How to Spend a Day Eating Traditional Naples Food (and Lots of Pizza!)

March 28, 2024   1 Comment »

How to Spend a Day Eating Traditional Naples Food (and Lots of Pizza!)

July 25, 2023 1 Comment »

I know many people skip over Naples in order to get to the Amalfi Coast, however, it’s a big mistake! Naples’s food culture is one of the most vibrant in all of Italy. It wasn’t that long ago that I used to be scared of going to Naples since you tend to hear a lot of stories about how rough it is there.

But after I went there with an Italian family and some friends, I realized that Naples wasn’t a lion; it was a kitten. And most importantly, Naples food is something not to miss! It has a delicious food scene…it is the birthplace of pizza, after all.

Where do the locals eat in Naples, Italy you may ask? Tina from Our Edible Italy, not only teaches you how to cook Italian food, but she will also get you familiar with the Italian food culture. Her husband, Claudio, is from Naples, and who better to find out about Italian cuisine, authentic dishes, and where the locals eat in Naples than with a local?

A day of the best food in Naples, Italy

Tina, Claudio, and their son Leo took me to Naples to learn more about the food scene in this bustling and often overlooked city! I was specifically interested in the Naples pizza culture, but I learned that there is much more food there that shouldn’t be overlooked! We walked and ate our way all over Naples!

Here’s how we approached our day of walking and eating delicious pasta. This isn’t a food tour, instead, this is simply something you can do on your own. Or you can hire Our Edible Italy to put together a custom tour/walk for you.

Start with an espresso and pastry at a Naples bar

Since it’s a long day, why not start out by stopping at a Naples bar? Before you get alarmed, in Italy, a bar is a bar with alcohol, but it is also a place where you stop for pastries and coffee. However, this is no Starbucks where you get big drinks, sit down, and stay forever working on your laptop.

In most Naples bars, there isn’t even a place to sit. Instead, there is a cashier where you tell them what you want, pay, and get a ticket. Then, you take that ticket over to the little bar area and give it to a barista. The barista makes you an espresso, and you stand at the bar and quickly drink it, and go on your way!

I suggest you kick off your Naples food tour by getting a quick espresso and a little pastry to give you a little energy.

Seafood at Porta Nolana Market

Since you just had your bar pastry, it’s time to go look at some traditional Naples food markets. The Porta Nolana Market is a local pedestrian market located north of the port in the area around Piazza Nolana. You’ll know you are there when you see the two old towers that used to guard the port entrance and are now enveloped with modern buildings.

You’ll also know you are there when you smell the fish and hear the fishmongers!

Take your time here and check out all of the seafood on offer. It’s impressive, as I think I was familiar with only about half of the offerings – the rest were all new to me! Napoletanas love their seafood dishes, so this is a great place to come and get educated about it.

Cuoppo is a popular Napoli street food and side dish that generally includes crispy, deep-fried sardines and squid (calamari). To fully enjoy, add just a dash of salt and maybe a squeeze of lemon.

Of course, there is also a healthy selection of fresh vegetables and fruits there too. Look for the Vesuvio Piennolo – a small oval-shaped tomato with a unique point at the bottom. These tomatoes are hung in bunches and left to dry. They can be left hanging for several months before they are eaten and are used in canning for tomato sauce. They’re particularly great with seafood and pasta dishes.

Naples street food

When in Naples, you could make a day full of eating street food part of the itinerary but leave the diet at home. Street food in Naples is nothing less than a mind-blowing experience.


You’ll likely see Cuoppo in the hands of tourists and locals as they wander the streets of Naples. It’s served in a paper cone that makes it easy to grab and go. Cuoppo Napoletano, which is the traditional version you typically find in Naples, usually sees the cone stuffed with various fried items including potatoes, cheese, ham, arancini, and polenta. More recent variations include other fried foods, seafood, and vegetables.


Panuozzo is a sandwich that is much like a turnover or Jamaican patty made from pizza dough. After baking, the small loaf is cut in half and filled with an eggplant, tomato sauce, and cheese combination — parmigiana di melanzane — with different cold cuts or cooked foods.


naples polpette food
Best food in Naples, Italy

You’ll find polpette almost everywhere in Naples, from food stalls to formal restaurants. Polpette is a dish of Neapolitan meatballs that are cooked and smothered in a thick, savory tomato sauce. It’s best enjoyed as a protein-rich snack on a hot summer’s day.

Meatballs are not served with a pasta dish in Naples. They’re more often eaten with bread in the Italian scarpetta (dipping in sauce) or as a filling in a cuzzetiello (sandwich). If you want to experience this culinary treat like a local, try a ragù-topped version at a traditional trattoria.

