Italian food is the way to any tourists heart – you’d be hard pressed to find someone who visited Italy and didn’t come back with a belly full of fresh pasta or pizza. It’s their signature, and one they are rightly proud of. Naples is the birthplace of the Neapolitan pizza, and you would be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t try at least once the thin base with fresh mozzarella, basil and tomato. Of course, Naples offers more than just the Napoli Pizza, with pasta dishes and pastries to sample down almost every road. Not only can I offer you a guide to Naples city – I’m also here to share a Naples Food Guide, to get your mouth watering for your visit to the city. Many of these restaurants have a beautiful history, family traditions, and are oozing tradition. A true heritage blogger’s guide to a city couldn’t be complete without looking at some of the traditional foods and restaurants.
Naples Food Guide
The Neapolitan Pizza originated in – you guessed it – Naples, and has a long tradition in this part of the country. This pizza has even found its way onto UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage. Naples has been credited with the invention of pizza in the 1700s. When tomatoes were imported to Europe, many believed them to be poisonous, and therefore it was the poor in Naples who began to eat them on top of flatbread.
Raffaele Esposito is believed to have created the Margherita pizza, who baked the pizza with the colours of the Italian flag to honour a visit from King Umberto I and Queen Margherita in 1889.
This pizza is no ordinary margherita pizza – the ingredients are specifically sourced from Campania, making it hard to recreate the authentic pizza elsewhere – in fact, there’s a special certification to prove that pizzerias are using the traditional ingredients! What’s in a Napoli pizza? The traditional Napoli pizza is a combination of the tomatoes – Pomodorino del Piennolo del Vesuvio (grown on the plains of Vesuvius), or San Marzano – with mozzarella – mozzarella di Bufala Campania or Fior de Latte di Agerola – fresh basil, and olive oil. This simple combination of fresh ingredients is typically served by the slice.
Of course there are variants to the Napoli Pizza – the true traditional form of the pizza comes with no added toppings. The Marinara Pizza has no cheese on it, and is named so because typically the seaman’s wife would prepare the pizza for when he returned from the boats. Around Naples, you’ll find the same base with different toppings added – many of which are named after the local area, such as the spicy ‘Vesuvio’.
When you visit Naples, it will take you no time to find the traditional pizzerias lining the street, selling slices or whole pizzas for you to enjoy.
Pizza and pasta are the typical Italian combo when it comes to food. Italy is famous for its freshly made pasta, coming in a variety of forms and dishes. Pasta, as we know it, dates back to the 13th or 14th century, although was traded in different forms from other countries earlier. Pasta was, and still is, a huge part of the Italian cuisine. In fact, Italy actually has to import wheat to make pasta because the country eats so much pasta!
One of my favourite pasta dishes to have when I’m in Naples comes from the family run restaurant called Trattoria Avellinese. A couple of my friends took us to this restaurant on my very first visit to Naples 6 years ago, and its a place I’ve returned to every year, even taking my family here last year.
The menu is reasonably priced, and portion sizes are good – when I visit for lunch, I usually just get one dish, but for dinner we order two each. Every year, I can’t resist ordering the same dish – lemon pasta. The Campania region is famous for their lemons. All down the Amalfi coast, you’ll find lemon images everywhere. The Amalfi lemons (‘sfusato amalfitano’) are double the size of ordinary lemons, and famous for their size. These lemons, and all parts of them, are incorporated into different meals and drinks, including limoncello, provolette (smoked cheese on grilled lemon leaves), pasta and even pizza. The lemon pasta dish from is mouth wateringly more-ish, and each member of my family were asking for a taste. As well as the lemon pasta Trattoria Avellenese has so many other delicious pasta and other dishes. Their fried cheese for a starter is beautifully salty, and their prawns are some of my friends favourites.
Neapolitan Ragu is often confused for Bolognese, however Ragu Bolognese originates from the Bologna region of Italy. Neapolitan Ragu is similar to the bolognese, both being meat based tomato sauces, but there are many differences in the ways that each dish are cooked and flavoured.
Ragu has its origins in the 18th century, although becomes what we know as ragu in the 19th century. The ragu was first served as a pasta sauce in 1790. Traditionally, the sauce is cooked with the meat, then separated, with the sauce becoming a sauce for pasta dishes and the meat eaten separately in the next course.
To try authentic ragu in Naples, Tandem is the best place to go. It’s one of Naples’ most popular restaurants, and they have a few different ones located across the historic centre of the city (this does mean its hard to get a table, so be prepared to queue / jump to another site, especially if you’re a larger group like we were). It’s the first and only restaurant in Naples to only serve ragu (of course that’s not to say other restaurants don’t serve dishes of ragu). After a starter of antipasti, we each had a main dish with the traditional ragu sauce – both my little sister and I had a rib, while the rest of my family had meat balls which was huge. The sauce was absolutely amazing, and we were given bread to soak up the rest of the sauce, so that nothing went to waste.
Being a coastal city, its no surprise that Naples has amazing fresh seafood to try. By the harbour you’ll see many fishing boats with their catch of the day, and you’ll have your pick of restaurants which serve beautiful seafood dishes.
While I was in Naples this summer, we stayed in an apartment near Montesanto. Each day we’d walk past I sapori della pescheria Azzura, which sold fresh fish by day, and had a seating area spilling onto the street that was always full at night. The fish market cooks a variety of seafood for their menu at night, including different assortments of fried fish, octopus and crab, in salads and pastas too. The food feels authentic – there are no frills and fancy decor at this place, its not here for just the tourists, you can see many locals filling the tables too, or getting take out. Because of this, the prices are very affordable. I’d highly recommend this restaurant for anyone who loves seafood, to get a taste of fresh and beautifully cooked seafood right in front of your eyes. Because the dishes were so cheap, we ordered lots to try different types of fresh fish, including their mixed fried fish, an octopus salad and a couple of seafood pasta dishes.
Of course, there were many other wee cafes that we stopped at throughout our time in Naples, and many more bars that we also had pit stops at as we meandered through the city. One of the bakeries nearby our apartment made us up fresh caprese sandwiches for some of our day trips further afield (and I got to practice my Italian while ordering them). Around Naples you’ll spot lots of different street food carts, with fresh pastries, many of which are, again, local to the region. Of course, the coffee around Naples is very popular – I’m not a coffee drinker myself, but I know many of my friends say you can’t get better than traditional Italian coffee – and very cheap too. My drink of choice is an aperol spritz – and a couple of years ago my friends and I did a ‘spritz crawl’ around Naples to try the different aperol spritzes on offer. It’s a drink that will always remind me of summers in Italy, and can be found at any bar in the city.
There’s no denying that one of the best ways around a city is by its food, not only is it a great way to sample the cuisine that a country has to offer, but its also an amazing way to get to sample some of the heritage too.