12 Foods You Must Try in Naples, Italy

December 30, 2019

Pizza Margherita in Naples, Italy

Last Updated on December 30, 2019 by Candy Wafford

Most people travel with a list of must-see sights. I travel with a list of must-eat foods! One of the many ways Naples won me over was with the food. Here are twelve foods you must try in Naples, Italy.

Food in Naples

When you think of Italian food what comes to mind? Pizza? Spaghetti? Mozzarella? All specialties of Naples. Food and eating in Naples is a way of life. The region has been blessed with a landscape that produces incredible raw ingredients, tomatoes sweet from the volcanic soil, rich olive oil produced from trees that are hundreds of years old, and cheese made from buffalo milk. It’s this abundance of riches from the earth that makes food from Southern Italy simple, yet astoundingly good.

The Neopolitan proverb Napoli si mangia cosi means “in Naples we eat like this.” And like this is fresh and local foods. And that food is meant to be enjoyed. Food is everywhere in Naples. Local produce spills out of storefronts in a riotous display of color and texture. And every other storefront sells pizza, fried street food, or cuoppo, gelato, or coffee.

Vegetables on display on sidewalk in Naples, Italy

Food in Naples is generally a simple affair. With the highest quality ingredients at their feet, Neopolitians don’t have to gild the lily to create food that is delicious. A simple salad of fresh tomatoes dressed with olive oil is beautiful and satisfying. A pizza dressed with a smear of fresh tomato sauce, the freshest mozzarella, and a few basil leaves is a thing of beauty. This simplicity provides a delicious and comfortable experience.

So what are the foods Naples is famous for?

1) Pizza in Naples

Any discussion about food in Naples has to begin with pizza! You will find no shortage of pizza as you walk the streets of Naples. And going to Naples without eating pizza at least once would be a crime. Naples pizza is a thing of beauty. The traditional Margherita pizza has a thin crust topped with a whisper of fresh tomato sauce, a few slices of cheese, and fresh basil. Simplicity at its finest.

Pizza in Naples, Italy.  Foods you must eat in Naples, Italy.

Pizza in Naples is served whole and not in slices. We learned this lesson the hard way when we asked about the size of a pizza and were told it would feed one person. Imagine our surprise when three full-size pizzas were brought to our table! We didn’t finish them, but we ate more than we expected. Pizza in Naples is too delicious to leave behind!

2) Sfogliatelle

Sfogliatelle may be difficult to pronounce but it sure is easy to eat! Sfogliatelle, or sfogliatella when referring to just one, is a flaky, crispy pastry filled with sweet ricotta mixture. You will find two different versions of sfogliatelle in Naples; riccia which is made with laminated dough and shaped into a lobster tail and, frolla which is a round, bun-like dough with the same filling.

Sfogliatelle in a bakery in Naples, Italy

I prefer the riccia version for the overall sensory experience of eating one. First, you will notice the warm pastry, then as you take a bite you will hear the satisfying crunch of the super-crisp pastry. The warm cinnamon-flavored custard will hit your tongue just as a shower of crumbs covers your shirt. It’s the perfect way to start your day in Naples!

3) Limoncello

You will find lemons in everything in Southern Italy. And one of the most famous lemon products is the lemon liqueur limoncello. You will find limoncello all over Naples and the Amalfi Coast. Stores will offer samples and many restaurants will serve a complimentary shot following your meal. Try them all! Limoncello is often homemade and always delicious.

Bottles of limoncello in a shop in Naples, Italy

You’ll find a seemingly endless variety of liquers throughout Naples. I especially enjoyed the melon liqueur for it’s lovely apricot color and sweet taste. I suggest trying as many as possible!

4) Pasta

You’re in Italy, the land of pasta. And a bowl of al dente pasta covered in a homemade ragu is as Italian as it gets. But Naples coveted location on the sea makes eating seafood a must during a visit here. I fell in love with spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams) during my trip to Naples. The clams are small and sweet and pair perfectly with pasta bathed in oil and garlic. A sprinkle of parsley generally finishes this classic dish that is a must-try food in Naples.

Spaghetti alle vongole, (spaghetti w/clams).  Foods to eat in Naples.

5) Seafood

Sitting on the Bay of Naples, there is no shortage of seafood available in Naples. Walking through neighborhood streets you’ll see vendors selling a wide variety of seafood from clams to whole fish, displayed upright in a C-shape. You’ll also find fresh fish dishes on most menus, including the most famous spaghetti alle vongole, pasta with clams.

Plate of fried seafood in Naples, Italy

6) Tomatoes

Tomatoes didn’t originate in Italy, but I can’t think of any other country more closely associated with the tomato.

Fresh tomatoes at shop in Naples, Italy

In the 1500s tomatoes were considered too dangerous to eat. Wealthy Europeans used flatware and plates made from pewter which contains lead. The acidic content of the tomato allowed lead to leach into the food making people sick. Those not using pewter utensils didn’t get sick and tomatoes become quite popular.

