In 2023 Naples boomed with tourism once again – every corner of the city was crowded with people. This post-Covid explosion of tourism runs the risk of distorting the city: an abnormal increase in vacation rentals and B&Bs has expelled many Neapolitans from the Historic Center, threatening the local market for traditional activities, goods and services. City administration is taking action by limiting permits for new holiday homes and even pizzerias.
We took advantage of this year to search out special places old and new, taking time to venture off the beaten track and finding solace in small corners of peace and gastronomic pleasure that only Naples can provide.
Mon Sciù Bouchons
Launched on October 25, on the occasion of Champagne Day, Mon Sciù‘s bouchons are delicious chocolates whose shape (and name) is overtly inspired by the iconic bubbly’s cork, perfect to celebrate any festive occasion. A thin and crunchy, mushroom cork-molded shell, either in dark or milk chocolate, enclose lavish chocolate ganache fillings in different flavors: gianduja and crunchy coffee, milk chocolate and fizzy almond, and dark chocolate and caramelized rosemary (though the flavors may vary over the year).
This tiny pastry shop is full of French-inspired and globally flavored cakes and desserts, sometimes with a contemporary nod to Neapolitan tradition and culture, at a few steps from the charming Duomo. Chiara Cianciaruso, the Neapolitan-born, French-trained pastry chef and chocolatier running Mon Sciù, invented the bouchons after a trip to Champagne with her friend Salvatore Cautero, owner and Champagne expert at Caseari Cautero, a small cheese shop turned cozy wine bar. The one-time treat for her friends then became part of the pastry production for the winter holidays, and I would bet they are here to stay as a local favorite. – Luciana Squadrilli
I’m a curious – and insatiable – pizza-eater and I love trying new takes on both crusts and toppings, exploring any possible combination of ingredients and any new interpretation regarding shapes and textures. Yet when it comes to enjoying my home town with friends and relatives for a laidback, flavor-filled dinner, I cherish the classics. My latest visit to Pizzeria Da Attilio, the long-established pizza master along via Pignasecca, in the very heart of Naples, was no exception. (It’s made it on our best bites list years before, after all). The pies baked by the experienced Attilio Bachetti – who took his first steps as a pizzaiolo when he was only six years old, and is named after his grandpa, the man who founded the family business back in the thirties – are exactly what you’d expect from a traditional Neapolitan pizzeria, yet at its highest level. A thin, soft and super-light dough, with a barely present crust, is the base for excellent toppings. Margherita and marinara rule here, but the more original pizzas are also worth trying. I really loved the daily – yet often available – special La Partenopea, a lovely, fragrant pizza with provola cheese, black pepper, fresh anchovies, dehydrated seaweed powder and lemon zest. – Luciana Squadrilli
Veritas Sunday Lunch
Neapolitans traditionally honor the culinary ritual of the Sunday lunch at home, rewarding the tireless efforts of moms and aunties (and, yes, dads and uncles) in the kitchen with double servings and endless chats. However, preparing a proper Neapolitan lunch with the mandatory ragù is a demanding task. Nowadays, even locals are often skipping this revered routine in lieu of going out for a pizza, a nice seafood lunch by the sea or a table in the nearby trattoria. For a different Sunday feast, Veritas – the Michelin star restaurant opened in 2007 by dentist and gourmand Stefano Giancotti – offers a valid alternative to the warmth of a household dining room thanks to its relaxed elegance and to the dedicated four-course menu created by chef Carlo Spina.
The menu, called cunsulazione, from the local term that indicates a high level of satisfaction, spans from the contemporary interpretation of the traditional uovo in purgatorio (“purgatory egg,” poached egg with San Marzano tomato sauce, onion foam and Parmigiano Reggiano wafer) to a delicious and elegant babà, in which the soft sponge cake comes in a round krapfen shape served atop fresh guava purée, topped by a lemon yogurt spiral. But the star role is played by the ziti al ragù: Here, the traditional pasta shape is generously wrapped with an intense slow-cooked tomato-meat sauce. The addition of a rich buffalo ricotta fondue, a fresh basil sauce and an unexpected fermented carrot sauce invigorate the overall taste, without betraying the traditional recipe. – Luciana Squadrilli
Seafood Pastas at È Pronto ‘O Mangià
The name says it all: “È pronto ‘o mangià” in the Neapolitan language means simply “food is ready.” Here, you’ll find good food, and nothing else – homemade Neapolitan cuisine at the hands of the the Grossi family, well known for their great skills in preparing fish and seafood of all kinds.
