We’ve been traveling together to Italy for almost a full two decades, but it took us this long to head south. I am a little embarrassed by this fact. It’s why I wanted to spend a good amount of time researching (and then eating) the best food in Naples. Of course, I knew this meant eating a lot of pizzas (we ate 15 in a week). But, I knew there had to be more to Naples food than pizza.
Naples Food And Travel Guide
In this Naples food blog post, I run down what to eat in Naples. This includes pizza, of course, but it’s more than pizza. I will also make recommendations for some Naples restaurants where some of these famous Neapolitan recipes can be found. I also make some recommendations on what Naples Italy food items you need to eat if you are short on time.
Please use the table of contents above to find answers to any questions you might have about Naples cuisine. If I don’t cover the topic, then feel free to ask questions in the comments below and I will try to get back to you with an answer.
Be Inspired! Check out our video about eating in Naples!
From New Jersey To Naples
Although we’ve been traveling together to Italy since 2000, we’ve spent most of our time in the north. It’s strange because having both grown up in New Jersey, surrounded by Italian Americans, Italian food is definitely comfort food for both of us. But, over the last several years, most of our oh my yum Italian food moments have been in the north, particularly in Emilia Romagna, where the Italian cuisine doesn’t resemble the dishes we grew up with. After learning enough about the food in the north to write a book about traveling for food in Emilia Romagna, it was time to finally head south.
Most Italian Americans hail from the south, from Campania (where Naples is located) and from Sicily. Campania food, in particular, is the food of my youth. I can’t believe how many dishes we ate in Naples that reminded me of Christmas Eve dinners in New Jersey with family. For me, this is the biggest difference between Neapolitan cuisine and the food from the north – it’s the food of my childhood in New Jersey.
What Is Traditional Neapolitan Food
Another way in which the Neapolitan food differs from the food in Emilia Romagna is that the north is known for richer ingredients, including aged Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, traditional balsamic vinegar, and truffles. Neapolitan cuisine, though, focuses more on simple, fresh, local ingredients. That includes local cheese, tomatoes, flour, and seafood. Yes, tomatoes, an ingredient that is not as predominant in the traditional Italian dishes in the north.
Napoli Food Guide
In this food guide, we focus on the Napoli dishes you must eat when visiting Naples. I know this is hard for many travelers who don’t spend a lot of time in the city. But, some of these dishes should be available in the surrounding areas as well. If you are short on time, at the bottom of the post, I share our recommendations on what to eat if you only have one day in Naples.
The Best Pizza In Naples Italy
There is no way to talk about what to eat in Naples Italy without talking about Naples pizza. Of course, I promised a Napoli Food Guide that focused on what to eat besides pizza. That’s why we created a separate guide to Napoli pizza, which includes the history of pizza as well as the types of pizza found in Naples, and where to find the best pies.
Other Neapolitan Dishes To Eat in Naples – 20+ Must-Eat Dishes In Naples
Yes, there is more to Neapolitan cuisine than pizza! So much more. It was hard for us because we visited a lot of pizzerias but also tried to eat as many of these recommended dishes and foods as we could. All in the name of research, of course.
Breakfast in Naples Italy
Naples dining really starts first thing in the morning with a typical Italian breakfast. Breakfast in Italy normally involves a coffee and a pastry. Of course, these typical Neapolitan pastries can be eaten throughout the day and often serve as mid-day snacks.
Sfogliatella – Riccia
The easiest way to start your day in Naples is by eating a sfogliatella (sfogliatelle is the plural), a clam shaped flaky pastry. The pastry reminded me of the xiao long bao soup dumplings, which it is said must have at least 18 folds. It seems to be something similar with the sfogliatella, where there are at least a dozen flaky folds to the pastry. The sfogliatella riccia is filled with creamy ricotta and topped with powdered sugar (which I quickly spread all over my black jacket – beware).
So, where can you find the best sfogliatelle in Naples? Reportedly La Sfogliatella Mary on Via Toledo offers the best. I found them to be a little crispy for my liking. We also tried their sfogliatella rossa, which included raspberries and a little sweet cream on the top, which I liked more. The sweet cream softened the crisp folds of the pastry.
Sfogliatella – Frolla
Another version of sfogliatella and the one I preferred. The sfogliatella frolla is a soft pastry (without the flaky folds) filled with creamy ricotta and dried candy fruits. They are also topped with powdered sugar, and when warm are pretty tasty.
