafood.

The versatility of octopus is another reason for its wide use in Neapolitan cooking. It can be prepared in numerous ways, from being boiled and served as a cold salad with lemon and olive oil, to being braised with tomatoes and served over pasta, or even grilled to perfection and served as a main course.

Traditional dishes like ‘polpo alla luciana‘, a stew of octopus with tomatoes, olives, and capers, or ‘Insalata di polpo‘, a simple salad of boiled octopus with celery, lemon, and olive oil, have been enjoyed by generations of Neapolitans.

12. Taralli

Taralli - typical cookies of Neapolitan cuisine made with flour lard almonds and black pepper.

Taralli are a classic snack food in Naples. Think of them as the Italian answer to pretzels – crunchy, ring-shaped, and utterly addictive.

Made with a simple dough of flour, olive oil, white wine, and salt, taralli are typically boiled before being baked, which gives them their distinctive texture: a crispy outer shell with a slightly chewy interior.

The flavor is subtle, marked by the fruity notes of olive oil and the tang of white wine, with an underlying yeastiness that’s characteristic of baked goods. The optional addition of fennel or pepper gives them a unique twist. 

Taralli come in both savory and sweet versions and are typically dunked in wine before consumption. In a nutshell, taralli are a crunchy, satisfying snack that keeps you reaching for more.

13. Frittata di Maccheroni (Pasta Omelette)

Neapolitan food: Closeup of Frittata di Maccheroni (Pasta Omelette)

It’s often said that in Naples nothing goes to waste, and frittata di maccheroni is a testament to that ethos. Also known as “pasta omelet,” this ubiquitous street food dish is all about turning yesterday’s pasta into today’s feast.

Frittata di maccheroni is basically a pasta-filled egg dish, where cooked spaghetti or other pasta is mixed with beaten eggs and cheese, then fried until it’s golden and crispy on the outside and deliciously creamy on the inside. 

The frittata is made with anything from leftover plain spaghetti to pasta dressed with tomato sauce, carbonara, or pesto. Other ingredients like ham, salami, and vegetables can also be added.

The flavors depend on what pasta and additions you’re using, but you can always expect frittata di maccheroni to be incredibly satisfying.

14. ‘O Pere e ‘o Musso

Naples Food: Closeup of ‘O Pere e ‘o Musso, an offal dish consisting of calf snouts and pig's feet

‘O Pere e ‘o Musso is a traditional Neapolitan street food that’s certainly not for the faint-hearted. Literally translating to “the foot and the muzzle,” ‘O Pere e ‘o Musso is an offal dish made by boiling calf’s snouts with pig’s feet.

This dish is prepared by simmering the cleaned pig’s feet and tripe for several hours until they become tender. The long cooking process helps the meat develop a rich, deep flavor and a wonderfully soft, gelatinous texture that is truly comforting. 

Garlic, onions, tomatoes, and a variety of herbs and spices are typically added to the pot, infusing the meat with an aromatic and savory flavor.

The calf’s snouts and pig’s feet are first cleaned and boiled for several hours until they become tender. The long cooking process helps the meat develop a rich, deep flavor and a soft, gelatinous texture. 

It is then chilled, finely sliced into small pieces, and seasoned with plenty of lemon and salt. 

‘O pere e ‘o musso has several variations, so the dish can also include tripe, intestines, udders, and the uterus. It is often served with additional ingredients such as olives, lupins, fennel, or chili pepper.

‘O pere e ‘o musso is a dish that might seem a bit unusual to the uninitiated, but if you’re an adventurous eater like me, it’s a Naples food certainly worth trying! Can’t say I liked it much though.

Naples Food: Side Dishes

1. Friarelli (Broccoli Rabe)

Italian food: Closeup of Friarelli (Broccoli Rabe), a leafy green vegetable

Friarielli, known outside of Italy as rapini or broccoli rabe, is a leafy green vegetable that’s a must-eat Naples food. It’s characterized by slender, broccoli-like stalks, small florets, and an abundance of leaves.

