When it comes to foodie getaways, nowhere serves up quite like Italy. The question is: where to start? In our books, Naples has to be up there. The spiritual home of pizza, the city is obsessed with eating – from deep-fried street food, to seafood fresh from the deep, this guide will point you in the right direction. Here are the best places to eat in Naples.
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For Insta-perfect plates: Palazzo Petrucci
Though working in a city that strongly holds onto traditions, chef Lino Scarallo has created a restaurant where the basics of Neapolitan culinary heritage are reinvented and offered in new, surprising ways. Scarallo rearranges the succulent and simple local dishes into more elaborate, exquisite meals, while pleasing the eye through colourful and careful presentation. The extent of the restaurant’s success is all the more incredible when you consider that it’s located in the competitive Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, in the heart of the historical centre.
For the perfect pizza: Sorbillo
For a taste of Naples, visit Sorbillo. This restaurant is buried in a maze of narrow streets in the historical heart of the city, serving pizzas – ranging from the simple and traditional to the elaborate and creative – that are simply glorious and expertly prepared by some of the best Italian pizzaioli. You’ll find all the classics here – margherita, bianca al cotto (ham and cheese), calzone and more. The venue is always packed, with the waiting time easily amounting to a full hour, especially at night – but the most patient will not regret it.
For sizzling street food: Friggitoria Vomero
Another side to the local food scene here is a range of fried street foods. This version of fast food in Naples is simply irresistible and a great way to have a quick bite while out and about in the city. The extraordinarily rich variety of these specialities includes panzarotti (potato croquettes), arancini (fried rice balls coated with breadcrumbs), deep-fried courgette flowers, calzone and more. They are traditionally served in a cone of paper, called cuoppo. Among the many friggitorie that sell these, Friggitoria Vomero has a reputation for being the best in town. It has the added advantage of being located in Vomero, the hippest and most fashionable neighbourhood in the city.
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For sparkling seafood: Il Transatlantico
Il Transatlantico is at the foot of Castel dell’Ovo, the oldest castle in Naples and one of the unmissable sights in the city. The castle lies on the tiny Megaride island, metres from the promenade. All around the castle is the picturesque Borgo Marinari, a strip of land bustling with small shops, cafes and restaurants. Among these, Il Transatlantico has one of the most striking locations and design. The rectangular, elegant dining room has large windows on the side facing the sea. Taste fish-based dishes while enjoying the fabulous view of the water, the numerous small boats docked all along the island’s coastline and, at night, the romantic lights of the city in the distance.
For cutting-edge creativity: Il Ristorantino dell’Avvocato
Literally translated as the Lawyer’s Small Restaurant, Il Ristorantino dell’Avvocato has nothing to do with the world of law. The setting is intimate, cosy and perfectly matched to the wholesome food. Here, the key ingredients of Naples gastronomy become the starting point of creative, tantalising dishes that combine tradition with the latest achievements in culinary techniques. Customers undecided on what to order have the option of choosing between the two tasting menus, one inspired by freshly fished sea produce, the other made with meats, seasonal vegetables and dairy produce. A triumph in creativity and refinement, Il Ristorantino dell’Avvocato is recommended to those who want to experience typical Neapolitan flavours in a contemporary setting.
For something sweet: Pintauro
Along with the rum-soaked baba, the sfogliatella is the queen of the traditional Neapolitan sweets. Small delicacies in the shape of shells, sfogliatellas are obtained by rolling a delicious filling of ricotta and almond paste into rich dough layers. When baked, the layers become crisp and separate from each other, giving a characteristic ridged look. Icing sugar sprinkled on top completes these heavenly bites. Pintauro has been serving sfogliatellas – and sfogliatellas only – since 1785. It is so popular among locals that there’s a saying in Naples: “tene folla Pintauro,” meaning “there’s a queue at Pintauro” – used when talking about particularly crowded venues.
For dinner with a view: Ciro a Mergellina
Ciro a Mergellina takes its name from the Mergellina neighborhood in Naples where it is located. Home to the beautiful promenade, with a panoramic view of the sea and Vesuvius in the far distance, and with the picturesque Posillipo hill in the background, Mergellina is one of the most scenic and captivating areas in the city. Ciro a Mergellina is the best place to enjoy a meal in the neighbourhood. The restaurant spoils customers by offering a rich menu of succulent courses. Unsurprisingly, fresh fish – seafood, shellfish, swordfish, lobsters, codfish and many others – is the key ingredient, served in ways that put a contemporary spin on traditional recipes.
For cafe culture: Gran Caffè Gambrinus
Similar to the elegant, turn-of-the-century coffeehouses located in cities such as Vienna or Paris, Gran Caffè Gambrinus, founded in 1860, is a historical cafe in a prominent spot, right next to Piazza del Plebiscito. At Gambrinus, illustrious Italian personalities such as poet Gabriele d’Annunzio and philosopher Benedetto Croce have shaped the culture of Italy. Here, the President of the Italian Republic traditionally stops for coffee on the first day of the year. Although more expensive than the many other bars in the city, this Liberty-style luxurious venue, rich with fine details, is a great choice to taste a cup of excellent, strong Italian coffee.
For quality chocolates: Gay Odin
In Naples, chocolate is synonymous with Gay Odin. This historical patisserie was founded in the late 1800s by Isidoro Odin, a masterful confectioner who moved to Naples from the north of Italy, attracted by the vibrant cultural life the city offered at the turn of the century. Later joined by his wife Onorina Gay, Odin took to preparing the most mouth-watering chocolate sweets, and it wasn’t long before they had attracted the attention of the Neapolitan people. Today, Gay Odin has nine outlets across the city, and a few extra in Rome and Milan. But in all the locations, the many variants of chocolate pralines, bars and cakes are still handmade with the artisanal expertise so loved by Neapolitans. Among Gay Odin’s specialties are the Foreste – chunks of milk chocolate sculpted to look like wood logs – and the Vesuvio, chocolate sweets shaped after the nearby volcano.
For family flavours: Umberto
A family-run business first opened in 1916, Umberto has been passing on the secrets of local cuisine from generation to generation. Over the past decades, and still today, restaurant Umberto offers the classics of Naples gastronomy, which include a range of dishes: spaghetti with clams, aubergine parmigiana, salted codfish and, of course, pizzas. The atmosphere is homely and cosy – together with the traditional menu, this makes Umberto one of the most quintessentially Neapolitan restaurants in town. The wine selection reads like a greatest hits of Italian wines. For a traditional Naples dishes, this is the place to stop by. Unique to Umberto are the two-month-long exhibitions of contemporary Italian painters, whose works decorate the dining room walls.
There are many reasons why you should visit the capital of Campania, so while you’re here, make sure you tick off all of the must-visit attractions. If you’re looking for a signature Neapolitan dish, try one of the best pizza places, and after dark, don’t miss the city’s best bars. If you’re looking for somewhere special to stay, check out the best hotels in Naples.
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