Italy is food heaven. I’ve had meals in Italy that I still dream off. The gelato, the pasta, the pizza…
But did you know that Italian cuisine is super varied beyond those famous dishes? And that every region has specific specialities and products?
Let me take you on a little food tour of Campania, a region in the southwest of Italy. Its most famous city is Naples and most famous food is pizza. But Campania has so much more to offer!
Campania’s cuisine is rich, with lots of fresh seafood and excellent produce. The soil here is fertile, and tomatoes grown on the flanks of Mount Vesuvius are just on a whole other level. Campania is a coastal region, so the fish and seafood are fresh and delicious. The port of Naples has introduced flavors and techniques from all over the world, forming one amazingly delicious melting pot.
Whether you are visiting Naples or the Amalfi coast, there are a few iconic dishes you just have to try. Here are my favorite things to eat in Campania.
Naples is the birthplace of pizza and you can eat the best pizza in the world here. It is truly at another level, even the mediocre pizza places serve excellent pies. Really, you can’t go wrong getting a pizza anywhere in the city. But if you want something truly unforgettable: the best restaurants are lined up on Via dei Tribunali (nicknamed “Pizza Street”).
You may have to wait 1.5 hours for a spot at Sorbillo during dinner time (shorter at lunch), but it is well worth the wait. Similar waiting periods apply to Da Michele, the oldest pizzeria in Napoli. Da Michele has been especially famous since it was featured in Eat, Pray, Love. Alternatively, try the delicious pizza at Di Matteo, Presidente or Vesi, all great options for quality pizza as well.
The pizza served in Naples is traditional: hand tossed dough with a thin crust. It is topped with either marinara (tomato sauce and oregano) or Margarita (tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil). Although other toppings are available, these are the authentic classics so I suggest starting with those and then upgrading to the fresh buffalo mozarella pizza (it’s out of this world). The pizzas are baked super fast in a searing hot wood-fired oven, basically just enough to get crispy and melt the cheese. The result is mind blowing. Honestly, pizza in Naples will change you forever. No pizza will ever compare!
Naples also offers another type of pizza: pizza fritta. This one is for the real gluttons. It is like a deep-fried calzone with the sauce, cheese and meat in the middle. Da Zia Esterina Sorbillo does an incredible one.
It’s hard to believe, but eating pizza isn’t the only worthwhile thing to do in Naples!
Pizza isn’t the only tasty oven baked things to eat in Campania. They also have great taste in deserts and pastries. The best thing is that they sell fresh pastries at every café, and you can even get them as a little snack to go.
One of the classic pastries from Campania is called “sfogliatella“, which loosely translates to “thin layers”. The pastries are shaped like a sea shell from thin layers of crispy dough stacked on top of each other for the riccia (curly) version and smooth for the frolla. They’re often filled with almond paste, orange flavored ricotta, and candied lemon.
Another tasty sweet treat is the rum baba. These were popularized when Naples was under French rule. Babas are yeast cakes soaked in rum and sugar syrup. The result is a soft, sweet and sticky pastry. Don’t underestimate them, the rum gives them quite a kick!
The people of Sicily also have the art of pastry making down!
Think cows milk is good? Then you have to try buffalo milk. Italian waterbuffalo’s produce a very rich and creamy milk, perfect for ice cream and cheese. Buffalo milk is a staple in Campanian cuisine, and dishes with buffalo milk are some of the best things to eat in Campania.
Mozzarella di Buffala is even creamier than regular mozzarella. the center is soft and gooey and runs like an egg yolk when you open it. Imagine that on top of a pizza 😉
Another famous Italian cheese, Parmesan cheese, is traditionally made in Emilia-Romagna
The high fat content make bufalo milk ice cream is super rich and creamy. Not for those on a diet, but you should never be on a diet in Italy. Just eat all those delicious gelatos, you deserve it! Gelateria Fantasia Gelati produces amazing gelato with pure, local ingredients such as fresh fruit and buffalo milk.
One of the best things to do with buffalo milk is to turn it into buffalo mozarella and to turn that into a caprese salad.
Caprese salad originated on Capri, a small island off the coast of Naples. It’s a simple yet delicious salad traditionally made with mozzarella, tomato and oregano and arugula. The slices of mozzarella and tomato are layered and drizzled with olive oil. However, modern caprese salads both in Italy and abroad use basil instead of oregano and add balsamic vinegar.
Just like a pizza Margherita, it has the colors of the Italian flag (red, white and green). Caprese salad is a perfect example of Italian cooking: simple, but with bold flavors and high quality ingredients. It looks really pretty and is so delicious. It’s the perfect refreshing, yet filling salad to eat on a sunny Italian day. The quality of the tomatoes and mozzarella in Campania will likely make it the best salad you’ve ever had, and one of the best things to eat in Campania.
Spaghetti alle vongole
Is there anything better than eating seafood by the seaside? Even though I don’t eat fish anymore, I can still see the appeal. Walking along the harbor in Naples, with all the seafood restaurants, I could hear the plates of fresh fish calling my name.
Naples, and the whole Campania coast, has some of the best seafood and fish dishes in Italy. One of the most popular is the classic spaghetti alle vongole. This dish has spread all through Italy, but it’s originally from Naples.
Planning a trip to Italy? Naples is only one of my favorite cities in the country
Spaghetti alle vongole embodies everything that’s great about Italian cuisine: fresh, quality ingredients combined into a simple and flavorful dish. Al dente pasta with a delicate sauce of olive oil, white wine and tomatoes. With plump clams and subtle hints of garlic, basil and parsley. Can you taste it?
Naples and the whole province of Campania is a food heaven. From fresh pizza to sugary treats, there are so many delicious things to eat in Campania. If you’re a foodie, I highly recommend booking a trip to Naples and tasting the cuisine of Campania for yourself.
What are your favorite dishes from the Campania region? Have you had real Naples pizza? Let’s talk food in the comments.
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