Friarelli has a nutty, slightly bitter, and somewhat pungent taste. The bitterness is balanced by a subtle sweetness that comes forward when the vegetable is sautéed or blanched. 

When cooked correctly, the stalks become tender, the leaves wilt slightly, and the florets retain a delicate crunch, offering a wonderful combination of textures in every bite.

Friarelli can hold its own as a simple sautéed side dish or be used as a topping on the classic Neapolitan pizza. It can also be paired with pasta or salsiccia (spiced Italian sausage).

2. Zucchine alla Scapece (Zucchini with mint and vinegar)

Naples food: Zucchine alla Scapece (Zucchini with mint and vinegar)

Zucchine alla Scapece is a delightful side dish of Neapolitan cuisine that combines fried zucchini slices with vinegar, garlic, and fresh mint, delivering a vibrant mix of flavors and textures.

The zucchini is cut into round slices, then fried until golden brown. This gives it a pleasingly crisp exterior and a tender interior. Once fried, the zucchini slices are marinated in a mixture of vinegar and garlic, infusing them with a tangy kick that complements the natural sweetness of the zucchini. 

Fresh mint leaves are added for a refreshing note that balances the richness of the fried zucchini and the tartness of the vinegar.

I’m not particularly fond of zucchini but was surprised how much I liked zucchine alla scapece. It’s simultaneously soft, sweet and tangy, rich and refreshing.

Naples Food: Main Dishes

1. Spaghetti alle Vongole (Spaghetti with Clams)

Italian Cuisine: Spaghetti alle Vongole (Spaghetti with Clams)

Spaghetti alle Vongole is a simple, light pasta dish with fresh clams cooked in a sauce of garlic, olive oil, and white wine, and often a touch of chili flakes and a sprinkle of parsley.

It’s one of those dishes that doesn’t take a lot of time to make but requires patience and a high level of skill to get right.

The ocean sings in this Neapolitan classic. and the result is a dish that’s as delightful to taste as it is simple. If you’ve never had it before, spaghetti alle vongole is a dish that can take you by surprise. 

The briny clams, al dente pasta, and fragrant garlic make for a satisfying combination that is elevated by the aromatic white wine and the richness of olive oil. It will transport you to the seaside with every bite. 

2. Pasta e Patate con Provola (Pasta and Potatoes with Provola)

Neapolitan food: Closeup of Pasta e Patate con Provola (Pasta and Potatoes with Provola)

Pasta e Patate con Provola is a classic Neapolitan dish that’s the epitome of Italian comfort food. It is rooted in the tradition of “cucina povera” or “peasant cooking,”

Pasta e Patate con Provola starts with a soffritto – a slow-cooked mixture of finely diced onions, carrots, and celery in olive oil. Next, diced potatoes are added to the pot and cooked until the potatoes start to break down and thicken the broth, giving it a rich, velvety texture.

A short variety of pasta like pasta mista, ditalini, or broken spaghetti, is added to the pot. Cubes or slices of provola cheese are stirred in. The cheese melts into the broth, transforming it into a creamy, cheesy delight.

Sometimes a bit of diced pancetta or a Parmesan rind for added savoriness. It’s usually finished with a sprinkle of fresh parsley or basil for a burst of freshness.

Italian food: Woman eating Pasta e Patate con Provola (Pasta and Potatoes with Provola) in Naples, Italy

The taste of pasta e patate con provola is a delicious combination of the savory, starchy comfort of the pasta and potatoes, the smoky richness of the provola, and the aromatic base from the soffritto. 

3. Pasta e Fagiole (Pasta and Beans)

Neapolitan Food:  Closeup of Pasta e Fagiole (Pasta and Beans)

A cornerstone of Naples food, pasta e fagiole is another heartwarming dish hailing from the Neapolitan tradition of “cucina povera” or peasant cooking. 

At its core, Pasta e Fagiole combines pasta and beans — the clue is in the name. Cannellini or borlotti beans are commonly used, providing a rich, creamy element to the dish. The pasta is typically a small shape such as ditalini or tubetti.

