The beautiful city of Naples may be known as the birthplace of the pizza, but trust me, fellow foodie travelers, there are so many other mouthwatering delights to consume in this great place! Its narrow alleys are bustling with open air food markets, family-run stands selling fried snacks, and centuries-old pastry shops. Just take a stroll through the famous Via dei Tribunali and you will be amazed by the variety of Italian street food.
Here are 10 dishes you wouldn’t want to miss …
Sfogliatelle – A traditional Neapolitan pastry with thick flaky layers of dough filled with lightly whipped ricotta and dusted with powdered sugar. They’re best eaten when warm out of the oven so get there early in the morning. Italians enjoy them for breakfast and also as an afternoon snack.
Baba au Rhum – A fluffy, cylindrical sponge cake made with eggs, milk, and butter … and then soaked in rum (can it get any better than that?). You can also find cream-filled Baba at pastry shops across Naples, sometimes known as Baba Maxi. It is said that this pastry originated from France, but has Polish roots.
Coffee – Italians are passionate about their coffee and are known to brew some of the best cappuccinos in the world. The coffee in Naples is more like an espresso shot, with lots of grinds and very little water. Do not make the grave mistake of ordering a cappuccino after breakfast, as that is a big cultural no-no!
Pizza Fritta – It looks like a calzone, but it isn’t. Pizza fritta, or fried pizza, has a light and fluffy bread-like dough that is chewy and a tad sweet. The bread is topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and fresh basil. Pizza Fritta can also be stuffed with ricotta cheese, salami, and tomato sauce. Locals love it, and after a few bites, you will too.
Arancini – These fried risotto balls are sometimes served up as appetizers at Italian restaurants. In Naples, they are stuffed with ragù (meat and tomato sauce), mozzarella, and peas (although there are other variations with mushrooms, eggplants, or pistachios as well) and served on a paper plate.
Fritto Misto – At lunch time, crowds flock to small restaurants that set up display windows facing the street. Here, they offer already fried zucchini, eggplant, calamari, shrimp, potato croquettes, or whatever is in season. Order by a copa (paper cones) and snack on it with a glass of beer or aperitif. It’s never to early to drink in Italy!
Pizza al Forno – Did you know that the first version of pizza was invented as street food? Smaller than a regular pie, this pizza al forno is meant to be eaten with hands while on the go. Stacks can be found at display windows and served as late breakfast or lunch. The crust is so thin that you have to fold the dough into halves or quarters, and is nicknamed “wallet pizza.”
Panino Napoletano – A stuffed Neapolitan sandwich, almost like bread. These melt-in-your-mouth rolls are filled with salami, cheese, boiled eggs, and black pepper, and gently brushed with lard to keep them moist.
Tripe – There are specialty shops in Naples that sell nothing but dressed tripe. The fat is trimmed off, the meat is boiled and gently marinated in lemon juice. Don’t be surprised to find pig’s feet and cow’s nose as these are traditionally cheap and nutritious foods that locals still enjoy today.
Mussels – Seafood vendors in Naples sell raw fresh mussels that can also be cooked to order. Try them alla marinara (with spicy tomato sauce on toasted bread), or impepata di cozze (black pepper and mussel juice).
Naples is a pedestrian friendly, easy-to-navigate city, that also has hidden gems some visitors may not know about. If you want to delve into the real Naples experience and learn about the history of the food and the establishments that create them, hire a local guide or sign up for a food tour.
Still hungry? Share your favorite Neapolitan dish with us in the comments below!