We’ve been traveling together to Italy for almost a full two decades. More recently, most of our trips have been to Emilia Romagna and its capital, Bologna. Until recently, we never explored the south. But, we were thrilled to research, and then eat, all of the tasty Naples foods! And, there is more to Naples than pizza.
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How To Visit Naples Italy For Food
Many travelers who visit Naples Italy focus on finding authentic Napoli pizza, and they should It’s the birthplace of pizza. There is so much more to Naples, though than pizza.
In this Naples food guide and blog, we share our travel tips for Italy on what to eat in Naples along with some recommendations on where to eat these dishes. Don’t worry, we will also talk all about Naples pizza too! If you want someone else to manage things, try booking a Naples Food Tour.
What Is Traditional Neapolitan Cuisine
Traditional Neapolitan food focuses on simplicity and using local ingredients. Many of the dishes in the north of Italy, in Emilia Romagna or Piedmont, for example, use more rich ingredients, like heavy cheeses, creams, and truffles.
In Naples and the surrounding region of Campania, classic ingredients are used, like olive oil, garlic, and tomatoes. The food is very tomato heavy, much to Eric’s dislike. He is not a huge fan of tomatoes.
The dishes in Southern Italy also are reminiscent of the Italian dishes I grew up eating in New Jersey. Many of the Italian Americans emigrated from Naples and Sicily. This includes dishes like ragu, lasagna, calzones, and of course pizza! This makes it one of the top food destinations in Italy.
Heading to Southern Italy? Check out our Puglia Food Guide, with must-eat dishes.
Napoli Food Guide – What To Eat In Naples Italy
I included detailed descriptions below on each of these must-eat Naples foods, including recommendations on where to eat each dish. But, if you are short on time, here’s our list. Feel free to copy it to a note on your phone to keep track!
- Naples Pizza
- Lasagna Al Forno Napoletana
- Spashetti Alla Vognole
- Pasta Alla Genovese
- Pasta Fresca Con Scampi
- Napolitan Ragu
- Crocche di Patate
- Alici Fritte
- Mozzarella in Carrozza
- Pizza Fritta – Fried Pizza
- Buffalo Mozzarella DOP
- Polpette – Meatballs
- Frittata di Pasta – Fried Pasta
- Impepata di Cozze – Mussels With Pepper
- Parmigiana di Melenzane – Eggplant Parmigiana
- Sfogliatella Riccia
- Sfogliatella Frolla
- Baba al Rhum
- Neapolitan Coffee
In this food guide, we focus on the Napoli dishes you must eat when visiting Naples. Yes, we ate all of these dishes, sometimes more than once. It was some tough research, trust us.
Many travelers to Naples only pop in for a day trip or an overnight stay, so it would be difficult to eat all of these dishes. But, hopefully, this will provide a good roadmap to help guide you when reading the menus at Naples Restaurants.
I will start with some of the tasty pasta dishes, then talk about Naples street foods, followed by pastries and desserts.
Planning a food trip to Naples? Learn the best things to pack for Italy.
Best Pasta in Naples Italy
When we travel to Italy, I often end up eating pizza twice a day. If it were socially acceptable, I would be eating pasta for breakfast too. But our trip to Naples focused on pizza.
We wanted to each as much pizza as we could. This meant we only ate pizza a handful of times during the week. I tried to pick our Napoli pasta dishes strategically, to choose dishes that were very characteristic of Naples and Campania.
Every pasta we ate felt like an Italian grandmother was cooking them for us. And, every Naples restaurant we ate at also seemed like we were eating in a grandmother’s kitchen. There was no romantic mood lighting or ambience. It was all about the food!
Lasagna Al Forno Napoletana
We’ve eaten lasagna a lot when traveling in Bologna. The lasagna in the south is very different, and more like the lasagna we grew up eating. The Napoletana lasagna is normally made with meatballs, tomato sauce, cheese, and slices of hard-boiled egg.
The Bolognese version is made with ragu, the Bolognese meat sauce, and bechamel. In Naples, the sauce is a more traditional tomato sauce and like most of the red sauce we ate in Naples, fresh and tangy.
Spaghetti Alla Vognole
I was thrilled to balance all of our pasta eating with a few seafood dishes, which are popular throughout Campania, being a coastal province. 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.
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.
Pasta Fresca Con Scampi
Eric ordered this seeking a comfort food, but we were surprised how different it was to the scampi we grew up eating. Simply made with olive oil, garlic, and Italian parsley, it tasted super fresh. We were also surprised with the size of the fresh langoustines as well, particularly because this dish only cost €12.
Similar to the difference between the lasagna in Bologna and lasagna in Naples, pasta served with ragu in Naples is different. In Northern Italy, Bolognese ragu is made with carrots, celery, and ground meats.
In Campania, the Neapolitan ragu is made with large chunks of meat making the sauce more rich.
It can be a challenge to find ragu on Naples restaurant menus. It’s normally a dish prepared at home, generally on Sundays. But, a series of restaurants in Naples called Tandem have taken ragu mainstream. Despite the silly name, the ragu was tasty, and yes super rich.
What Is Authentic Neapolitan Pizza
Of course we have to talk about Napoli style pizza in our guide on what to eat in Naples Italy. There is a Naples pizza “association.” The Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana regulates the pizza industry, not only in Naples but worldwide.