The earthy, tender flavor of the beans is perfectly complemented by the chewy, slightly al dente pasta that has absorbed the flavors of the soup while contributing a bit of its own wheaty taste.

The base of soffritto (onion, celery, and carrot) infuses the dish with a subtle, aromatic sweetness that enhances the savory depth of the beans. Sometimes the recipe includes pancetta or other cured pork.

The broth, rich with the starchy release from both pasta and beans, has a heartwarming, almost creamy quality. Herbs such as rosemary or thyme give the dish an extra hint of freshness.

Pasta e fagiole is undoubtedly one of my favorite Neapolitan dishes Sampling it is akin to getting a warm, culinary hug from a Neapolitan nonna’s kitchen, making it more than worth a try.

4. Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Italian Food: Spaghetti alla Puttanesca, a Neapolitan pasta dish, flavored with garlic, capers, olives, tomatoes,

If you’ve never heard of it, don’t fret – until my first visit to Naples, neither had I. Spaghetti alla Puttanesca is a feisty, flavorful Neapolitan pasta dish, flavored with garlic, capers, olives, tomatoes, and anchovies (if desired).

The name “Puttanesca” roughly translates to “in the style of a prostitute,” with several apocryphal theories surrounding its origin. Regardless of how it got its name, there’s no disputing the boldness of its flavors.

The sauce starts with a base of garlic and red chili flakes sautéed in olive oil, providing a spicy kick. Then come the tomatoes, either fresh or canned, which form the body of the sauce. 

But it’s the other ingredients that give Puttanesca its unique character: black olives, capers, and anchovies. The olives and capers lend a savory, briny quality, while the anchovies provide a rich, umami depth.

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca is a meal for those who appreciate strong, assertive flavors. Along with Cacio e Pepe and Bucatini all’Amatricia, it is a simple pasta dish every good carb-lover ought to have in their repertoire.

5. Pasta alla Genovese

Neapolitan dishes: Closeup of Ziti alla Genovese, a popular pasta

Pasta alla Genovese is a classic, slow-cooked traditional Naples food dish, despite what its name might suggest. This hearty and delicious pasta is not to be confused with Pesto alla Genovese, the famous basil and pine nut sauce from Genoa. 

Instead, Pasta alla Genovese is a rich and deeply flavored meat and onion sauce, typically served with ziti or other pasta tubes. The primary ingredient in Pasta alla Genovese is a large amount of onions, sometimes up to three parts onions for one part meat. 

The meat is usually beef, although pork or a mix of meats can also be used. The onions and meat are slowly cooked down until they essentially melt together into a creamy, savory sauce. 

The process usually takes several hours, which allows the flavors to develop and intensify, and the result is a sauce with an almost velvety texture and a sweet, rich taste that’s absolutely worth the wait.

The sauce is typically paired with sturdy pasta that can stand up to its richness. Ziti, a tubular pasta similar to penne, is commonly used, but rigatoni or fusilli also works well. 

Pasta alla Genovese is a true comfort food, perfect for a leisurely weekend meal or a special occasion. You must make time to track down this simple and fascinating pasta dish on your next visit to Naples. 

6. Gnocchi alla Sorrentina

Neapolitan food: Closeup of Gnocchi alla Sorrentina

Hailing from Sorrento, a postcard-perfect town overlooking the Bay of Naples, gnocchi alla sorrentina combines soft, pillowy gnocchi with a vibrant, garlicky tomato sauce, gooey mozzarella, and a scattering of fragrant basil. 

The gnocchi, little dumplings traditionally made from potatoes, semolina, or flour, are boiled until they’re tender and then mixed with the tomato sauce.

The dish is then finished off with a sprinkle of fresh basil, adding a pop of color and an aromatic touch that brings an extra layer of freshness to each bite.