I generally don’t care much for a raw tomato, but I couldn’t get enough of them in Naples. A tomato salad is simply a plate of cut-up tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. Simple and delicious.

7) Coffee in Naples

Entire articles have been written about the coffee culture in Naples. My daughter is the only coffee drinker in our family and she quickly discovered that ordering a cup of coffee in Naples was much different than what she is used to here in the US.

Coffee cafes dot the ancient streets of Naples, enticing pedestrians to come in with the smell of strong coffee wafting out of the door. Every cafe we visited felt like it came from another time with vintage countertops and cabinets filled with items I can only assume held special meaning for the owner.

Woman pouring sugar in a cup of espresso in Naples, Italy

Coffee in Naples is served in teeny little cups. But it’s strong so you won’t need the extra grande size you may be accustomed to. It will also be hot, like boiling hot. Proceed carefully! You’ll also be given a glass of water with your espresso or coffee. It’s meant to be drunken before the coffee in order to cleanse your palate. For coffee connoisseurs, a cup of Naples coffee is a thing of beauty.

8) Taralli

This may be one of the few items on the list you’ve never heard of. I was introduced to taralli at a family function earlier this year and am kind of obsessed with it. Taralli is similar in texture to a cracker but comes in a variety of shapes and flavors. My favorites are big taralli full of crunchy almonds and a slight bit of spice. Taralli is one of those foods that seems unimpressive at first bite, but you’ll find you keep reaching for them.

9) Cheese

Ah, cheese. I thought I knew and loved mozzarella before visiting Naples but I was wrong. I only knew and loved a whisper of what mozzarella is meant to be.

Buffalo mozzarella in Naples, Italy

Mozzarella di bufala or buffalo mozzarella is made from buffalo’s milk. Buffalo’s milk has a higher protein, fat, and salt content than cow’s milk. A ball of milky, creamy buffalo mozzarella is heaven on a plate. Dress it simply with some local olive oil, salt, and pepper and dig in. Definitely make an effort to find the freshest cheese you can to enjoy while in Naples. You’ll thank me later!

Be sure and try other local cheeses while in Naples. Fior di latte is traditionally used for pizzas and the ricotta here is sweet and incredibly delicious.

10) Pizza Fritta

You’re sitting in a pizzeria in Naples and spot a huge crescent-shaped piece of dough at the table next to you. You’ll wonder what in the world is it?

Fried pizza or pizza fritta in Naples

Pizza fritta, or fried pizza, is pizza dough stuffed with ricotta, meat, and/or mushrooms placed on top of the dough. It’s then folded into a half-circle, similar to a calzone and fried. Some fresh tomato sauce might be served on top. Another example of what Naples food is all about, simple yet delicious food.

Women traditionally fried food in Naples, while men did the baking. So a women would make pizza fritta and a man would prepare pizza.

11) Baba

I was surprised at all of the beautiful pastries I found in Naples. Among the most well-known is baba. Baba are tender cakes soaked in rum and usually filled with mounds of whipped cream and the teeniest, sweetest strawberries I’ve ever eaten. You will find baba in all sizes and throughout the city. Don’t be surprised if you get a bit of a buzz from the rum in the syrup!

Baba originated in Poland and found it’s way to Paris. It’s thought baba came to Naples when French chefs were hired to cook for aristocratic families.

12) Cuoppo – Fried Food

Cuoppo is a paper cone filled with fried food. It’s street food at it’s best and we enjoyed more than one cuoppo during our trip. You can choose from a variety of different kinds of seafood, vegetables, and cheeses to fill your cuoppo. You’ll be served a cone overflowing with piping hot fried deliciousness. The fried fish and fried zucchini blossoms filled with cheese were two of my favorites.

Naples Food

This list is not even close to being a comprehensive list of food to eat in Naples. I can’t wait to visit this beautiful city again just try polpette, more cheese, more pizza, and more pastry.

A food tour is a great way to see experience many of the must-eat foods in Italy.

Want to Learn More About Food in Naples?

Marlena Spieler’s book A Taste of Naples, Neapolitan Culture, Cuisine, and Cooking is a fascinating and entertaining book about the food you will find in Naples. It’s a love letter to the food of Naples and I found it a wonderful resource in preparing for my trip.

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More about Candy Wafford

Candy Wafford is a US-based travel blogger and while she travels frequently for her job, she is happiest when traveling for pleasure. Preferably strolling along a cobblestoned street with an ice cream cone in her hand.

    1. Enjoyed reading through the variety of foods in Naples! My favorite is Tomato salad! In fact, I am planning to make it. Great photography too!

      1. Thank you! The variety there is amazing! Everything is simple, but delicious because of the quality of the ingredients they have.

    1. The entire post made me hungry and wanting to visit Naples just to eat! Your descriptions of each item was wonderful and gave just enough information to tempt me. Thanks for sharing!

      1. Oh, you should go, Lynette! The food is one of the main reasons I love Naples!

    1. Oh this is right up my alley, love this kind of foodtrips 😀
      Happy new years from Stockholm Sweden!

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