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Top 15 Things to Eat in Naples, Italy

When it comes to vacation destinations, certain travelers enjoy locales steeped in tradition and charm. If this sounds familiar, consider taking a European cruise with a stop in Naples, Italy. While you’re exploring this beautiful, seaside city, make sure to sample the local cuisine. Any or all of these 15 bites are sure to please your palate.

the island of procida in naples, italy

1. Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca

To satisfy a craving for spaghetti in Naples, give spaghetti alla puttanesca a try. Puttanesca sauce is made with just a few basic ingredients including tomato sauce, black olives, capers, garlic, parsley and sea salt. A bowl or plate of handmade pasta topped with puttanesca offers a true taste of southern Italy.

2. Pizza Margherita

Because Naples is the birthplace of pizza, you’re sure to enjoy the local favorite: Margherita pizza. In honor of Italy’s Queen Margherita of Savoy, this simple mozzarella, tomato and basil recipe was dreamed up by a local pizza maker in the late 1800s to represent the white, red and green colors of the Italian flag.

The crust of this pizza is on the chewy side and because most Neapolitan pizzas are cooked in stone ovens, you can expect a slight char.

a pie of pizza margherita cut into four pieces

3. Pizza di Scarola

If you visit Naples in the winter, try pizza di scarola, also known as escarole pie. Often served on Christmas Eve, few Neapolitan dishes are as traditional. Although it’s called pizza, the dough is a bit different and the dish features a top and bottom “crust” like a pie.

Every Italian grandmother has her own version of pizza di scarola, but typical filling ingredients include escarole, black olives, onion, pine nuts, capers and dried currants or raisins.

4. Pizza Fritta

While you’re exploring Naples, make sure to try pizza fritta, nicknamed the “pizza of the people.” To create this popular street food, pizza dough is stretched, filled with ingredients like mozzarella, ricotta, salami or ham and fried. Served with a side of tomato sauce for dipping, it makes a scrumptious solution to what to eat for lunch in Naples.

woman preparing fried pizza at a marketplace in italy

5. Baba

When you need to satisfy a sweet tooth, it’s good to be in Naples. For a dessert that truly represents this part of the world, try baba. This small, mushroom-shaped yeast cake is soaked in rum syrup and served with custard or whipped cream and seasonal berries.

6. Ragù

Be careful ordering pasta with ragù in Naples. Red sauces you’ll find anywhere else simply don’t compare. It could be the tomatoes grown in volcanic soil or the special blend of ingredients, but once you’ve tasted Neapolitan ragù, you’ll want to try to recreate it at home.

For authentic flavor, look for recipes containing beef, tomato paste, prosciutto, pancetta, onions, red wine, olive oil and pecorino cheese to remind you of things to eat in Naples, Italy.

a close up of ragu sauce

7. Polpette

Few Italian dishes fill a hungry tummy like polpette, a duo or trio of fist-sized meatballs smothered in ragù. Made with beef, veal, pork, onion, white wine and various seasonings, meatballs in Naples stand alone and are not meant to be served with pasta. Pair this rustic dish with a few slices of crusty bread, a side salad and a glass of red wine for the perfect Neapolitan dinner.

8. Parmigiana di Melanzane

Although some believe eggplant parmesan originated in Naples, this dish is made all over southern Italy, and no one knows for sure from where it originated. Featuring layers of deep-fried sliced eggplant, tomato, basil and two kinds of cheese, this baked casserole takes comfort food to another level.

eggplant parmigiana with pasta on the side

9. Impepata di Cozze

Living along the southern Italian coast, Naples residents enjoy plenty of seafood dishes like impepata di cozze. Locals prepare this recipe by cooking fresh mussels with olive oil, tomatoes, red chilies, white wine and parsley. If you order impepata di cozze for dinner, make sure to ask for a baguette or a few crusty rolls for sopping up any leftover sauce.

impepata di cozze, sauteed mussels with pepper

10. Gattò di Patate

For the ultimate Neapolitan comfort food, try gattò di patate, a savory potato pie. Although there are many variations of this dish depending on the cook, it typically features mashed potatoes, ham, salami, mozzarella, parmesan, eggs, butter and breadcrumbs for topping. For everyday meals, gattò di patate is baked in a casserole pan, but for fancier occasions, it is served like a cake.

11. Frittata di Pasta

If you like eggs, you’ll love frittata di pasta. Picture a frittata made with eggs, ham, gooey cheese and pasta — yes you read that right — pasta. Residents of Italy like to use up leftovers if they can, and this dish provides the perfect opportunity. In Naples, you can find frittata di pasta in restaurants and pubs.

 12. Cuoppo

If you’re on the hunt for tasty street food in Naples, get a little of everything served in a brown paper cone (or cuoppo). Battered and deep-fried bites might include fish, shrimp, mozzarella, eggplant, dough balls and/or potato croquettes. Easy to carry on the go, this is the perfect snack to enjoy while strolling around the city.

13. Mozzarella di Bufala

Are you a cheese lover? If so, one of the best things to buy in Naples is buffalo mozzarella, made from the milk of water buffalos. This cheese is plentiful in the Campania region of Italy. When compared to mozzarella made from cows’ milk, it is softer, more buttery and features a slightly tangy flavor. When dining out in Naples, enjoy buffalo mozzarella on pizza or in calzones or salads.

pizza with buffalo mozzarella on top

14. Struffoli

The holidays in southern Italy just aren’t complete without struffoli, a traditional Neapolitan dessert served at Christmastime. To create this festive dish, marble-sized balls of dough are deep-fried, stacked in a mound or wreath shape, and topped with drizzled honey, candied orange peels, candy-coated almonds and colored sprinkles.

15. Sfogliatelle

Sfogliatelle is a pastry that is almost too beautiful to eat. Featuring a delicate shell-like shape and thin ridges that resemble a stack of potato chips, this sweet treat is filled with ricotta, whipped cream or custard and dusted with confectioner’s sugar.

a tray of sfogliatelle on display at a bakery

Are you considering a cruise around Europe? Check an item off your bucket list by adding Naples, Italy, to your itinerary. Before you re-board your cruise ship, make sure to sample a few of the culinary delights that this historic city has to offer.