7. Polpette al Sugo Napoletane (Neapolitan Meatballs)

Naples Food: A plate of Polpette al Sugo Napoletane (Neapolitan Meatballs)

One of the most popular dishes of Neapolitan cuisine, polpette al sugo napoletane is the kind of comfort food that’s served in countless homes across Naples, passed down through generations, and savored on both regular weekdays and festive occasions.

Polpette are typically made from a mix of ground beef and pork, although variations exist. The meat is mixed with breadcrumbs soaked in milk, grated cheese, eggs, garlic, and a mix of herbs. 

Some families also add a bit of mortadella or salami for an extra layer of flavor. These ingredients are combined to form the meatballs, which are then lightly browned to create a crust and lock in the flavors.

The “sugo” part refers to the tomato sauce, or gravy, that the meatballs are simmered in. This sauce is made with ripe tomatoes, onion, garlic, olive oil, and often a splash of wine. 

The meatballs are added to the sauce and slow-cooked until they are tender and have absorbed the flavors of the sauce. Mmm, simply delicious!

Italians do not eat spaghetti together with their meatballs. It’s common to serve polpette al sugo napoletane with crusty bread to mop up the sauce.

Naples Food: Sweets & Desserts

1. Sfogliatella

Italian Pastries: Woman holding a  sfogliatella riccia in Naples, Italy

Sfogliatella, what a treat! Often referred to as “lobster tails” in English due to their distinctive shape, these traditional Neapolitan pastries are an integral part of Naples’s food culture.

There are two types of sfogliatelle – sfogliatella riccia (curly) and sfogliatella frolla. The sfogliatella riccia is characterized by layers upon layers of incredibly thin, flaky pastry dough, shaped into a cone or clam-like form. 

The sfogliatella frolla, on the other hand, has a soft, shortcrust exterior, which is easier to make but equally delicious.

Traditionally, the filling of sfogliatella is made with cooked semolina, sweetened ricotta, eggs, sugar, milk, and candied citrus peels, with a hint of cinnamon. This creates a complex flavor profile that is sweet, tangy, and slightly spicy. 

It’s a taste that’s hard to forget and leaves you craving for more. Because of its versatility, sfogliatella is perfect as a breakfast item, a popular pick-me-up snack, or a delightful dessert.

Sfogliatella is Jacky’s all-time favorite Neapolitan pastry and she always makes sure to snarf up a couple whenever we’re in Naples.

2. Babà

Italian pastries: Babà, a classic Neapolitan dessert

Oh, just thinking about babà makes my heart flutter! Another quintessential Neapolitan dessert, babà is a delectable, small yeast cake that’s saturated in hard liquor – usually rum, but sometimes Limoncello or other liqueurs.

Babà originated in Eastern Europe, but when it made its way to Naples in the 18th century, the Neapolitans gave it a sweet, boozy twist and it’s been a beloved part of the local pastry scene ever since.

These sweet treats are traditionally shaped like a mushroom – a tall cylindrical base with a domed top. The dough itself is light and airy, thanks to the yeast, and has a tender, brioche-like texture. 

Once baked, the cakes are generously soaked in a sugar syrup spiked with rum, until they become incredibly moist and packed with sweet, rummy flavor.

Italian pastries: Man biting into a traditional Neapolitan babà

Babà is often served plain, showcasing the rum-soaked cake in all its glory. However, you might also find it filled with pastry cream, fresh whipped cream, and even Nutella.

If you have a sweet tooth and appreciate a bit of a kick in your desserts, then babà is an absolute must-try when in Naples. This decadent, boozy treat is truly addictive. Trust me, I know all too well!

3. Zeppole di San Giuseppe

Italian pastries: Closeup of Zeppole di San Giuseppe

Zeppole di San Giuseppe are a sweet tribute to St. Joseph (San Giuseppe in Italian), celebrated on March 19th, which is also Father’s Day in Italy.

Zeppole are made from a choux pastry, the same dough used for cream puffs, resulting in a light and airy texture. The dough is piped into a ring like a braided churro, traditionally fried (though there are baked versions too), and then dusted with powdered sugar.