Traditional pasta dishes

Pasta e Fagioli

Pasta e Fagioli or “pasta and beans” is one of the most popular traditional pasta dishes to have originated in Naples. This delicious pasta and bean stew is a hearty vegetarian-friendly delight, particularly when enriched with celery, carrots, tomatoes, and onions. Meat eaters can add pork rinds to this flavorful dish. I also recommend trying it with mussels.

Pasta al Ragù Napoletano

Pasta al Ragù Napoletano naples
Best restaurant in Naples Italy

Pasta al Ragù Napoletano is another popular dish of pasta topped with a rich meat sauce. The ragù is a meat and tomato sauce that is prepared slowly over a low flame. The variety that you commonly find in Naples is made with red wine instead of white wine, as it is in other regions. Olive oil and basil are also added.

Spaghetti alla puttanesca

This classic Neapolitan dish is made with spaghetti or vermicelli pasta with tomato sauce and olive oil, anchovies, capers fresh basil, and spices. Legend has it that spaghetti all puttanesca has promiscuous origins in the brothels of Naples.

Regardless of its true backstory, this pasta dish has been a staple of the Naples food scene since the mid-20th century. In Naples, spaghetti all puttanesca is a highlight on the menu at traditional diners and fine dining establishments.

Spaghetti puttanesca naples food

Pasta Genovese

Pasta Genovese is a Neapolitan food staple with no definitive connection to the northern Italian city. Onions take a prominent role in this pasta’s meaty sauce after simmering for several hours. Once the onions melt, the result is a rustic, luxurious, sweet, saucy, meaty bomb.

Eggplant Parmesan

Although the origins of this dish are unclear, the Naples area has claimed eggplant parmesan as its own. This tasty, oven-baked layered casserole dish features pan-fried eggplant slices layered with tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil, and Parmigiano cheese. In Naples, the eggplant is sometimes replaced by zucchini or artichokes.

While many eat it as a side dish, it’s actually a main course. The traditional Italian version of eggplant parmesan isn’t breaded before frying. Thus, it’s lighter and allows the rich eggplant flavor to really shine. The eggplant slices are typically salted to draw out moisture and fried until golden. The tomato sauce is often a simple, homemade marinara made from ripe tomatoes, garlic, and basil.

Naples pizza is the pinnacle of Naples’s food

Margarita pizza is the traditional pizza style in Naples

It’s time to move on to the main show…authentic Neapolitan pizza. “Pizza culture is a sport,” Tina said to me as I marveled at how important pizza was to Naples. She even told me that on Italian TV, there is a reality show on Pizza War where contestants compete!

Even though I wrote a post about Naples pizza 6 years ago – I find that you can never do enough research when it comes to pizza in Naples! You’ll want to make sure you try out one of their famous pizzas when visiting this crazy city.

The birthplace of pizza

Yes, yes, I know pizza was ‘invented’ in Naples and was originally a food for the poor. Pizza is something you can find all over the world, but Naples is the place where it all began. It’s said to be the best place on the planet to dine on this classic dish that was invented in the city back in the 1800s.

While pizza has taken on many modern forms around the world and even in Naples, the traditional versions of authentic Napoli pizza are still widely available. But, I wanted to understand why pizza in Naples is so outstanding.

We went to Claudio’s favorite pizza place in Naples – and arguably the best pizza in Naples – Gino e Toto Sorbillo. Yes – there are big lines and wait times here, however, if you come on a weekday right when they open at 12, you have a shot to get in quickly as we did!

Authentic Neapolitan Pizza

A lot goes into making an authentic Naples-style pizza. Sometimes pizza is made in home ovens, but the real Neapolitan pizza must be cooked in a wood-fired oven at 430 degrees and hand-made by an able pizzaiolo who makes the dough disk thinner in the center and thicker in the outer part.

An authentic Neapolitan pizza should be round and have specific ingredients on it. The ingredients and olive oil are rapidly spread on the disk, and with a quick movement, the pizza is put on the shovel and then slid into the oven, where it is turned around a few times for uniform cooking.

World-famous pizza crust

To get that authentic taste, you’ll want to pay close attention to the dough. According to Tina and Claudio, it’s the crust that makes Naples pizza so good and world-famous. The crust on the outside has to be full of air, super light, crispy, with a little bit of char, and then on the inside, it needs to be paper-thin.

I had never really seen a crust that was so soft and gooey in the middle, but that is the signature process – light, crispy outside, gooey inside. Think of that middle as the inside of a cinnamon roll, which is also undoubtedly the best part of the roll.

A closeup of Naples pizza crust
It’s the crust!!