They provide certification to pizzerias everywhere that want to be certified as Napoli genuine pizza (or Pizza Napoletana STG).
A Naples pizza oven is a wood-burning oven, with a traditional dome shape. The oven is heated to around 900F (485C). Each pizza is cooked for between 90 seconds and two minutes. It is between 30-35 cm in diameter, with a raised edge, and must be soft and elastic. But, it really comes down to the ingredients.
So what makes an authentic Naples-style pizza? It starts with the dough, which is a mix of water, salt, yeast, and type 0 or type 00 flour. All ingredients must come from Campania, the region where Naples is located.
There are several types of local tomatoes that are allowed, along with extra virgin olive oil, and either mozzarella or fior di latte cheese. They can also use fresh basil and oregano. That’s it. Obviously, pizzerias in Naples have gone beyond this in recent years. But, these are the basics.
Napoli Street Food –Friggitorie
Naples street food can be described in one word – fried. Whereas much of Italian dining in Italy focuses on long drawn out meals over multiple courses and wine, people in Italy take to the streets.
Street food in Naples focuses on pizza and all things fried. There are all sorts of friggitorie, the name of the shop that hawks of the fried foods. Order a cuoppo, a cone of mixed fried foods. Some shops will offer combos “di terra” (from the land) or “di mare” (from the sea).
A cuoppo is a cone of fried treats, often a mix of the above, along with zeppole or panzerotti. Some shops will offer combos “di terra” (from the land) or “di mare” (from the sea). Head to Il Cuoppo Friggitori Napoletani or try it from I Fritti di Serafino
Crocche di Patate
Some of the things you might see inside of a cuoppo can also be ordered separately, often also served in a cone. Crocche di Patate are deep fried potato balls.
They reminded me of potato croquetas that we eat in Spain. Sometimes, in Naples, they are filled with pieces of sausage or ham.
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. I was expecting to see them more. Normally, the small fried anchovies are eaten whole, head and all. I tend to remove the head and most of the bone and will leave the tail too.
Mozzarella in Carrozza
At its most simple, mozzarella in carrozza (or in a carriage) like an Italian fried cheese sandwich, but deep-fried. The mozzarella is placed between slices of bread, covered in egg, and then fried. It is more common to find mozzarella in carrozza as a starter at pizzerias than on the street.
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 at 50 Kalo di Ciro Salvo, west of the city center.
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. Easily one of the tastiest snacks in Italy everyone needs to try.
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.
Breakfast In Naples Italy
I know it is strange to share breakfast last, but we don’t tend to eat much breakfast in Italy. A typical Italian breakfast normally doesn’t include much more than coffee and a pastry. But, the pastries in Naples are pretty legendary. Whether you eat them for breakfast, dessert, or a midday snack, try these sweet treats.
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. One of the most famous Italian pastries, there are at least a dozen flaky folds to the pastry. The sfogliatella riccia is filled with creamy ricotta and topped with powdered sugar.
Look for the sfogliatella rossa, which included raspberries and a little sweet cream on the top, which I liked more than the traditional version. The sweet cream softened the crisp folds of the pastry.
Sfogliatella – Frolla
Another version of sfogliatella and the one I preferred is sfogliatella frolla. This one is a soft pastry filled with creamy ricotta and dried candy fruits. They are also topped with powdered sugar, and when warm are pretty tasty. They don’t have all the folds and flakes, so they are easier to eat.
Baba al Rhum
The Baba al Rhum is everywhere in Naples, particularly in the shops along Via Toledo and Via Tribunali. It is a cake in the shape of a champagne cork and then soaked in rum or other liquor, sometimes limoncello. They are found full-sized, mini, as a parfait with cream, or filled with Nutella and other similar sweets.
No Italian breakfast is complete without an Italian 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.
Where To Eat In Naples Italy – Best Naples Restaurants For Travelers
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.
FAQs – Naples Food Guide
First and foremost, Naples is famous for pizza. And yes, it’s worth the trip to eat pizza in Naples. Beyond pizza, Naples is also famous for sfogliatelle, struffoli, and friarelli. You’ll also find great gelato, but you can find great gelato all around Italy.
Dinner in Italy and in many other parts of Europe is later than in the US. It’s not uncommon to have dinner between 8 and 10PM. Many restaurants, especially outside of tourist area don’t open before 8PM.
This is up for some debate. Some say lunch others say dinner. Both meals feature multiple courses and can last for a couple of hours. Breakfast is certainly not the biggest meal in Italy. Most Italians will only have a pastry and a coffee for breakfast.
Culinary Travel To Italy
Our Italy Travel Experience
Our first trip to Italy was in 2000, and since then, we’ve taken dozens of trips to Italy to almost every region. Our most recent trip was in 2022.
This is easier for us as we live in Europe. We’ve taken food tours, cooking classes, visited wineries, and dined at some of the best restaurants in Italy. We are experts at Italy travel and, more importantly, eating in Italy.
Check out Amber’s book, the Food Traveler’s Guide To Emilia Romagna, which is available on Amazon. In addition to being a culinary travel guide to the region, it walks through how many of the typical Italian food products are made, like mortadella, prosciutto, and Parmigiano Reggiano.