The fried dough rings are filled with a dollop of lemon pastry cream, making them rich and indulgent. To finish, each zeppola is crowned with a macerated Amarena cherry, as a vibrant, tangy counterpoint to the sweet flavors.

4. Pastiera Napoletana

Pastiera Napoletana, or simply pastiera, is one of our favorite Neapolitan pastries. Sporting a lattice-topped shell of shortcrust pastry, pastiera is a type of tart or pie, filled with a creamy filling made from ricotta, pre-cooked wheat berries, candied fruits, eggs, sugar, milk, and orange blossom essence. 

The pastry is sweet and crumbly, providing a lovely contrast to the moist, creamy filling. The taste is sweet but not overly so, rich but balanced by the subtle citrus and floral notes. 

Pastiera is found on every Neapolitan table during Easter but can be found in Naples pastry shops year-round.

5. Graffa Napoletana

Neapolitan food: Closeup of a woman holding a graffa, a Neapolitan donut

Graffa Napoletana, or simply graffa, is a beloved treat in Naples that’s similar to a doughnut but has its own unique charm. These sweet, ring-shaped pastries are a staple of the Neapolitan breakfast and afternoon snack scene.

What sets the Graffa Napoletana apart from the typical doughnut is the addition of potatoes to the dough. The potato makes the doughnut super tender and light, giving it a texture that is fluffy on the inside, with a slightly crisp exterior after frying.

Once fried to a beautiful golden brown, the graffa is rolled in sugar, giving it a sweet, crystal-like coating. Some variations might include a dusting of powdered sugar or a drizzle of a sweet glaze.

Graffa is a delightfully indulgent treat that’s rich in flavor and light in texture. If your sweet tooth is calling, this is one Naples food favorite you don’t want to miss!

6. Fiocco di Neve

Italian sweets: A box of the famous Fiocco di Neve (Snowflake) pastry in Naples, Italy

Ah, the Fiocco di Neve, or “snowflake” is an enchanting treat from Naples that’s as delightful to eat as it is to behold! This isn’t just any pastry; it’s a sweet cloud of decadence that I’m a complete slave to.

Fiocco di Neve is an exclusive specialty of Pasticceria Poppella, a famous pastry shop in Naples. At first glance, it seems similar to a brioche or a cream puff, but bite into it, and you’ll know it’s in a league of its own. 

The outside of fiocco di neve is a fluffy, light, sweet dough that’s baked to a soft, slightly crispy texture. But the best part really lies within – a generous filling of incredibly creamy, sweet ricotta that’s so silky it almost melts in your mouth.

Beautiful woman biting into Fiocco di Neve, a popular Neapolitan pastry

The taste is utterly irresistible, a perfect balance of sweet but not overpoweringly so, with the freshness of the ricotta offering a pleasant contrast to the sweetness. 

Fiocco di Neve comes in two other flavors besides the original – chocolate and pistachio. Both are great but the classic is simply outstanding.

Naples Food: Drinks

1. Limoncello

ICloseup of glasses of limoncello, a popular lemon-flavored talian liquer

The iconic Italian liqueur limoncello screams of sun-drenched afternoons in a lemon grove overlooking the azure waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

Limoncello is a vibrant, sunny-yellow liqueur made from the zest of the Sorrento lemon, a variety of lemon native to the southern Italian region around the Gulf of Naples, the Sorrentine Peninsula, and the island of Capri. 

These unique lemons are incredibly juicy and possess a thick, fragrant skin rich in essential oils. They lend an incomparable flavor and aroma to the Limoncello.

Limoncello is traditionally served as a “digestivo” or after-dinner drink in Italy, meant to help aid digestion after a big meal. It’s typically enjoyed neat (without mixers) in a small, chilled glass. 

Man holding a shot of limoncello, a popular lemon-flavored liqueur in Naples, Italy

Taking a sip of chilled Limoncello is an unforgettable sensory experience. It’s sweet yet tart, with a vibrant lemony flavor that’s beautifully balanced by the warmth of the alcohol. The liqueur dances on the tongue, leaving a refreshing, slightly creamy, citrusy aftertaste.