Every morning, Mattia Grossi himself goes to the Pizzi Pizzi fish market in Porta Nolana to buy fresh seafood and the catch of the day. There are two standouts among the first course dishes: the terracotta pignatiello and linguine al cartoccio, both which combine pasta with seafood. The linguine comes wrapped in aluminum foil which has been hermetically sealed to preserve all the smell, freshness and fragrance of the linguine and seafood. The classic menu is punctuated by daily specials throughout the week: pasta with beans on Tuesday; pasta with potatoes on Wednesday; on Thursdays, a legendary genovese with rigatoni pasta; pasta with chickpeas on Friday, and oven-baked pasta and lasagna on Sundays. Main courses include delicious fried or grilled fish. – Amedeo Colella
Fixed Menu at Mimì alla Ferrovia
Mimì alla Ferrovia is one of the best-known restaurants in Naples and since 1943 it has truly been a point of reference for lovers of good food. The walls are filled with photos of the many celebrities who have frequented the restaurant. This year, Robert De Niro earned his place among such stars as Federico Fellini and Luciano Pavarotti. The restaurant also turned 80 years old and the city administration awarded it a medal for its gastronomic and historical value.
The celebratory fixed menu opens with the puparuolo ‘mbuttunato (stuffed grilled pepper with fior di latte, ham and bread), which is served to all customers, a true symbol of the place. For the first course, a splendid pasta and potatoes are topped with provola cheese, which melts completely but continues to give its strong smoky flavor to the dish. The second course brings fish, which reigns supreme: cod cooked any way you like it, octopus or the catch of the day cooked under a mountain of salt. As a side dish, a generous slice of eggplant parmigiana rounds the meal out. And to finish, a slice of pastiera. Certainly a menu worth celebrating! – Amedeo Colella
Margherita at Lombardi 1892
The Lombardi family’s pizza legacy dates back to the turn of the 20th century. In 1902, the family brought Neapolitan pizza to the United States. The pizzeria they opened on Spring Street in New York City was the first pizzeria (an eatery solely dedicated to pizzas) ever seen in the U.S. Today in Naples, the cousins Enrico Maria and Carlo Alberto Lombardi represent the fifth generation of this historic dynasty of pizza makers, carrying on the family tradition.
Not to miss at Lombardi’s is the most popular pizza in the world, the margherita, with fior di latte (mozzarella made with cow milk) and San Marzano tomato sauce. Another tasty and very Neapolitan option is the fried pizza, which is a crunchy fried dough with ricotta cheese, fior di latte, cicoli (pieces of fatty pork), tomato and black pepper. Finally, we love the pizza Gigi, a tasty pie stuffed with Piennolo tomatoes and morsels of buffalo mozzarella. A real must for those in search of a genuine local pizza. – Amedeo Colella
A Simple Lunch at Lo Spiedo d’Oro
Finally, one evergreen spot for a quick lunch – on Spaccanapoli, the most famous and crowded street in Naples, a quiet corner is home to one of the city’s temples of simple food. At the counter of Lo Spiedo d’Oro, Vincenzo and his wife, Cinzia, 59, attend customers; in the kitchen is Lello, who manages to produce quality in great quantity. All the typical plates of Neapolitan gastronomy are present here: pasta and ragù, lasagna, Genovese and eggplant parmigiana. The restaurant is open for lunch only, save for Friday evenings, when Vincenzo makes a very special aperitivo for a full house, a ritual firmly anchored to Neapolitan tradition. – Amedeo Colella
Published on December 27, 2023