Whether visiting Naples, Italy for a savory food adventure, exploring dazzling ruins or experiencing the city’s life in the streets, Naples’ fragrant pizzerias and trattoria lure your taste buds like the ancient local Sirens calling out to the fisherman of yore. Heed their call and indulge but be sure to include these Neapolitan food specialties along your gastronomic journey.
The Holy Trinity of Pizza
Naples is the birthplace of pizza and its very identity conjures up smoldering images of this famous dish. Recently Unesco recognized traditional Neapolitan pizza and the figure of the Pizzaiuoli (pizza-makers) as a slice of history worthy of inclusion on Unesco’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Compared to its crispy Roman cousin, Neapolitan pizza makers must follow strict ingredient and production guidelines derived from centuries of history to be recognized as a true Neapolitan pizza. Look for the Association Vera Pizza Napoletana’s trademark proudly displayed at restaurants that only include the permitted ingredients and complete the full four production stages required to achieve this marvelous pie.
Naples pizza only comes in two officially recognized authentic variations: margarita made with fior’di latte cheese and basil or the simple marinara made with local tomatoes, EVOO, oregano and garlic. Both utilize only “00” flour (usually Caputo brand) which is high in protein and gluten content crucial to achieve the characteristic bubbles in the crust. Though not technically authentic, adding a dollop of fresh ricotta cheese on top is a widespread local custom.
Try the ricotta e scarole pizza and Enrico Caruso’s spirit will infuse your soul and inspire your own rousing rendition of O’sole mio. For a taste of the real thing visit: L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele or Pizzeria Gino Sorbillo. Keep in mind pizza is served generally for dinner and not lunch so plan your tasting menu accordingly.
Following the rules in Naples is considered optional so be sure to explore and compare some earth-shattering pizzas that break the stereotypes. You must try the rule-bending pizzas at Ristorante Pizzeria Gorizia 1916 in the Vomero district or at Ristorante Ciro a Margellina along the Chiaia waterfront.
To complete your pizza trilogy don’t miss pizza fritta which consists of fried dough speckled with lovely air pockets achieved through combining sparkling mineral water and flour fried to a crisp golden brown and expertly piled high with traditional toppings all neatly folded up for the ultimate street food to go. Try one at: Di Matteo or keep your eye out for pizza a portafoglio (wallet-folded pizza) at Pizzeria Tutino. Be sure to also feast on a montanara – a variation of fried pizza served open-face and available to sample during our best food in Naples, Italy tours.
The pilgrimage for the best food in Naples must include its world-famous street food specialties found at friggitorie (fried food stands) starting with a’cuopo di paranza. Simply calling it fried fish does not do this finger licking dish justice. First local fish referred to as pesce azurro are battered and flash fried in front of your hungry eyes.
The mix can vary but it generally includes shrimp, octopus, cod, mullet (not the hair-style but the fish), sole, anchovies and if you are extremely lucky cicineielli. The latter are miniscule baby fish, with their mini eyes still intact that plead with you to keep eating because they taste so good.
Everything is neatly wrapped to go in a brown paper funnel cone which conveniently solves both the problem of sightseeing while munching on all this salty goodness and sopping up any extra cooking oil from the crispy fish. Heaven. Try one of our favorites: Passione di Sofi in the historic center.
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Street-side vendors and shops specializing in the above generally also offer fiori di zucca or zucchini flowers stuffed with fior’di latte cheese and anchovies along with a usual assortment of fried potato crocche’, oversized fried rice arancini shaped like Vesuvius and all manner of tasty vegtables.
The batter should appear light-colored, never dark (which indicates old, reused oil for frying) and avoid any menu listed with an asterisk “shrimp*”. The asterisk is required by law to indicate frozen or “surgelato” items. Stick to the fresh ingredients where possible. And don’t be afraid to ask for a sample before you order up a few dishes!
Try: Friggiteria Vomero in the Vomero neighborhood.
Frittata di pasta
Neapolitans rarely count calories and offering plus-sized clothes is the norm not the exception. No doubt this is a result of the caloric Neapolitan specialties of both frittata di pasta and Sartu’ di riso. Tracking down both can be complicated if you don’t count a Neapolitan nonna in your inner circle.
Prepared for festivals and lazy Sunday lunches, keep your eyes out for local rosticceria (gourmet food emporiums with dishes to go) and the new trendy restaurants that only specialize in variations of fried pasta dishes. Frittata di pasta or literally “pasta omelet” is a baked pasta pie fresh from the oven. Pasta is prepared normally but then a delicious concoction of eggs, cheese and even meat sauce, peas and more cheese is added and baked in the oven like a deep-dish pizza. Served like a slice of pie, request a piece that maximizes your share of the coveted crispy bits of burned Parmesan cheese along the top edges!
Adding to the dish’s sensory overload and warm, happy feeling is knowing you can wrap up the leftovers for a picnic the next day and eat it cold or at room temperature for an entirely new experience. Prepare for a nap afterwards!
Try either location of Giri di Pasta in Vomero or the historic center.
Sartu’ di riso
Sartu’ di riso signifies everything good that Naples, Italy food has to offer. It is pasta’s answer to the meat lovers’ pizza. Imagine combining mini meatballs, chicken livers, meat ragu”, pancetta, mushrooms, hard-boiled eggs, provolone cheese, fior’di latte cheese, peas and whatever else strikes your fancy.
This beast of a stuffing is then added to a large Jell-O mold, itself lined and topped with rice, and then everything is baked up to a toasty brown. Once turned upside down and extracted, the dish resembles a savory version of an angel food cake served slice by slice. It is the ultimate expression of Naples’ allure.
If you can’t stop salivating, be sure to head on over and book a Naples, Italy food tour!