Limoncello also makes for a great souvenir to bring home from Naples.

2. Craft Beer

Italian craft beer: Bottles and cans of craft beer in Naples, Italy

Over the past few years, Naples, like other towns in Italy, has been making waves in the world of craft beer. This is great news for beer lovers like myself.

The city is home to a variety of microbreweries, craft beer bars, and beer-focused eateries that cater to every taste. You’ll find a broad range of styles on offer, including traditional lagers, IPAs, stouts, wheat beers, and even experimental beers infused with local ingredients like citrus, grapes, or herbs.

Microbreweries like Bonavena Brewing Company, South Soul, PBN – Piccolo Birrificio Napoletano, and Birrificio Ventitré are creating unique brews that reflect Campania’s vibrant character. Of course, you can also sample beer from microbreweries from other regions of Italy. 

The craft beer scene in Naples is also supported by a growing number of bars and pubs where beer is the star of the show. Spots like Il Birraiuolo, Mosto, OAK Napoli Wine And Craft Beer, NaBeer, and Frank Malone Pub & Beerstore offer a wide selection of both local and international craft beers, ensuring there’s always something new to try.

3. Wine

Nestled in the Campania region, which is one of Italy’s oldest wine-producing areas, Naples serves as a vibrant hub where wine enthusiasts can sample some of the best local vinos.

Campania is home to some truly unique local grape varieties that are rarely found outside the region. Whites made from Fiano, Greco, and Falanghina grapes are high on the must-try list. 

Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo are bright, aromatic, and carry a distinct minerality. Falanghina, often grown near the coast, is refreshing and aromatic, hinting at citrus and floral notes.

As for the reds, Aglianico is the star of the show. Taurasi, often referred to as the “Barolo of the South,” is a robust and structured red wine made from Aglianico grapes. Don’t miss out on Piedirosso, another local red varietal, offering lighter, easy-drinking wines.

Naples Food Tours/Workshops

If you really want to dine like a local in Naples, you can sign up for an insightful food tour. Three ones I can recommend are – 

All these tours/workshops are led by knowledgeable locals or professional chefs, with whom you’ll be able to you’ll have a great time eating and drinking your way through the Campanian capital.

Where To Eat in Naples?

Here are just a few restaurant, bar, café, and pastry shop suggestions in Naples for sampling/buying the food and drinks we have mentioned above:

1. Pizzeria Starita a Materdei

2. Gino e Toto Sorbillo

3. 50 Kalo

4. Isabella de Cham Pizza Fritta

5. Pizzeria de Figliole

6. Sfogliatella Mary

7. Scaturchio

8. Sfogliatelle Attanasio

9. Chalet Ciro

10. Pasticceria Poppell

11. Signora Bettola

12. Trattoria A Pignata

13. A Cucina Ra Casa Mia

14. Pizzeria Trattoria Antica Capri

15. Le Zendraglie

16. Ristorante Umberto

17. Il Birraiuolo

18. OAK Napoli Wine And Craft Beer 

19. NaBeer

Further Reading For Your Naples Visit

That summarizes our definitive guide to Naples Food. We reckon you’ll also find the following resources useful for planning your trip to Naples!

Now, what do you think? What are some of your favorite traditional foods in Naples? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

About Mihir

Hello there, fellow globetrotters! I’m Mihir, a passionate travel blogger with an insatiable wanderlust. My journey across the world is fueled by curiosity and a hunger for unique experiences. As a travel writer, photographer, and adventurer, I’ve explored more than 35 countries, aiming to provide readers with a distinctive glimpse of our diverse world. Join me as I blend captivating storytelling with stunning visuals, guiding you through hidden gems and cultural treasures. Besides traveling, my other loves are my beloved cats, architecture, art, craft beer, classic movies, history, and Australian Rules Football (Go Dons!).

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