Buffalo Mozzarella

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.

Buffalo Mozzarella DOP, or mozzarella di bufala, is a creamy, somewhat milky cheese that tops many pizzas but can also be eaten separately. There are even small stalls that sell balls of mozzarella to go as a street-side snack.

buffalo mozzarella naples

Pizza Fritta

Claudio asked me if I had ever tried the fried pizza from Naples (also known as pizza fritta). I stared at him blankly as I had never heard of fried pizza before this. Tina went on to explain that the fried pizza was just what it sounded like, a piece of pizza with a crust top on it and then put completely in a fryer.

Just when you think Naples pizza can’t get in better, they deep-fry it! I also recommend you try this at Gino e Toto Sorbillos. The crust of the pizza fritta was lightly fried and the cheese was gooey inside. It sort of tasted like a calzone…but much better!

pizza fritta on a plate - one of the best Naples foods I tried!

Many people describe it as both chewy and crispy. I describe it as simply delicious. In Naples, popular toppings for this street food include ricotta cheese, salami, black pepper, provolone cheese, tomato, and basil.

Margherita Pizza

Of course, in addition to the pizza fritta, you can also have the regular pie. There are two types of traditional pizza in Naples – Margherita and Neapolitan. Depending on who you talk to you might take a hard line on Naples pizza and only eat the traditional pizza Margherita, or if you are like Claudio, you get a pizza al’tonno – tuna pizza!

The Margherita pizza with buffalo mozzarella (or mozzarella bufala DOP – protected designation of origin) is by far my favorite. It comes with a golf ball size of buffalo mozzarella that is heavenly; you can decide if you want to eat it first or save it until last!

How to eat pizza like a Neapolitan

And of course, when they bring you the pie, it’s just a big round pizza without any triangles cut. If you don’t know where to start, then your best bet is to ask a local how to eat pizza. I watched Claudio cut his Neapolitan pizza into a typical triangle piece, but then he did something different.

Because the middle crust is so soft and gooey, he rolled up the tip on his fork, pinched the end together, and then ate it with his hands! The gooey middle oozed out and mingled with the crispier part of the crust and it was delicious. And that is how you take the perfect bite!

Going to Naples to eat pizza? Check out these books!

The Pizza Bible

: The World's Favorite Pizza Styles, from Neapolitan, Deep-Dish, Wood-Fired, Sicilian, Calzones and Focaccia to New York, New Haven, Detroit, and More

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Inventing the Pizzeria

Touching upon issues of politics, economics and sociology, Inventing the Pizzeria contributes not only to the commercial, social and food history of Italy but also provides an urban history of a major European city, told through one of its most famous edible exports.

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The ultimate Neopolitan dessert food: Sfogliatella

I know it’s hard to believe that you could have room for more food after all of that pizza, but make sure you save a little room for Naples’s famous sfogliatella! However, I suggest you take this time to walk around a bit first. Explore Naples’s points of interest for a while so that you can walk off a bit of that pizza!

Nearly all the bakeries around town will have sfogliatellaSfogliatella means “small, thin leaf/layer,” and once you know that, you’ll be able to pick it out immediately from the bakery case! It’s sort of like a croissant with ridges – many ridges. Its delicate outside of crispy layers yields a soft inside filled with custard pastry cream or almond paste.

day-devouring sfogliatella, a traditional Naples dessert food

Talk to any local, and they will say it’s best when eaten hot, so do your best to find a warm one!

Your day of traditional Neapolitan dishes is now complete! With this itinerary, I promise that you won’t be able to eat another bite.

The best way to see and experience Naples is to go with a local – they love to show off their city and local food culture. Go slow, enjoy the gritty vibe of the city, and see it for the hidden gem it is. And if you are lucky, you might even get to take home some of that delicious Sorbillo’s pizza for a midnight snack!

Go local in Naples and try the best food!

Contact Tina at Our Edible Italy to learn more about Neapolitan cuisine and culture. She arranges custom food culture tours in Campania!

Get immersed in the local cuisine, Italian living, and food culture on Tina’s 9-day Taste of Campania Food and Culture Tour. Experience a beautiful farmhouse set in the Sorrento countryside and farm (field) to table cooking, visits to local restaurants, farms, food producers, and artisans…. a true celebration of food, farms, and artisans all the while exploring Naples and the must-see attractions.

More information about Naples

Lonely Planet Naples, Pompeii & the Amalfi Coast

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Rick Steves Snapshot Naples & the Amalfi Coast

Rick's firsthand, up-to-date advice on the Amalfi Coast's best sights, restaurants, hotels, and more, plus tips to beat the crowds, skip the lines, and avoid tourist traps

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