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Neapolitan cuisine and pastries – What to eat in Naples?

Neapolitan cuisine is renowned throughout the world for its authentic flavors and traditional dishes that have their roots in the culture and history of the city. In this article we will discover what makes Neapolitan cuisine so unique and we will mention some of the delicacies that you absolutely must eat in Naples.

The typical ingredients of Neapolitan cuisine

To fully understand Neapolitan cuisine and its flavors we must first of all mention some of the typical recurring ingredients:

  • San Marzano tomatoes are a variety of tomatoes considered among the best in the world for the production of sauces. With their elongated shape, dense pulp and rich flavor, these tomatoes are the basis of many Neapolitan dishes, including the famous Margherita pizza.
  • Buffalo mozzarella from Campania is renowned for its creamy texture and delicate flavour. It is a fundamental ingredient in Neapolitan pizza, Caprese salad and many other preparations.
  • In addition to mozzarella, the most used cheeses in Neapolitan cuisine are buffalo ricotta, provola, caciocavallo and pecorino.
  • Greens are another fundamental ingredient of Neapolitan cuisine. The most used vegetables are broccoli, aubergines, courgettes and peppers.
  • Fresh pasta is one of the cornerstones of Neapolitan cuisine. You’ll find a wide range of shapes, including spaghetti, paccheri and fusilli, often paired with rich, flavorful sauces.
  • Naples is located by the sea, so fish plays an important role in local cuisine. Dishes such as “Baccalà alla napoletana” (cod stewed with tomato, olives and capers) and “Polpo alla Luciana” (octopus cooked with tomato, garlic and chilli) are popular.
  • High quality extra virgin olive oil is an essential element in many preparations. It is used to dress salads, pasta and to cook many dishes.

What to eat in Naples?

In Naples, you will find yourself immersed in a true culinary paradise. There are many traditional dishes and local specialties that you should definitely try during your visit. Here is a selection of the most iconic dishes to taste in Naples:


Neapolitan pizza is perhaps the best-known Italian dish in the world, and Naples is its homeland. True Neapolitan pizza is thin, light and characterized by a soft crust and high crust. Two of the most famous variations are the Margherita, with tomato, mozzarella, basil and olive oil, and the Marinara, with tomato, garlic, oregano and olive oil. Enjoying one in Naples is an experience that will take you into the heart of the city’s culinary tradition.

The crust of Neapolitan pizza is thin but soft, with high edges and a puffy crust. This texture is the result of carefully working the dough and baking it in a high-temperature wood-fired oven (about 900 degrees Fahrenheit or 475 degrees Celsius). The pizza is cooked in a very short time, only about 60-90 seconds, giving the crust its characteristic “puffy” and slightly burnt appearance.

Neapolitan pizza is so special that it has even been awarded a controlled designation of origin (DOC) by the European Union. This certification guarantees that the pizza is prepared according to authentic traditions and with high quality ingredients. Only pizzerias that strictly follow the established rules can boast the title of “Pizza Napoletana DOC.”

Eating Neapolitan pizza in Naples

Fried pizza, also known as “montanara” is a delicious alternative to traditional pizza and originated during World War II when resources were scarce and Neapolitan pizza makers began frying pizza rather than baking it in the oven to save fuel.

There are numerous historic pizzerias that prepare this dish with passion and dedication. Some of the most famous include “Da Michele,” “Sorbillo,” and “Di Matteo,” but there are many other great pizzerias hidden in the city.

Pasta Alla Genovese

This dish is a Neapolitan culinary excellence. It is long pasta, like macaroni or zite, topped with a slow-cooked beef ragout with sweet onions and plenty of grated parmesan.

Fried fish cup

Fried fish cuoppo is a Campania culinary tradition that can be enjoyed especially along the coast, in places such as Naples, Salerno, and Amalfi. Its origin is modest but rich in history. The fishermen, upon returning from fishing, fried the unsold fish directly on the boat, thus creating a real street food experience.

The magic of cuoppo also lies in its presentation. Fried fish is usually served in a paper cone. You can enjoy it while walking along the seaside or sipping a cold beer in the company of friends. The combination of aromas and flavors that is released while munching on this crunchy basket is an experience to live at least once in a lifetime.

Neapolitan ragu

A slow cooked meat sauce with tomato sauce, onion, carrot, celery and spices. It is traditionally served with long pasta, such as spaghetti or bucatini.

This rich and enveloping sauce has been passed down from generation to generation, becoming a symbol of Neapolitan cuisine. Its preparation requires time and dedication, but the final result amply repays the efforts.

The preparation of Neapolitan Ragu is a ritual that requires patience and attention to detail. The meats are slowly browned with the sauté, then blended with red wine. Tomatoes are added and the sauce simmers for hours, developing layers of flavor and aroma. The result is a dense and enveloping consistency that adheres perfectly to the pasta.

The original recipe does not include grated cheese on top of the Ragu, as the sauce itself is so rich and flavorful that it doesn’t need it. A fresh basil leaf added at the last moment completes the dish.


Espresso coffee is a daily ritual in Naples. Historic coffee shops, such as the famous “Caffè Gambrinus,” serve aromatic and intense coffees that are a true delight for coffee lovers.

Coffee is much more than just a drink in Naples; it’s an art. The preparation of Neapolitan espresso coffee is a tradition that has been handed down from generation to generation, with Neapolitan families passing on secrets and techniques to create the perfect cup. The key elements of Neapolitan espresso include the type of coffee used, the precise grinding of the beans, careful blending, and the use of high-quality coffee machines.

