Naples food & drink guide: 10 things to try

The home of every Italian dish you know and love, Naples offers everything from classic pizza and pasta to fresh seafood and powerful volcanic wines

Although you probably already know that humanity’s finest pizza and pasta graces the whole nation of Italy, the culinary history of Naples is notorious, and older than Rome itself. The traditional food in this region is characterised by the simple ingredients of the poorer classes, executed with great skill and a sense of perfection.

Neapolitan street food offers everything from fried morsels of fish, to fried pizza, cheese-filled pastries and even pork offal for the bravest foodies. Restaurant creations of meatballs doused in ragù may be served alongside pasta, cheeses, vegetables and sweets. Naples is a place to forget your waistline and enjoy every culinary masterpiece you find. We suggest you take on the flavours of the city with full force, so eat like a local by following these tips.

Pizza Napoletana

Need we say more? Naples is the motherland of pizza as we know it. Pizza slathered with tomato sauce, cheese and basil existed here as early as the 18th century, but later named Pizza Margherita after the queen of Italy in 1889. The texture should be chewy, the cheese is always mozzarella, and the basil is fresh. Most importantly, look out for a slightly charred crust, the signature of a stone oven.

Where to try: Almost every slice in Naples will leave you in pizza euphoria, but for some of the best of the best, head to Di Matteo (Via dei Tribunali, 94) where you’ll find fried variations, too.

Ragù

Better than the stuff in tightly sealed glass jars in aisle at the grocery store, and probably better than your grandmother’s, Neapolitan ragù pairs with pasta to make the perfect marriage. Chefs start with good, volcanically enriched tomatoes and add meat to create a robust flavour unique to Naples. The sauce is traditionally mixed with pasta of the ziti variety. Just so you know, the town of Gragnano in the Municipality of Naples produces some of the finest grades of pasta in the world.

Where to try: Tandem (Via Paladino Giovanni 51) is a favourite among locals and serves generous helpings of their slow-cooked speciality ragù.

Polpette

Ragù cheats on its partner, pasta, with these tender meatballs that come in twos or threes. Polpette showered in spoonfuls of ragù make a filling, protein-packed meal for any hungry traveller. Throw vegetarianism out the window, forget the noodle bits, and munch on this treasured, spherical meat.

Where to try: Try Neapolitan meatballs encased in sandwich bread at O’Cuzzetiello Panineria Take Away (Via Rimini 51) or find the dish at various restaurants throughout the city.

Impepata di Cozze

It goes without saying that you simply can’t visit Naples without trying the fresh seafood brought in daily. Aside from delicious fish and squid dishes, make room for Impepata di Cozze; a simple bowl of mussels prepared with tomatoes, peppers, and white wine. Chunks of bread soak up the juices at the end.

Where to try: Trattoria Da Patrizia (Via Luculliana, 24) is by the harbour and serves a range of seafood dishes.

Cuoppo

Fried foods of all varieties in a convenient handheld cone. The brown paper cups contain fried eggplant and zucchini nestled with items like battered fish and shrimp, golden brown mozzarella bites, and potato croquettes. It may be hard to discern what some of the fried lumps are just by looking at them, but don’t worry; you can’t go wrong with deep-fried Italian food.

Where to try: Il Cuoppo (Via San Biagio Dei Librai 23), the brainchild of brothers Giorgio and Andrea Sangiovanni, hands cones of cuoppo stamped with their blue logo to sidewalk strollers every day of the week.

Panino Napoletano

Many compare the panino or panini to its other toasted sandwich cousins, but these Italian sandwiches find a special place in the hearts of those who purchase them in Naples. Panino Napolitano looks like a cross between a sticky iced bun and a calzone. Thick bits of pancetta and molten provolone ooze out the sides of this dense street food, making it a holy trinity of meat, cheese, and bread.

Where to try: Try Panino Napoletano at any of the dozens of kiosks and stands that sell the sandwich to take-away.

Sfogliatella

This shell-shaped pastry shows off its paper-thin folds in glass cases at bakeries across the city. Created by monks and first sold commercially by Neapolitan pastry chef Pasquale Pintauro in 1818, these light bites still thrive on the market today. Sfogliatella are baked until the ridges bloom and separate, cooled and filled with ricotta or almond paste, and finally dusted with powdered sugar.

Where to try: Pick up some from Antico Forno delle Sfogliatelle Calde Fratelli Attanasio (Vico Ferrovia 1/2/3/4).

Babà Rum

Babà of the rum variety are found in patisseries throughout the city and resemble glistening, spongy mushrooms. These tiny cakes are often garnished with whipped cream and berries. To eat appropriately, take an espresso in one hand and a babà in the other; alternate between bites of the confection and sips of coffee.

Where to try: It’s everywhere. Pop into glamour Pasticceria Capparelli (Via dei Tribunali, 327)

Limoncello

A speciality of the Gulf of Naples and the Amalfi coast, this neon-yellow liqueur is typically made using grappa infused with the zest of local Sorrento lemons and sweetened with sugar. There are endless homemade varieties, often created in bars and restaurants, and a chilled ceramic cup of Limoncello is the perfect summertime digestivo.

Where to try: The expert liqueur producers at Limoné (Piazza San Gaetano 72) will gladly give you tasters, and this is the place to go if you’re looking to bring some bottles home. If you’re only in the mood for a sip, try any restaurant in the city.

