Food tour in Naples & the Amalfi Coast
There’s no need to beat about the bush. The gastronomic specialties of Naples and the Amalfi Coast are many, but pizza is the most famous of all. Because you can eat Neapolitan pizza only in Naples, despite the millions of attempts to replicate it throughout the world. You can eat good pizza also in London, Shanghai, New York or Malindi, but only in Naples pizza has the unique and unmistakable “Neapolitan Pizza” taste.
The secret of Neapolitan Pizza
Just like all the secrets, even the secret of Neapolitan Pizza cannot be revealed. If you ask a Neapolitan pizza maker, he will always pretend he’s telling you the truth. First of all, he will say that it’s because they use effervescent mineral water, rich in minerals and low in calcium. Then he will acclaim the type of yeast, the crushed tomatoes (not tomato sauce,) but especially his ability to knead the dough with his hands. So, in the end, you will feel like you still know very little, because so many secrets end up being … no secret at all.
Pizza is good everywhere in Naples, but if you want to enjoy the most classic ‘Margherita’ (tomatoes and mozzarella) or ‘Marinara’ (with garlic, oregano, and no mozzarella cheese,) then you should go to “Da Michele,” in Via Cesare Sersale. If you want to try a special pizza instead, with many different ingredients, there’s Starita near the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, Via Materdei: here pizza is like a work of Baroque art.
Neapolitan Gastronomic Specialties. Pasta Dishes
Neapolitan cuisine is among the most diverse in all of Italy, also because over the centuries it has been enriched by the influences of past dominations: Greek, Arab, Norman and French. However, the distinguishing feature of Neapolitan cuisine is that it’s always been very plain. Pasta dishes, with Spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce or Vermicelli with clams being the most popular, are the quintessence of simplicity. If you wish to enjoy more elaborate dishes, you can order Maccheroni with beef ragù or Lasagna, made with flat sheets of pasta layered with ragù and béchamel sauce, and then baked in the oven.
Fish and Meat Main Dishes
Seafood restaurants in Naples are as many as pizzerias. Taste a ‘Calamarata’ – pasta with squid rings and sauce – or Spaghetti with Anchovies, to enjoy the real Neapolitan tradition. Main courses range from grilled or fried fish, to ‘Paranza,’ a mix of fried small fish, such as cod, hake, red mullet, and soles. Recommended seafood restaurants include: “Da Salvatore” in Via Mergellina or “Mimì Alla Ferrovia” in Via Alfonso D’Aragona.
The most typical meat dishes of Neapolitan cuisine are prepared with goat and lamb meat. However, don’t miss out on a dish of ‘purpette napulitane’ (beef meatballs with tomato sauce), ‘cerviellatine and friarielli’ (pork with bitter broccoli), ‘spezzatiello’ (stewed beef) and ‘vrasciole a raù’ (pork chops in ragù sauce). You will enjoy excellent meat dishes at “Ristorante Bracconiere” in Via Falanga or at “Zio Jack Griglieria” in Via Palepoli.
It’s quite difficult not to feel too full after a typical Neapolitan meal, but if you can, leave some room for dessert. The famous ‘Pastiera Napoletana’ is one of the most traditional Neapolitan desserts: this is a Shortcrust pastry filled with ricotta cheese, boiled wheat, eggs and candied fruit. We can’t fail to mention ‘Zeppole’, fried or baked, made of flour, sugar, eggs, butter and olive oil. Also ‘Struffoli’ are very tasty: dough balls (flour, eggs, lard, sugar and anise liqueur) fried in oil and drenched in warm honey, then decorated with pieces of cedar and candied fruit. To round off, the legendary ‘babà’ dripping in sweet rum, liqueurs or Limoncello. Some of the best pastry shops in Naples include the historic “Scaturchio” in Piazza San Domenico and “Bellavia” with shops in Via Vanvitelli and Via Pigna.
From Naples to the Sorrentine Peninsula, to the Amalfi Coast
The Sorrentine Peninsula shores a few kilometers up the southern end of Naples. You can drive from Naples to Sorrento following the A3 motorway and then taking the exit of Castellammare di Stabia; or, you can take a Circumvesuviana train from Naples Garibaldi Central Station; or one of the many hydrofoils and ferries departing from the port of Naples. Just south of the Sorrentine Peninsula, on the stretch of coast between Positano and Vietri sul Mare, lies the beautiful Amalfi Coast. Many buses connect Sorrento to all the towns of the Amalfi Coast: Positano, Praiano, Furore, Amalfi, Ravello, Maiori, Cetara and Vietri sul Mare.
Typical Products of the Sorrentine Peninsula
The traditional cuisine of Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast is very diverse. The people who have lived there over the centuries, have benefited from the fruits of the sea and land, as well as the crops and livestock of the Lattari Mountains. Typical products of these areas include: Mozzarella di Agerola, Fior di Latte (whole cow’s milk cheese), Provolone del Monaco, extra virgin olive oil, Limoncello, Sorrento tomatoes and walnuts.
Typical dishes of the Sorrento Peninsula and the Amalfi Coast
At the many restaurants of Sorrento, Amalfi or Positano, you can taste all the dishes of Neapolitan cuisine. What is more, traditional cuisine in the Peninsula has also developed independently, with peculiar local dishes such as Gnocchi alla Sorrentina, with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and basil; Spaghetti with zucchini or with walnuts, and of course the many pasta dishes with fish and seafood in general.
Among the main courses, fish dishes of course dominate the scene. Besides the classic ‘Paranza’, the aforementioned fried mix of small fish, some other specialties include: cuttlefish stuffed with bread crumbs, mozzarella cheese, raisins, parsley and hot pepper; squid stuffed with tomatoes, parsley and olives; the legendary fish soup with all the best the sea can offer; octopuses cooked in their juice with tomato sauce.
To end with, here are some of the best typical dishes of the Amalfi Coast: ‘Parmigiana di Melanzane’ in Positano; ‘Scialatielli’ – pasta with chopped parsley, pepper, parmesan cheese, tomato sauce and clams – in Amalfi; ‘Sarchiapone’ – pumpkin cylinders stuffed with ground beef and cheese – in Atrani; goat meat cooked in several ways in Tramonti; baked rabbit in lemon leaves in Conca dei Marini; spleen stuffed with parsley, mint and hot pepper, or fried beef offal in Vietri sul Mare.
A lunch or dinner in the Amalfi Coast always ends with a bottle of Limoncello, the typical local liqueur. Limoncello is a sweet liqueur produced by maceration in alcohol of lemon peel. According to tradition, the original Limoncello is produced only using ‘femminiello’ lemons, Sorrento lemons or Amalfi Sfusato lemons.