Baba al Rhum
The Baba al Rhum is everywhere in Naples. It is a cake in the shape of a large champagne cork and then soaked in rum or other liquor, sometimes lemoncello. They are found full-sized, mini, as a parfait with cream, or filled with Nutella and other similar sweets.
This was not my favorite thing to eat in Naples. As much as we love our liquor, I am generally not a fan of cakes and pastries soaked in alcohol. That said, it was super moist and I can see its appeal. If you, like us, are not a fan of alcohol soaked desserts, try one of the mini Baba al Rhum to get the flavor without the commitment.
No Italian breakfast is complete without a coffee. For the people of Naples, it seems like coffee is air. You can order a cafe (espresso) or a macchiato (espresso with a drop of milk) at caffes or bars across the city. Most coffees will cost between €1-1.50. They are small and drank fast, normally while standing up at the bar. To sit in the cafe will often cost a few cents more, and even more to sit outside.
The most elegant caffe in town is Gran Caffe Gambrinus, which dates to 1860. It is certainly not the cheapest place in Naples for a coffee, but the architecture is stunning. The outdoor tables offer a view of the Naples Royal Palace.
Napoli Street Food – The Fried Stuff – Friggitorie
Naples street food can be described in one word – fried. To me, this was one of the most surprising things about Naples. Much of the rest of Italy, at least where we’ve traveled over the last 19+ years, focuses on sit-down dining, including long lunches or three-course dinners. The best of Naples, though, seems to be happening out on the street. This is particularly true near the Spanish Quarter Naples, and along Via Tribunali and the surrounding alleyways.
Street food in Naples focuses on pizza and all things fried. Yes, it’s possible to get a pizza for a €1 and wash it down with a €1 Aperol Spritz. It’s more likely street food means eating something fried, wrapped in paper while walking or standing in an alley. The fascination with deep-fried foods extends to pizzerias and restaurants too. We found some of the best places to eat in Naples offered loads of fried starters. Here are a few of the most famous fried foods to eat in Naples, either on the street or at a restaurant. These all fall into the category of cheap eats in Naples.
Mozzarella in Carrozza
At its most simple, mozzarella in carrozza (or in a carriage) is the most sublime fried cheese sandwich ever. The mozzarella is placed between slices of bread, covered in egg, and then deep fried. It is more common to find mozzarella in carrozza as a starter at pizzerias than on the street, although it is possible. We ate this version at Pizzeria Brandi off Via Chiaia.
Another heavenly bit of fried goodness, imagine macaroni and cheese breaded and deep fried. That’s exactly what a frittatina (or frittatine in plural) is. You can find it at almost all of the fried food stalls as well as at a starter at many of the pizzerias. The best we had was at50 Kalo di Ciro Salvo, west of the city center.
Crocche di Patate
We tried this once, as part of a paper cone of fried products. I am sure I would offend an Italian by saying it reminded me croquettas that we eat all the time at home in Spain. So, we didn’t focus on eating crocche di patate in favor of other fried things we can’t find at home. In Naples, the potato crocche can include bits of ham or sausage too.
A similar story with alici fritte, or fried anchovies, which we eat a lot at home in Spain. That said, these were probably the least common fried items we saw.
Fried Pizza – Pizza Fritta
Okay, so much for not talking about pizza. But, how can you travel to Naples without putting two of the most popular food categories together, fried and pizza? Fried pizza, or pizza fritta is exactly what it sounds like, deep fried dough stuffed with tomato sauce, cheese, and a bit of meat. The most famous fried pizza in Naples can be found at Antica Pizza Fritta Da Zia Esterina Sorbillo, with two locations (Via Toledo and Via Tribunali).
Other Must-Eat Items On A Napoli Restaurant Menu
Napoli cuisine doesn’t end with pizzas and fried street food. Although eating out in Naples tends to focus on pizzeria hopping, there are plenty of things to eat in Naples that involve sitting down at an actual restaurant. These dishes can be found on Napoli restaurant menus.
Buffalo Mozzarella DOP
You can’t make pizza without cheese, and one of the most important cheeses is mozzarella. Campania is home to Buffalo Mozzarella DOP, one of the many regulated DOP and IGP products in Italy. It’s a creamy, somewhat milky cheese that tops many of the pizzas, but can also be eaten separately. There are even small stalls that sell balls of mozzarella to go as a street-side snack.
