Miraculously, my pants are still fitting. One of my favorite parts of traveling is eating. Trying new foods that I want to eat again and again. Neapolitan food is amongst the best. Ordering a meal has become a last minute flip-of-the-coin. Pizza or pasta? Ragu again? Should I try to be healthy? Nope… Here are the foods that I keep coming back to:
Let’s get this out of the way. Yes, the pizza is delicious. I did not have an orgasm eating it like she did in Eat, Pray, Love, but I do eat the whole thing.
Surprisingly, here I prefer just a plain cheese pizza – no sausage, prosciutto, or mushrooms. Putting more stuff on the pizza distracts from the main event – the sauce. But don’t worry, I won’t fall into the madness of eating a cheese-less pizza.
I can never run out of options – there are hundreds of wood-fired pizzerias in Naples. Pizza in Naples is like Starbucks in Seattle. We walked up to a spot at Sorbillo, where there is always a ridiculous crowd waiting for a seat. The trick is to go exactly at 7pm when it opens.
2. Pasta e patate con provola
Not a dish for the paleos! One carb per dish isn’t enough for these guys. Their comfort food adds potatoes to the pasta. With provolone cheese. And pancetta for color.
Please don’t get rid of your fat jeans, I’m probably going to need them.
Cheese strings form when you pull your spoon from the dish. The pasta is mixed – whatever nonna has leftover and cooked al dente. True al dente is a bit chewy, contrasting the tenderness of the potatoes. Some dishes are less like a soup and more like a casserole. I can’t decide which I like better, so I keep trying them over and over again!
The omnipresent red sauce – or the Italians equivalent to “Sunday gravy.” The ragu here is distinct from other parts of Italy (Bologna) in that the meat is left in large chunks (vs. minced), and the use of lots of tomatoes. And OMG, the tomatoes are orgasmic.
There’s no question why they put this sauce on everything.
4. Eggplant Parmagiana
I don’t always like eggplant, so I was not overly excited to try this dish. However, it is a Neapolitan classic and therefore must be sampled. For me, you have to be very particular where you try this one, otherwise it comes out oily or mushy, or most regrettably both oily and mushy.
This one had extremely thin layers of eggplant, which perhaps is the secret. Smothered with ragu sauce. With a sauce like this, I’d eat hiding underneath.
After eating so much pasta, you really must break it up with something creamy. Served warm from the oven, stuffed with fluffy ricotta cream. In between all of those crispy layers of pastry is a thin layer of lard — my poor arteries!
I can’t eat this without squirting cream on unsuspecting bystanders. But there is simply no other way – you have to bite into the chewy pastry. There is more sensible version with a soft outer pastry — like a Boston cream pie – that I haven’t tried yet. It’s next on the list.
Hand-made, thick, and just a bit chewy (I mean, al dente). I order this when I see it on the menu, because its usually made in-house. To me, these noodles are a bit like udon with a firmer texture.
You’ll find it served frequently with seafood, or with ragu – the photo of ragu above is on top of scialatelli.
6. Mozzarella di bufala
Mozzarella di buffalo from Campania, of which Naples is the seat, holds a DOC. Similar to champagne — you can’t call it champagne unless its from a particular region in France — mozzarella can’t be called mozzarella di bufala unless its from Campania.
You’ll know you have the real stuff if milk squirts you in the eye when you cut into it.
And, di bufala means that it is made from Asian water buffalo. No, this animal isn’t native to Campania, but they have been using its milk to make cheese here for centuries.
Street food is extremely common in Naples. Portable displays with pizza, pastries, pies, and fried goodies line the crowded streets. One of my favorite things to munch on is arancini.
They make a big ball of rice, coat it in bread crumbs and deep-fry it. It’s filled with ragu, peas, and mozzarella. Crunchy on the outside, gooey in the middle. These are not cooked to order, so you want to order it from a nice-looking place that uses high quality ingredient. Arancini from one of those touristy places tastes like stale oil. Trust me.
If you find a good one, these are delicious. Just ignore the grease stains on the paper.
For all the unpleasant things you can say about Naples, the food is certainly not one of them. It’s been a pleasure getting to know southern Italian cuisine.
I’d love to hear from you! Have you had any of these foods in Naples or elsewhere? Which one is most appealing to you? Tell me in the comments!