We know – the only place to eat Neapolitan food is at your Neapolitan mother’s house.
But let’s say you don’t have a Neapolitan mother.
Let’s say you have no Neapolitan relatives and no Neapolitan friends. Let’s say you’re just a hungry stranger in a strange land and you want the next best thing to m’m’te‘s home cooking.
Try this roundup of Naples places to eat Neapolitan food a local mom would approve.
What? You didn’t know pizza was invented in Naples? Here’s a crash course.
Arabic-inspired flatbreads had long been made in Naples, but chefs at Pizzeria Brandi felt that Queen Margherita’s visit in 1889 called for something special: pizza dough topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella di bufala and basil.
When the royal court expressed enthusiastic approval of the new pizza recipe, it became thereafter known as pizza margherita.
Many Italians judge a pizzeria based on its pizza margherita, but if you want something different, there’s the classic pizza alla napoletana, with anchovies, olives, pickles, capers and oregano.
Other Neapolitan pizzeria dishes include the ever-popular calzoni and panzerotti: deep-fried mozzarella pockets.
L’Antica Pizzeria Brandi
Feeding Neapolitans since 1780, Pizzeria Brandi is the birthplace of pizza margherita.
In other words, your first obligatory stop.
Salita Sant’Anna di Palazzo, 1-2; +39 08 1416 928; www.brandi.it
Beloved by locals for its reasonable prices, great pizzas and delicious fried antipasti.
Via dei Tribunali, 94; +39 08 2455 262
Antica Pizzeria I Decumani
Small, surprisingly inexpensive and excellent. More than 40 kinds of pizza.
Via Tribunali 58, 60, 61; +39 08 1557 1309
Made famous — and insufferably touristed, according to locals — by its cameo in “Eat Pray Love.” Crowd favorite: pizza margherita with double cheese.
Via Cesare Sersale 1; +39 08 1553 9204; www.damichele.net/
Classic Neapolitan pasta dishes include seafood — spaghetti alle vongole and risotto alla pescatora are typical.
Other famous local pasta recipes include pasta e patate (pasta and potato soup), timballo (pasta pie), gnocchi alla sorrentina (potato dumplings baked in tomato sauce and mozzarella) and pasta e fagioli.
Pastae fagioli (pasta and bean soup) is a classic dish found in mamma’s kitchen throughout the boot, but the Neapolitan version — called pasta fazool — is made with hot pepper and crushed mixed pasta.
A variant of spaghetti alla puttanesca — “whore-style spaghetti” — is also found in Naples. The Neapolitan version calls for tomatoes, garlic, parsley, hot pepper, capers and olives. Debate persists about where this seemingly innocent pasta dish got its scandalous name.
La Cantina del Gallo
Renowned for pizza, La Cantina del Gallo — an institution in the Rione Sanità district since 1898 — is a place to find home-style Neapolitan pastas.
Via Alessandro Telesino, 21; +39 08 1544 1521; www.cantinadelgallo.com
A Spanish quarter gem, Trattoria Nennella serves no-frills, basic Neapolitan food with bowls of fruit for dessert. Pasta dishes get top billing.
Via Lungo Teatro Nuovo, 103; +39 08 1414 338
Trattoria da Vittorio
Locals swear eating at this small, super traditional Neapolitan trattoria is just like eating at home. Specialties include meatballs, pasta e fagioli and fried cod.
Via Diocleziano, 67; +39 08 1762 6129
Friendly atmosphere, professional service and strict attention to quality. Recommended: Nonna Ermelinda’s meatballs, the Neapolitan-style codfish, risotto alla pescatora and zuppa di pesce (fresh fish stew).
Via Alabardieri, 30/31; +39 08 1418 555; www.umberto.it
Italians from any region will tell you, there’s nothing in the world like Neapolitan pastry.
The pastries most synonymous with Naples are the intricate shell-shaped sfogliatelle — made of dozens of layers of delicate pastry — and the rum-soaked babà, a Neapolitan twist on the German cake known as kugelhupf.
Pastry-lovers should head immediately to the Galleria Umberto, home to two of Naples’s most revered pastry shops.
La Sfogliatella Mary
Contender Number One in the Galleria Umberto battle: Mary’s sfogliatelle is phenomenal. The lemon babà is also a treat.
Via Toledo, 66; +39 08 1402 218
Enter Contender Number Two. Not technically inside Galleria Umberto, Pintauro is mere heartbeats away. Heartbeats of ricotta and rum. Baking pastries since 1785.
Via Toledo, 275; +39 08 1417 339; www.pintauro.it
Lovely pastry shop with table service and gelato.
Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, 19; +39 08 1551 7031; www.scaturchio.it
Famed not only for its pastries, but for its excellent mini-pizzas.
Via San Pasquale a Chiaia, 21-22; +39 08 1411 348
Antico Forno delle Sfogliatelle Calde
As the bakery’s name would suggest, sfogliatelle is the thing to eat here; especially hot out of the oven.
Vico Ferrovia 1/2/3/4; +39 08 1285 675; www.sfogliatelleattanasio.it
Gran Caffe Gambrinus
Whatever you try, the perfect end to any Neapolitan meal is a thimbleful of Limoncello or cup of Neapolitan coffee.
Gambrinus is a beautiful coffee shop that attracts an artsy clientele. Highly recommended: caffè alla nocciola.
Via Chiaia, 1-2; +39 08 1417 582; www.caffegambrinus.com