This was a great find in Naples, particularly because most of our diet involved cheese and carbs. Friarelli is a bitter, local broccoli, which is cooked in garlic, olive oil, and sometimes a little spicy chili pepper. I had never heard of it before, but it was the perfect balance to the rich pasta dishes we ate.
Polpette – Meatballs
Try to find these meatballs at some of the kiosks and street-side stalls. Look for Cuzzetiello. The most famous shop is O’Cuzzetiello in Vomero, the neighborhood behind and up the hill from the Spanish Quarter. The meatballs are normally served with the ends of bread to soak up the sauce. At O’Cuzzetiello the meatballs are placed inside the bread, standing up. Also, don’t expect to be served a plate of spaghetti with meatballs on top. Naples restaurants serve meatballs as a secondi, during the meat course of a meal.
Frittata di Pasta
I’ve been eating (and making) frittatas at home for years, but never thought to add pasta to the mix. A frittata di pasta includes eggs, cheese, and sometimes a bit of meat. It is all mixed together and deep fried until crispy.
Impepata di Cozze – Mussels With Pepper
A great way to taste some of the seafood that is famous in Campania. Impepata di Cozze is similar to the mussels served in Catalonia “al vapor,” steamed in their own juices. In this case, the mussels are cooked in a little black pepper and a spritz of lemon.
Parmigiana di Melenzane – Eggplant Parmigiano
This brought me right back to my childhood, and all of the eggplant parm subs I ate in high school. Having something similar in Italy was a real treat. It’s a dish that mixes all of the local ingredients like fried eggplant, tomato sauce, cheese, and basil. Normally it is made with a locally smoked provolone giving the dish a much smokier flavor than the parm I grew up with.
Best Pasta in Naples Italy
We normally eat pasta until the cows come home when traveling in Italy. But, this trip focused on pizza and Naples street food. Whereas normally we would eat pasta twice a day, in Naples we only ate pasta at dinner. But, the pasta dishes we ate were so reminiscent of our childhood. I would also note that every restaurant we ate at was very casual, brightly lit, and felt like I was eating Nonna’s cooking. There were no high-end, contemporary Italian dining experiences here, at least during our visit.
We’ve eaten loads of traditional Bolognese ragu in Emilia Romagna, but the ragu in the south is entirely different. In the North, ragu is made with carrots, celery, and ground meats. In Campania, the ragu is made with large chunks of meat making the sauce more rich. It’s actually not all that easy to find ragu at Naples restaurants. This is a traditional Naples dish mostly prepared for Sunday lunch as it is a time-consuming process to prepare. But, a series of restaurants in Naples called Tandem have taken ragu mainstream. Despite the silly name, the ragu was tasty.
Pasta Alla Genovese
An alternative to Neapolitan ragu is a dish that confused me at first. I thought it was more from Genoa than Campania. The difference between the Genovese sauce and ragu is the lack of tomatoes. The Genovese sauce is really a base of meat and onions but is also just as rich.
Spaghetti Alla Vognole
Another nod to the seafood tradition in Campania and something I grew up eating in New Jersey. It’s also a perfect example of the less is more philosophy of Neapolitan cooking. Pasta, olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, parsley, and clams, all fresh, local ingredients.
Lasagna Al Forno Napoletana
Another dish that we eat at a lot of when in Bologna, it was interesting to see the difference with the version in the South. In Bologna, the dish is made with ragu, the meat sauce, and bechamel. The Napoletana lasagna is normally made with meatballs, tomato sauce, cheese, and slices of hard-boiled egg. At first, I found the egg a little strange, but then I found myself picking the pieces of egg out of Eric’s lasagna because it was so good.
Where To Eat In Naples Italy
I recommended a few specific places to eat above, but I wanted to share some recommendations for non-pizzeria eating in Naples. Most of these places are firmly on the tourist trail. I often felt like we were surrounded more by tourists than locals, at least until after 8:30. That’s when more locals come out for dinner. Regardless each restaurant offered good food and some unique Naples experiences.
Tandem Ragu Naples
A ridiculous name for a restaurant in Naples for English speakers, but it’s worth a visit. Tandem Ragu is located near Via Tribunali but they have opened several other locations around the neighborhood. Their specialty is ragu, offering people a way to eat a Neapolitan dish normally served at home on the weekends. Prices are very reasonable. Pasta courses range between €8-12. They also do cater to gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan diners. For a very Neapolitan dish, try the Scarpetta of Ragu (above), a bowl of ragu with bread to dunk. This is how the Italians would eat ragu at home at the end of their pasta course.