Lacryma Christi

This celebrated wine is produced on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius, and archaeologists have declared it the nearest equivalent to the wine consumed in Ancient Rome. It’s available in white, rosé, and red varieties – so there should be one for every occasion! Lacryma Christi has been immortalised in books by authors like Voltaire, Alexandre Dumas, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, so relax with a glass and taste a piece of history.

Where to try: Pop into Enoteca Belledonne (Vico Belledonne a Chiaia 18) or book a wine tour at one of the vineyards on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius outside the city.

MOKA POT PREPARATION GUIDE

Background

A tiny, Italian-made, eight-sided wonder, the Moka pot has been with us through our fair share of postage-stamp-sized kitchens and far-flung journeys. It’s experiencing a resurgence lately, which is no doubt due to its ability to produce a viscous, appropriately dense espresso with no electricity or fancy equipment. We’re also charmed by the little gurgle it makes as it works its magic on the stovetop.

Step 1

Grind about 20-22 grams of coffee, about as finely as you would for each shot of espresso.

Step 2

Fill the bottom half of your Moka pot with water.

Step 3

Fill the pot’s filter basket with the ground coffee, and give it a shake (don’t press) to settle the grounds evenly. Now place it into the bottom compartment.

Step 4

Screw on the Moka pot’s spouted top.

Step 5

Place the pot on a stove set to medium heat.

Step 6

When the water in the bottom chamber approaches a boil, the pressure will push a stream of coffee slowly and methodically through the upper chamber. If it explodes upward, your water’s too hot, if it burbles lethargically, turn up your flame. You know it’s done when you hear a hissing, bubbling sound.

Step 7

Enjoy.

Naples

In the shadow the Vesuvius tourism’s roots run deep: on the imprints of great greek columns refined aristocrats and roman emperors built their sumptuous villas and oasis all along the shoreline of the Gulf.

It is not a coincidence that at the begining of this third millennium the peculiar magic of this civilisation continues to generate new sources of amazement: the recovery of age old monuments and traditions – folklore, gastronomy, genuine cultivation – that were thought irreparably lost, events and shows worthy of the great international circuit, new fodder for artistic and scientific research.

The artistic treasure of Naples to visit are, in fact, to many to count: the historical centre, a patrimony under the tutelage of UNESCO, the palaces, churches, catacombs and underground passageways, the Archaeological Museum, the places of medieval and renaissance power amassed around the Castel Nuovo and Royal Palace, the unforgettable waterfront from Castel dell’Ovo to Posillipo. The hilly area of Vomero offers masterfully restored buildings like the Capodimonte Royal Palace and the Certosa (monastery) of San Martino, museum collections amongst the most important in the world.

A trip through the twentieth century city takes you, among the notable urban and architectural sights, to the rationalist Mostra d’Oltremare, with its park, sports complex and exhibition space. Science is also witness to the recovery of industrial archaeological complexes and the originality of a scientific tradition that renews itself. Unusual and surprising is the exploration of the new homes of contemporary art: monumental structures like the PAN, Palazzo delle Arti Napoli, the MADRE, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina (Donnaregina Contemporary Arts Museum), and the unique artistry of the metro stations that evidence the original horizons of farseeing cultural politics.

Naples, in the final sum, remains, deep in its roots, even with all the difficulties and contradictions inherent to all big metropolitan cities, an extraordinary place to live, admire, and enjoy with all the senses: for the depth of the art and civilisation that has idelibly marked its history; for the mild climate that accompanies day and night the shows, musical and theatrical events, exhibitions, fairs and religious gatherings; for the gourmand possibilites to search out the age old culinary tradition, the seafood and the unique typical products (buffalo mozzarella, pizza, Docg wine, varied and refined pastries) in all their local translations, or for finding fine hidden little.

Il curniciello. The Neapolitan Amulet.

In Napoli you will see a lot of what look like red chili peppers. Each is actually a horn, corno in italian, designed to ward off the Evil Eye and bring good luck. The origins of this amulet are lost in the mists of time: since ancient times, the horn was a symbol of power and fertility. But to be really magic and keep spirits away, the neapolitan curniciello has to be realized according to a few but necessary rules. First of all, it must be red, the traditional color of fortune, and made of coral wish is a precious material having special powers to chase away evil. It has to be crooked and pointed. Last but fundamental rule is that the horn must not be bought, but received as a present in order to truly bring good luck.

San Gregorio Armeno

It is one of Naples’ most famous streets, thanks to the presence of artisan workshops dedicated to the art of representing the Nativity Scene. Especially during the period that precedes Christmas, San Gregorio Armeno, that is  located in the heart of the historic center, becomes the most characteristic street in the city. In fact, the whole area is crawling with stands, shepherds and decorations in order to show the amazing skills of local artisans. As you walk, you will see statuettes whose appearances do not exactly recall the Christmas theme. Shepherds often embody characters from the television, political or Star System worlds and the care for details is almost extreme. As a matter of fact, the perfection of the faces and the magnificence of details characterize every single statuette and they are a real source of pride for the local artisans.

The Neapolitan nativity scene is characterized by the coexistence of sacred and profane elements. The birth of Jesus is usually set in the eighteenth century, in a context where baroque taverns and scenes of everyday life merge with the classic characters of the Nativity. Some of the shepherds that are habitually placed in the so-called ‘presepio’ are: Benino, a sleeping shepherd placed on a hill, a woman with a baby and the bagpipers, who are usually located near the cavern, and the ‘ciccibacco”,a robust boy sitting on a barrel of wine near the tavern. As time passed by, many characters have been added, which represent different rituals and traditions. For this reason, the Neapolitan Nativity Scene is not considered just a religious symbol, but also the milestone of an entire population.