Neapolitan Street Food: 6 Snacks You Should Try

Naples, probably along with Palermo, is the Italian capital city of the street food. Check this post to read some suggestions on what to try while in Naples and learn some history behind this custom of eating “on the go”.

Neapolitan_Street_Food

I’m Italian, yet I had to go through a lockdown to truly and fully realize how fundamental life in open spaces is for us. The weather, the climate, the natural predisposition to social life lead us to pass plenty of time outside, shopping in open markets, sipping aperitivo in the public piazzas and walking up and down the city centres for the struscio (or vasca, according to where you live).

There are local realities that take this a step further and opt for street food, even though Italians have a reputation for taking their time and having a meal together sitting around a table. One example of this is the city of Naples.

Back in the days, having a meal “on the go” in Naples had little to do with hurry, but rather with poverty. Eating street food was cheap and, at the beginning of the 20th century, you could actually buy a portion of pizza for just one soldo. But don’t be fooled, the love for a lunch or dinner consumed at home was definitely present and once one could spend some more money on food, one definitely headed there:

…as soon as three coins a day are available for lunch, the good Neapolitan people, that is eaten away by the homesickness, doesn’t go to the innkeeper in order to buy ready-to-eat food, but has lunch at home, on the floor, on the threshold or sitting on a broken chair.

Matilde Serao, Il Ventre di Napoli (p. 20-21, translated by me)

Nowadays, even though the love for a table laden with food and conviviality is undeniable, street food is a common habit very ingrained in the local culture: Naples’ streets and alleys, after all, are a living entity and perfectly portray the buzzing energy so characteristic of this city.

Neapolitan street food represents also a great way to save some money if you’re there on holiday (even though, to be honest, prices of restaurants and pizzerias are generally very affordable in comparison with other Italian cities).

Here following, you will find a list of some of the street food you should try while in Naples. The amount of this kind of food is quite consistent, but here I’m listing only some of the most common specialties, easier to access for tourists.

PIZZA A PORTAFOGLIO

Pizza a portafoglio, also called pizza a libretto, is a lighter version of the most popular pizza: it is smaller, it has less topping, and it is easier to carry around, since it is basically a “folded small pizza”. The classic version, with few ingredients, usually costs around 1,5/2 €.

PIZZA FRITTA

pizza_fritta_naples

The pizza fritta (“fried pizza”) was invented after WWII in order to face the crisis, given that even the classic pizza, a traditionally cheap food, had become a luxury, due to the difficulty to find and pay for ingredients like tomato and mozzarella.

The dough, during the frying process, inflates and the empty space is filled with ricotta cheese, salami and mozzarella. At the time, preparation and selling happened on the streets: the dough, previously prepared by the pizzaiolo, was fried and sold by his wife in a stall located along the alley.

The imagery connected with the post-war “business” of the fried pizza is perfectly represented by a 1954 movie called “The Gold of Naples”, in which a young Sophia Loren portrays a Neapolitan seller of pizza fritta.

Loren_Pizza_Fritta
Sophia Loren in The Gold of Naples, pic of public domain. In this movie it is also represented the old Neapolitan tradition of the “pizza a otto”. The panel you see in the frame says: “You eat today and pay in 8 days”.

CUOPPO

cuoppo

The Neapolitan cuoppo is a cone of vax paper filled with fried goodies. The traditional cuoppo (“cuoppo fritto” or “cuoppo di terra”) is usually composed by zeppoline salate, panzarotti (called also crocchè) made with potatoes, cheese and ham, Neapolitan arancini, mozzarella in carrozza  and scagliuozz (small triangles of fried polenta). A more recent invention is the “cuoppo di mare”, made with fried fish and fried vegetables.

TARALLI SUGNA E PEPE

tarallo sugna e pepe

Well, as a carbohydrate’s fan, this is absolutely a favourite of mine. This is quite an old recipe, which is the result of the resourcefulness of 1700’s bakers who were located in the fondaci, a very poor area near the port. Instead of throwing away the leftovers of the dough used to make the bread, they opted for re-using them, giving them a ring shape and adding pepper and lard. At the beginning of 1800, almonds were also added to the recipe, giving birth to the a snack, which was sold by peddlers and that represented a nourishing yet cheap food for the poor Neapolitan workers.

Nowadays you can find taralli in the osterie, served with wine, beer or even sea water, and they are sold in the tarallerie (specialized shops) and bakeries, by piece, in packets or by the kilo.

FRITTATINE DI PASTA

frittatina di pasta

Frittatine di pasta are often consumed in pizzerias as an appetizer before pizza, or as street food. A frittatina is a disc of dough of 10 cm, filled with bucatini pasta, white sauce, peas, ham and provola cheese, covered with batter and fried. Some varieties also contain ragù (see pic).

SFOGLIATELLA

sfogliatella_riccia

Let’s end this post with a dessert. One of the most common street desserts is the famous sfogliatella, invented in the 18th century, by the nuns of the ancient St.Rosa Cloister located in the Amalfi coast. For this reason, the sweet was called “Sfogliatella Santarosa”. At the beginning of the following century, one of the nuns passed the recipe to her nephew P. Pintauro, who had a patisserie in via Toledo in Naples (which is still present nowadays) and the rest is history: he modified the recipe and invented the typical Neapolitan sfogliatella. There are two versions of it, the sfogliatella frolla and the sfogliatella riccia (see pic). The filling is equal for both: it is made with semolina, ricotta cheese, eggs, sugar, candied fruits, orange blossom’s water, vanilla and cinnamon and it is very aromatic. In Naples you usually find these two typologies, whereas in the rest of the region Campania, you can still find the original Santarosa and its spinoff version called coda d’aragosta (“lobster’s tail”), with a filling made of cream and chocolate or with chantilly cream.

I hope you enjoyed these suggestions and remember: if you’re going to try fry street food, opt for the places that make it in the moment, as you don’t want to eat it cold. Avoid stalls selling already made fried food.


Have you ever been in Naples and tried one of these goodies?

 

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7 thoughts on “Neapolitan Street Food: 6 Snacks You Should Try

  1. Mammamia, the sfogliatella is so delicious! I can hear the crunch and feel the ricotta oozing out – a meal in itself. Thanks for your detailed food story. I’ve always wondered how the pizza fritta came to be. I need to see the movie you mentioned.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Omg the crunch of the sfogliatella riccia 😭❤ I also love the “lobster’s tail”, which is basically a sfogliatella riccia with chantilly cream.
      You can easily find The Gold of Naples/ L’Oro di Napoli on the Internet. It’s a single movie divided in episodes: the second one is entitled “pizze a credito” and you can see Sophia Loren serving pizze fritte 😄

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sfogliatelle are one of my favourite foods! 😋. I have had them from Attanasio and Gambrinus but need to try Pintauro! Since I can’t go to Napoli in July and October as I was supposed to, I will just keep dreaming of hot crunchy sfogliatelle. Ciao, Cristina

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ciao Cristina, sorry you can’t go back to Naples in the current situation 😦 I’ve read that many Neapolitan people state that Attanasio makes better sfogliatelle than Pintauro! I can’t really judge as I’ve tried only Pintauro!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ciao Sara. Attanasio’s are straight from the oven, so they are hot–but i have had sfogliatelle at the airport and even from street vendors in Napoli, and they are all yummy! i will have to wait another year to enjoy one. Ciao, Cristina

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Italian Bread List: 38 Regional Types You Should Try – My Dear Italia

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