Tandem Ragu is at Via Giovanni Paladino, 51. Other locations are within a few blocks walk. They are open seven days a week. Reservations are required for the initial location, as it’s so small. But, when we arrived without a reservation they called over to another location and secured us a table there. Tandem Ragu is very very small. I actually enjoyed our experience at Sedile di Porto a little better. It was bigger and the service was more friendly.
Bellini Ristorante Pizzeria
Bellini Ristorante is known for its seafood and pasta dishes. Try the Vognole or the scampi, served with giant langoustines. Again, another experience eating in Naples with bright lights and a somewhat cheesy Italian feel. But, the service was friendly and the food good. It’s also in a great location for enjoying Naples nightlife. The bars on Piazza Bellini around the corner are pretty insane.
Bellini Ristorante Naples is located at Via Santa Maria di Costantinopoli, 80. They are open all day 6 days a week and for lunch on Sunday. Perhaps stop in at Bar Fiorillo 1960 before for an aperitivo. A pretty typical Italian bar and cafe, but with an owner in his late 80’s who was such a character and went out of his way to welcome the Americans.
Trattoria da Nenella
Certainly one of the more unique experiences we’ve had in a long time even though I would not call it one of the top restaurants in Naples. A very traditional restaurant that specializes in home-cooking Naples cuisine. They have set menus ranging from €12-15, including water and house wine. For €12 a person plus coperto (the charge in Italy per person for the bread and the table cloth), we enjoyed a starter, a meat course, a side dish, and fruit for dessert. The dishes were uncomplicated for sure, including lasagna, penne with tomatoes, insalate caprese, and fried pork cutlet.
We arrived just before opening to a line out the door. But don’t worry, there is a drink stand outside for waiting customers to order an Aperol Spritz. They must have sat a hundred people in minutes, and we were done with dinner in less than an hour. Again, this is not your typical Italian dining experience where multiple courses are enjoyed over hours. We were there during carnival, so I can’t say if this atmosphere was normal. It was a party scene, with loud groups of Italians singing to performers or loud music, while enjoying their meal. At one point two people dressed as a clown and a gypsy came in to dance and didn’t even ask for money. They were just there to dance and have fun. Yes, a truly unique experience.
Trattoria da Nennella is on Vico Lungo Teatro Nuovo, 103/104/105 in the Spanish Quarter, a few blocks up from Via Toledo. They are open for lunch and dinner six days a week. They are closed on Sunday.
What And Where To Eat In One Day in Naples Italy
I know many travelers visit Naples on a day trip from Amalfi, or maybe during an overnight on the way in or out from the airport. I do think the city deserves more time than that. It took us a few days to start to feel comfortable. That said, if you need to do Naples in a day, here are our recommendations on what and where to eat.
Start in the Piazza del Plebiscito, perhaps walking down to the water to see the view of Vesuvius. Then walk up the pedestrian street, Via Toledo, where there are loads of food options. Grab a sfogliatella to start the day with a cup of coffee, perhaps at Casa Infante and Leapoldo. They have locations all over Naples. Grab a cone of fried tastiness at Passione di Sofi, just next to the Zara. Wander up and down Via Toledo and into the Quartieri Spagnoli while waiting for the pizzerias to open. Visit either Pizzeria Brandi nearby, or head up to Pizzeria Starita, or walk out to Trianon for a pizza lunch. They some of our favorite pizzas.
After, enjoy gelato in a fresh cone at Il Gelato Mennella, which has a few locations in the city. Or wander around Via Tribunali to see the largest concentration of pizzerias and street food in the city. Stop at a bar or cafe for an Aperol Spritz to reset the appetite. Then, grab a fried pizza (pizza fritta) at Da Zia Esterina to finish off your independent Naples food tour. After, find a little shot of limoncello for something sweet.
Another alternative is to book a Naples Food Tour to make the most of your time and to learn something about the food and the city while there. Naples can be intimidating to travelers, so taking a food tour is a good way to explore the city with someone who has knowledge of how to get around.