Cream is the signature of a good Neapolitan espresso. An ideal crema is dense, hazelnut in color and evenly covers the surface of the coffee. This crema helps capture aromas and maintain the temperature of the coffee for longer.

Sipping a cup of this black elixir in a traditional café, perhaps observing the hustle and bustle of Neapolitan daily life, is a window into the culture and tradition of this fascinating city.

Neapolitan pastry making

Neapolitan pastry making has ancient roots that date back to the Roman period and further developed during the Kingdom of Naples, when the city was one of the most important capitals in Europe. During this period, many of the traditional Neapolitan desserts began to take shape. Neapolitan pastry making has been influenced by several cultures, including Arabic, Spanish and French, creating a rich culinary heritage.

The pastry making is renowned for its craftsmanship. Neapolitan pastry chefs are true artists who create edible works of art. Many desserts require hours of manual labor, attention to detail and high-quality ingredients. The tradition is passed down from generation to generation, and many recipes are well-kept family secrets.

Let’s see which desserts you absolutely must eat in Naples:


Sfogliatella has ancient origins that date back to the period in which Naples was under Spanish rule, around the 17th century. It is said that the dessert was created in Neapolitan convents, where the nuns were masters in preparing delicious desserts. The shell shape of the Sfogliatella Riccia was inspired by the shells found along the coast of Naples.

There are two main variations of puff pastry: the riccia and the pastry:

  • Sfogliatella Riccia: This is the most iconic version, characterized by thin layers of puff pastry curled to form a shell. The filling is made with fresh ricotta, sugar, eggs, candied orange peel and vanilla. A sprinkling of icing sugar completes this masterpiece.
  • Sfogliatella Frolla: In this more traditional variant, the puff pastry is replaced by a softer shortcrust pastry. The filling is similar to that of the riccia but has a creamier consistency.

Both variations are delicious, but the choice depends on personal taste.

Prepare the Sfogliatelle is a work of art that requires skill and patience. The puff pastry must be pulled and rolled very thin to create light and crunchy layers. Then, the filling must be prepared with high quality ingredients, such as fresh buffalo ricotta, which gives the puff pastry an irresistible creaminess. The puff pastries are then cooked until golden brown in the oven, sprinkled with icing sugar and served hot.

Neapolitan Sfogliatella has become a symbol of the city of Naples and one of its most celebrated delicacies. When you visit Naples, you can taste this dessert in many historic pastry shops. Each pastry chef could have his own unique interpretation of the puff pastry, making each tasting a unique experience.


The Neapolitan babbà is one of the most iconic and delicious desserts of the Neapolitan culinary tradition. This soft, liqueur-soaked dessert is a true delight for the palate and a must-see for dessert lovers during a visit to Naples.

The basis of Babbà is a leavened dough prepared with flour, sugar, eggs and butter. The dough is shaped into small mushroom-shaped molds and then cooked until golden and soft. But the magic of Babbà lies in its double immersion in a delicious syrup.

Babbà is incredibly versatile and can be prepared in different variations. The most classic is the rum version, but there are also limoncello, mandarin and even coffee versions. Some variations include a custard or whipped cream filling for an extra touch of indulgence.


The history of the Neapolitan Pastiera is surrounded by an aura of ancient tradition and legends. It is said that this dessert has pagan origins, linked to the cult of Ceres, the Roman goddess of fertility, and the spring ritual. Initially prepared only during the Easter holidays, Pastiera has become a pleasure that Neapolitans indulge in all year round.

The preparation of Pastiera requires patience and skill. Cooked wheat is mixed with cottage cheese, eggs, sugar, cinnamon and orange blossom to create a creamy filling. This mixture is then placed in a shortcrust pastry crust, which envelops the filling like a hug.

A distinctive feature of the Pastiera is the decorative grid on the top, made with intertwined shortcrust pastry strips. After slow cooking in the oven, the Pastiera emerges golden and fragrant, ready to be enjoyed.

Neapolitan Pastiera

The Neapolitan Pastiera is loved throughout Italy and is prepared in many regions, but it is in Naples that its most authentic and appreciated version is found. It is a dessert that unites families during the Easter holidays and that is exchanged between friends as a sign of affection.

Zeppola of San Giuseppe

The zeppola di San Giuseppe is one of the most loved and typical desserts of the Italian tradition, and its origin dates back to the feast of San Giuseppe, celebrated on March 19th. This dessert is particularly popular in the regions of Southern Italy, such as Campania, Sicily and Puglia, where the feast of San Giuseppe is a special occasion.

Zeppola di San Giuseppe is a fried dessert made with choux pastry, a light and airy batter. The dough is shaped into a donut or zeppola, fried until golden and crunchy, and then filled with custard. The custard, often flavored with orange or lemon zest, is the delicious heart of this dessert.

A distinctive feature of the San Giuseppe zeppola is the decoration on the top. The custard is often garnished with candied cherries or candied fruit, which add a touch of color and sweetness to the dessert. Some versions can be decorated with black cherries or candied orange peel.

During the feast of San Giuseppe, it is customary to bring zeppole to relatives, friends and neighbors. This symbolic gesture of sharing and generosity reflects the spirit of the holiday.

These are just some examples of the dishes you can eat in Naples. The city offers an infinite variety of culinary specialties, all to be discovered. Don’t forget to pair your meals with a good glass of local wine, such as Lacryma Christi or Falanghina, to complete the Neapolitan gastronomic experience. Enjoy your meal!