While Italian dishes such as spaghetti and pizza may be popular worldwide, it’s difficult to match the authenticity of a traditional dish made in Italy. Like any other country, there are regional variants for popular dishes in regards to ingredients and cooking processes, among other aspects. Those visiting Naples or other destinations in Southern Italy, for instance, will notice a slight difference in the cuisine at local restaurants, as compared to those in the north. Below are eight foods to sample when visiting Naples.
More commonly known as Neapolitan pizza outside of Italy, pizza Napoletana originated in Naples and is a relatively simple, yet delicious dish known for its high sauce-to-cheese ratio and fresh ingredients. The only ingredients used in preparing the pizza are pizza dough, fresh mozzarella cheese, raw tomatoes, olive oil, and fresh basil. It is no longer a Neapolitan pizza if additional toppings are added. Moreover, the pizzas are usually no more than 12 inches and aren’t often cut into single slices, as the pooling of sauce in the middle can make the dough soggy. These pies are also different from traditional pizza, as they’re typically cooked at temperatures ranging from 800 to 900 degrees Fahrenheit for 90 seconds or less.
While pizza fritta can be served as a main dish, it is considered one of the primary Neapolitan street foods and in essence is a mini pizza Napoletana, but with fried dough. The dough is stretched and then fried in olive oil until it is crispy. Then it is topped with tomato sauce, Parmesan cheese, fior di latte mozzarella, and fresh basil. It can also be stuffed with a variety of ingredients, including creamy ricotta cheese, smoked provolone, or meat. Antica Pizza Fritta da Zia Esterina Sorbillo is one of the premier places to sample pizza fritta in Naples.
Sfogliatelle (pronounced sfol-ya-tel-le) is one of the more unique pastry dishes in Naples. The mini shell-shaped puff pastry has a texture similar to a croissant and is usually filled with whipped cream or a custard mixture. There are two main variations of the dessert, and the most common one in Italy is the sfogliatelle riccia, which is intended to be eaten hot and includes a filling comprised of ricotta, eggs, semolina, sugar, candied citrus peels, and a dash of cinnamon.
Pasta alla Genovese
While many of the traditional main pasta and pizza dishes in Naples include tomato sauce, pasta alla Genovese is a flavorful, slow-cooked onion and beef dish that is typically cooked with rigatoni. A large amount of sliced onions and beef or veal chuck simmer slowly, creating a thick, caramelized sauce similar to French onion soup. The sauce might also include ingredients such as diced carrots and celery, pancetta, and salt pork, white wine, and chopped marjoram leaves. The restaurant Tandem Steak in Naples serves up a delicious pasta alla Genovese.
Impepata di Cozze
Naples is known for more than just pizza and pasta dishes. As one of the most prominent Mediterranean port cities, Naples is a premier destination in Europe for seafood. The harbor-front Trattoria Da Patrizia, in particular, serves a range of delicious seafood dishes, one of which is the Impepata di Cozze. Steamed mussels are considered a delicacy in Naples and are typically served as an appetizer with the main lunch course on Sundays. The mussels are usually prepared with white wine, peppers, and tomatoes. Crusty bread is often used to soak up the flavorful juices.
Traditionally served as a Christmas dessert, struffoli can be purchased at Naples restaurants, including Pasticceria Leopoldo and Leopoldo Infante. Struffoli are tiny balls of dough that are soaked in honey and deep fried in oil. Around Christmastime, they are prepared on a plate in the shape of a Christmas tree or wreath and covered in candied fruit or candy sprinkles. The dish originated centuries ago in convents, and it was eventually shared by nuns with noble families in recognition of their charity.
Polpette is a meatball dish that can be found throughout Naples. The meatballs can also be served on sandwich bread, which is the case at O’Cuzzeteillo Panineria Take Away. They are typically served in batches of two or three on their own without pasta. The protein-packed meatballs include ingredients such as minced beef and pork, bread crumbs, milk, eggs, grated pecorino, and buffalo mozzarella. Once fried in extra-virgin olive oil, they are slow cooked over low heat in tomato sauce or ragù.
Babà Babà is another popular dessert in Naples that can be personalized with a variety of ingredients. The pastry is similar to a classical sponge cake, but it is soaked in limoncello or rum and has a more bubbly texture. From there, it is usually topped with custard, whipped cream, and seasonal fruit. It’s best paired with a shot of homemade limoncello. Other food and drink worth sampling in Naples include friarielli, mozzarella en carrozza, and frittata di pasta.