The birthplace of wood fire pizza, as if you need a better reason to visit a city. It is here that the favorite food of millions is said to have originated and if you’ve immediately pictured Italy, you’re on the right track. However, this city may not be the city you are imagining. I’d guess you’re thinking of Rome, Florence or Venice? It’s none of the typical touristic attractions and it frequently gets passed over as you make your way south, Naples. As a city that is far from the spotlight of it’s counterparts, let me convince you that a Naples food tour deserves to make it’s way onto your itinerary.
Naples Food Tour
We decided to tackle the city the best way we know how, by following the food. Naples is a treasure trove of famous local places so come hungry, you can easily eat your way through a weekend.
Pasta for Prostitutes
Caught your attention? Pasta Punttanesca is just that, pasta for the ladies of the night. It has several stories attached but one is that it was perfected in this region around the time of World War II. This “whore-style” spaghetti is traditional noodles with a simple but tasty tomato, caper, anchovies, black olive, garlic and red pepper flake sauce. Some say it’s because the dish was quick to whip up in between customers and others says it’s a signature dish of one woman in particular who had many gentleman callers. Whichever story you prefer, you don’t have to be promiscuous to enjoy a good meal. We started our food tour with this and an eggplant parmigiana and I knew we were going to have a continuous evening long meal. Pasta, cheeses, olives, seafood dishes, fried pizza and gelato dessert. If that wasn’t enough, sharing a pizza on the street while people watching was also on the menu.
The Holy Grail of Pizza
In 1889 Queen Margarita came to visit Naples, a dish was created in her honor and the Margarita Pizza was invented. The town is serious about their pies, there is an Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana which ensures each pizza that is made meets criteria for ingredients, thickness and quality. You can literally find a slice of pizza on every block but there a few places not to pass up. The oldest in the city is Antica Pizzaria Port’Alba, and is an icon in Napoli, boasting to be the world’s first pizzaria. If you want to feel like Julia Roberts, head to Da Michele, made famous by the movie Eat, Pray, Love. If it wasn’t enough, you can also get your pizza fried, similar to a Stromboli. Pizza Fritta is a Neapolitan street food, basically taking your classic pizza ingredients, closing it up and frying it until cooked. As if pizza couldn’t get any more delicious.
When Life Hands You Lemons…
Make Limoncello. The boozy, citrus flavored after dinner drink is a perfect stop on the food tour to take a break from stuffing your face and have a digestif. Limoné is located within the UNESCO heritage section of the old city, not far from the famous Christmas Alley so you can get your drinking and shopping done in one trip.
In addition to seafood, pizza and pasta being some signature dishes, desserts here are famous too. Pastry shops are almost as frequent as pizzerias, the two best in the city found not far from each other near the Galleria Umberto. Try both La Sfogliatella Mary and Pasticceria Pintauro and rate them both for yourself.
Food for your Eyes
Don’t let this gritty city fool you, there is an actual art afficianado in there. Second to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the Museo di Compamendi is one of the most important collections in Italy. Also, be sure to visit the National Archeological Museum, it houses some of the famous mosaics from Pompeii and after seeing the relics that have been unearthed you can take a day trip easily from here and visit the grounds themselves. Not only is it one of the premier museums in Italy, it is world renown for it’s collections. If you are feeling frisky from all the Punttanesca you can visit one of the more famous wings in the museum, the Secret Museum or the section that houses ancient erotic art. The Santa Chiara church and monastery has an impressive garden with hand painted tiles adorning it’s walls. It is a quiet haven from the buzz of the city so I recommend coming here and spend some time exploring the small museum and ruins within the complex.
It’s the city that people will convince you to skip, it’s rumored to be dirty, and unsafe but it is a good chance to see everyday Italy without the throngs of tourists. When we first arrived our driver tried to convince us that we were in an unsafe area going so far as to suggest my mother remove her earrings. Then, when he finished his sentence with trying to recommend a hotel of a friend, I knew he was exaggerating and trying to scare us into getting a commission from a hotel. Is there petty crime in town, probably. Is it a crime ridden city? No. Never once did we feel like our safety was a concern.
We stayed in an apartment in a more residential neighborhood, which I prefer over the area of city by the water where all of the hotels are located. After your stay in Naples it is the perfect place to move onto Sicily or the Amalfi Coast, both easily accessible by public transportation.
For our food tour we went with Food Tours of Naples, which was wonderful. Suzy was our guide and not only did she take us to some of the most delicious places in Naples, but she is knowledgable about the history of the city so the tour is really two in one. Come hungry, although I shared several stops along our tour there are are many I left for you to discover for yourself so you’ll be sure to eat A LOT of food!
A good daytime introduction to the city is a free walking tour. We met at the Castle Nuovo and went with Free Walking Tour Napoli.