We often say we are not the biggest fans of late-night action, being married and old. But, we always like to make at least a few recommendations on what to do at night other than eat. We might not be able to offer recommendations on the hippest bars in Naples Italy, but we can at least try. For young people, the top Napoli bar has to be the street. Seriously, either buying bottles of beer at a grocery store or stopping for an Aperol Spritz to go, there are squares and corners all over the city where local young are drinking on the street.
Other than street side drinking, there is no shortage of Naples bars. We saw a handful of cocktail bars but tended to keep it more traditional, ordering an Aperol Spritz before or after dinner. We visited Piazza Dante a few times as well as Piazza Bellini. One thing to note, generally drinks are more expensive when sitting outside at a bar because you are paying for the privilege of sitting there. If you are concerned, ask to see the menu to confirm the price. As an example, a Spritz could range from €2 if ordered to go in a plastic cup to €7 at an outdoor cafe on a main piazza.
There is also a cute, little craft beer bar in the Spanish Quarter called NaBeer. They carry local Naples craft beers on tap and a variety of Italian beers as well. In general, beer is not as cheap in Italy as it is in Spain. Even national Italian beers were about €4-6 depending on the size. The craft beer at NaBeer cost €5-6 making it a pretty decent value.
Naples Travel Guide
In addition to covering what and where to eat in Naples, I also wanted to share some Naples travel tips, on how to travel to Naples. And, I wanted to start with one very important question.
Should You Visit Naples?
If you are reading this post to be inspired to visit a new destination in Italy, this is not the right post for you. As mentioned, we’ve been traveling together to Italy since 2000, predominantly in the north. I love traveling to Emilia Romagna and think it offers some of the best food in Italy. That said, the southern Italy comfort food that I grew up eating in New Jersey is entirely different, as discussed above. I knew Naples for pizza, but I also knew Naples for a lot of its recent political problems, including sanitation strikes. I had the image in my head of the time when Naples’ city streets were overrun with garbage. Luckily that is no longer the case. If it were, we wouldn’t have visited.
We understand why Naples is often overlooked, or why people pop in for a day trip from Amalfi to eat at Antica Pizzeria da Michele and then jet back to the coast. We wanted to see it for ourselves, though. And, it’s why we spent almost a week in the city. Naples is not a typical Italian holiday town, far from it. Travelers to Naples need to be prepared. It’s not a necessarily pretty city. It’s dirty and filled with graffiti. It is loud, with crazy traffic.
I would not recommend renting a car to drive around Naples. There are a lot of smokers. I felt more unsafe and more defensive in Naples than I do in other Italian cities. I didn’t carry a purse. We were less likely to wander down a narrow alleyway to explore. We stayed in an area where we knew the roads were busy until late at night for security. I may get hate mail from Naples locals, but I am prepared for it. I want to let people know what to expect when visiting Naples.
In the end, how do I answer the question “should I travel to Naples?” Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some people love the grit of a big, crazy city. Some people prefer to travel to
Best Neighborhood To Stay In Naples Italy
I struggled when looking for hotels in Naples Italy. It’s a sprawling city, and the Naples restaurants and pizzerias I wanted to visit were all over the place. I also read a lot about the best areas in Naples and the not-so-safe areas. That said, I was happy with our neighborhood, but not happy with our hotel. So, I am not going to recommend it.
We stayed on Via Chiaia, at the end of Via Toledo. I liked the area because at night there were still a lot of people there, so it felt safe. But it’s loud. With any hotel in Naples, ask for a quiet room that doesn’t face the street to avoid all of the noise. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I read that we should avoid the hotels near the train station and that area in general at night. That’s where several of the international hotel chains are located. I would not recommend staying near Via Tribunali as it is crazy at night, very crowded, and very loud. I would recommend some of the hotels on the main roads that run parallel to the water, near the Centro Storico. This includes Corso Umberto I and Via Medina.
The Best Hotels in Naples Italy
Naples is a little more rough than other cities in Italy but is still definitely worth a visit. I would recommend avoiding the area surrounding the train station when choosing hotels. Chiaia is nicer, but a far distance from many of the best places to eat in Naples. Here are two recommended Naples hotels in the city center.
Hotel Napoli – Palazzo Turchini: Classical Italian hotel on Via Medina, very centrally located | Rooms from €100 | Check the best prices here
Hotel NH Napoli Panorama: More contemporary, high rise option also on Via Medina and part of the Minor Hotel Group | Rooms from €120 | Check the best prices here
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Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new Food and Drink Destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.