Eating your way through Naples
Naples (Napoli) is an exciting city with lots to see and discover, including many great historical sites. It’s also an excellent destination for lovers of art and theatre, including ballet and opera. BA, Easyjet and Ryanair all fly direct in under 3 hours from London and the city offers a lot of choice in terms of accommodation to suit all budgets.
And the food? Well, that alone is reason enough to visit. We’ve put together some ideas to tantalise taste buds and inspire wanderlust.
Italians do not eat savoury food for breakfast and it might seem odd for those coming from abroad, to be presented with biscuits, trays of freshly baked cakes and pastries (and scrambled eggs if you’re lucky). But it doesn’t take long to get used to it!
Starting the day with a cappuccino and a fresh-from-the-oven pastry is a treat – we often go to Miranapoli on residential Via Petrarca for the view.
In Naples, you’ll notice round shaped soft buns with a ‘hat’ in most cafes and pasticcerie, in regular or small size. Neapolitans call them brioche: they are plain, not too sweet, soft dough breakfast buns. In Sicily, the same brioches are often cut in half and filled with ice cream for an afternoon snack.
Another very traditional way of kicking off the day ahead is to pick up a sfogliatella: filled with ricotta and tiny pieces of candied orange, these are a delicious, aromatic morning bake which divide the crowds. In fact, you have to pick a preference: the ‘riccia’ which comes in the shape of a shell and is made with thin, layered filo pastry or the ‘frolla’ which is round and made with butter crust pastry. We’re partial to a frolla, we admit. The best in town are said to be found at Attanasio, a take-away only oven not far from the central station. It is worth the walk in the slightly gritty, chaotic area to pick some up. They still taste good after a couple of days, so they make a good souvenir for your folks back home.
For something a little more guilty, find a ‘graffa’, the neapolitan version of a doughnut. Soft, pillowy dough deep fried and coated in sugar, usually in a ring and knot shape, I remember my mum buying those for us when we were kids, eaten straight from the brown paper bag.
Lunchtime: what better than a proper pizza? Legend is that pizza margherita was born in Naples when Queen Margherita was visiting in the late 19th century. A local pizzaiolo dedicated a pizza to her majesty with the colours of the flag: green basil, red San Marzano tomatoes and white mozzarella. Iconic, classic, pizza margherita is found everywhere in Naples, from the takeaway, folded versions (‘a portafogli’, folded like a wallet) which will drip tomato all over your hands (and that’s the fun of it) to the sit down, cooked-to-order round disc which can cost as little as a few euros.
So many are the pizzerias in Naples, it’s hard to eat a really bad pizza. Yet there are some that are exceptional and will stay in your memory for a long time. The well known, famous names are even known here in the UK having branched out outside of the realm of Naples: Gino Sorbillo, the Salvo brothers, Starita, Brandi and so on.
We couldn’t possibly recommend one over the other, however for the view choose Lievito Madre by Sorbillo (as it is located right on the seaside with stunning views over the Castel dell’Ovo and the whole arc of the bay, perfect for people watching); for the historical significance visit Michele alla Ferrovia (prepare to queue); for the view go to Reginella on Via Posillipo (breathtaking views over the bay) or for the trendy experience go to Fratelli Salvo von Riviera di Chiaia.
Pranzo e Cena (Lunch & Dinner)
Lunchtime in Naples does not have to mean pizza. In fact, you can find plenty of alternatives. If you wish to stay traditional, then opt for a trattoria in the more popular areas of Vomero for example, Mergellina or in the less touristy parts of the historic centre. Not far from the hydrofoils port, Nonna Anna Cibi Cotti is a local institution; located inside an indoor food market, this simple, basic restaurant provides proper, heritage-like dishes, from pizza di scarole (a filled, baked pie with chard and olives) to meatballs in rich, dark tomato sauce.
Not far, to experience something quite unique, spend an evening at one of the outdoor tables in Piazza Sannazzaro. No matter which pizzeria you pick, the pizza will be absolutely fine but what you’ll remember is the experience: notice the baskets coming down from the balconies, the rose sellers and the serenading chanteurs and make sure you have some spare change with you.
Contemporary Naples steers away from tradition with grace and creativity. In the old town, right by the greek walls of Piazza Bellini is la Stanza del Gusto where simple, local ingredients are inventively reinterpreted. In a more residential area is Veritas, a small and elegant restaurant which also transports some almost historically confined dishes to the XXI century. Their food is so good that they gained a Michelin star a couple of years ago.
If breathtaking views and fine dining is what you’re after, you’d be spoilt for choice too, from modern, sleek Il Comandante within luxury Hotel Romeo (right across the imposing Stazione Marittima port) to the established, traditional Rosiello on the top of the Posillipo hill.
From an early morning coffee to a late night cocktail, Naples has something for everybody and temptations are hard to resist. Skim part the neon-lighted, cheap chains selling chips (seriously) or the frozen yogurt American import and treat yourself to true gems of Neapolitan gastronomy. Snack on some rotisserie from Luise while strolling in majestic Via Toledo or dare trying boiled tripe with a squeeze of lemon from glass fronted street carts in Mergellina (‘O pere e ‘ musso’).
If you’re shopping in via Chiaia, quench your thirst with a freshly squeezed lemonade from the street cart outside Teatro Sannazzaro.
Ice cream is everywhere and locals eat it regardless of the season: our favourite is Gelatiere on via san Pasquale. The same owners have been making ice cream since 1985; other delectable addresses are Soave, La Scimmia, Bilancione and Casa Infante. Gay Odin also sells ice cream but this traditional chocolatier is best known for their cioccolata foresta, which is basically like a Flake but much, much more tasty (and pricey).
For something modern and a little more creative, drop by Mon Sciu, the new kid on the block on the Neapolitan patisserie wave, right next to the Duomo – their Napoli-Brest is a mouthwatering, localised version of the french classic.
Residenza Matilde is bang in the middle of the old town. A stylish bed & breakfast with some quirky touches (such as a reclaimed 17th century basin), it offers all comforts and will also provide tickets to visit one of Naples’s unmissable attractions, the Galleria Borbonica.
Travelling During the Pandemic
Summer is here and flights to Europe are on again off again. With the COVID risk still present, travel is still uncertain but many airlines and hotels are offering flexible booking conditions to ensure peace of mind and incentivise new bookings. Southern Italy has seen relatively low numbers of cases so it seems like a great choice for a summer break for those keen to minimise risk but still get away.