In the heart of southern Italy, the city of Naples presents a fascinating blend of history and culinary excellence. Our Secret Food Tour: Naples is a journey through the soul of Napoli food and culture. This tour takes you beyond the familiar vistas, offering a glimpse into the vibrant life and flavors that define this historic city.
As we navigate the winding streets of Naples, every corner reveals a new aspect of the city’s rich past. From the grandeur of ancient palaces to the humble origins of world-renowned dishes, Naples serves as a living museum where history and food are inseparably intertwined. Our tour is designed to engage all your senses, letting the colors, sounds, and aromas of Napoli food lead the way.
As you indulge in the city’s culinary offerings, you’ll also immerse yourself in the stories behind the buildings, streets, and, most importantly, the food. This tour is about understanding the essence of Naples.
Naples: An Ancient Gastronomy
Naples, one of the most ancient cities in Europe, has a history that stretches back to its foundation as Parthenope in the 9th century B.C., and later as Neapolis in 470 B.C. This history is not just etched in its architecture and art but is deeply ingrained in its culinary traditions. The city’s past as a major port and its location in the Mediterranean region contributed significantly to its diverse food culture, blending influences from various civilizations that settled or traded here.
The geographical location of Naples, located in the Bay of Naples, has played a pivotal role in shaping its food culture. As a crucial point of connection between different cultures, Naples absorbed culinary influences from the Greeks, Romans, and later from the Byzantines, Normans, and other European powers. Each of these cultures left their mark on the city’s cuisine, creating a unique blend that is both rich in history and flavor.
Napoli food culture is a vivid reflection of its history. The city’s traditional dishes, from the iconic Neapolitan pizza to the lesser-known but equally delightful street foods, are rooted in centuries of cultural exchange and innovation. Food in Naples is a celebration of its historical journey and a testament to the city’s ability to adapt and evolve.
Neapolitan cuisine stands out for its simplicity and the quality of its ingredients. This culinary style, which emerged from a blend of various cultures, is characterized by its focus on fresh, local produce and a commitment to traditional methods of preparation. This approach has not only preserved ancient recipes but has also allowed them to evolve, creating dishes that are both timeless and contemporary.
3 Iconic Dishes You Might Not Know Originated In Naples
Pizza Margherita: A Royal Creation
The origins of what we know as pizza today can be traced back to various forms of flatbreads found in the Mediterranean region. In Naples, these evolved into the dish we now recognize as pizza. By the mid-1800s, pizza had become a popular street food in Naples, made with ingredients that were readily available: tomatoes, mozzarella, and olive oil.
The classic Margherita pizza, as it’s known today, gained fame in 1889 when Raffaele Esposito, a renowned pizzaiolo, was called upon to impress Queen Margherita of Savoy during her visit to Naples. Esposito created three types of pizzas, but the one that caught the Queen’s fancy was topped with mozzarella cheese, basil, and fresh tomatoes – ingredients representing the colors of the Italian flag. He named this creation Pizza Margherita in her honor.
Since 2009, Pizza Margherita has been recognized as one of the three Pizze Napoletane with a Traditional Guaranteed Specialty (STG) label by the EU. This label underscores the importance of quality ingredients and traditional preparation methods.
While the tale of Esposito and Queen Margherita is widely celebrated, some historians question its authenticity. The legend’s veracity has been debated, with suggestions that it might have been embellished to enhance the pizzeria’s fame during challenging times like the Great Depression and Mussolini’s rise.
Neapolitan Ice Cream: A Colorful Delight
Neapolitan Ice Cream, known for its distinct layers of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, is a delightful representation of Naples’ influence on the world of desserts. Its origins are as colorful and layered as the dessert itself.
The creation of Neapolitan Ice Cream dates back to the 19th century in Italy. It is believed that the traditional Italian gelato was ingeniously combined with the cream base of French-style ice cream to form what we now recognize as Neapolitan ice cream. This fusion of culinary styles resulted in a dessert with a unique blend of flavors and textures.
In the 19th century, as immigrants from Naples and other parts of southern Italy made their way to the United States, they brought with them their rich culinary traditions, including their version of ice cream. Neapolitan vendors in the U.S. introduced the concept of selling ice cream as a convenient, anytime treat, which quickly gained popularity. The term “Neapolitan-style” soon became synonymous with any type of ice cream in the English-speaking world.
The origins of Neapolitan ice cream are also linked to Spumoni, a traditional southern Italian ice cream made of multiple blocks of ice cream put together. Spumoni typically features flavors like cherry, chocolate, and pistachio. The layered look of Spumoni likely influenced the development of Neapolitan ice cream. Additionally, the 19th-century trend for layered foods, including cakes and jellies, played a role in the popularization of this type of ice cream. Originally, Neapolitan ice cream included layers of flavors like lemon, vanilla, coffee, almond, and chocolate, eventually evolving to the now-classic combination of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.
The specific choice of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry flavors for Neapolitan ice cream was an adaptation to the popular tastes in the United States. This simplification of the original diverse flavors made the dessert more accessible and appealing to a broader audience.
Today, Neapolitan ice cream remains a beloved treat worldwide, a symbol of Naples’ enduring culinary influence. Its lasting popularity can be attributed to the clever combination of flavors that cater to different preferences, all in one delightful dessert.
Sfogliatella: A Pastry Masterpiece
Sfogliatella, a quintessential Neapolitan pastry, presents a rich history as layered as its flaky texture. This iconic dessert traces its origins to the convent kitchens of Italy and embodies the Neapolitan spirit of innovation and culinary artistry.
The story of sfogliatella begins in the 17th century at the Santa Rosa Convent in the Amalfi Coast region. Here, nuns created the first iteration of this pastry, originally known as ‘Santa Rosa’. The nuns, seeking to use leftover ingredients, combined semolina, dried fruit, sugar, and lemon liqueur to create a unique filling. Wrapped in a dough made with lard and white wine, the initial version was shaped like a monk’s hood and topped with custard cream and black cherries in syrup.
It wasn’t until the early 19th century that sfogliatella took its current form. Pasquale Pintauro, a pastry chef in Naples, acquired the original recipe and modified it, giving rise to the sfogliatella we know today. He transformed the pastry into its now-famous shell shape, or ‘riccia’, and introduced an alternative version, ‘frolla’, with a crumbly, tender dough. This innovation marked a pivotal moment, embedding sfogliatella into Naples’ tradition.
The sfogliatella riccia is recognized by its characteristic crispy layers, resembling the leaves of a book, while the sfogliatella frolla features a softer, shortcrust pastry. Both types share the same rich filling, often made of ricotta, semolina, and candied fruits. The meticulous preparation process, involving the layering and folding of dough, contributes to the pastry’s unique texture and appearance.
The Secret Food Tour in Naples offers an immersive journey through the city’s culinary landscape, making it a memorable experience for any food enthusiast. Beginning in the iconic Piazza Dante, right in front of Dante’s statue, the tour presents an opportunity to explore the historic center and the Decumani area – the true heart of Naples. This tour isn’t just a tasting experience; it’s a deep exploration of the city’s food culture and history. Participants are introduced to a variety of local specialties in areas that hold significant historical and cultural value, providing a holistic understanding of Naples’ unique culinary identity.
By the end of the tour, you are not only satiated with delightful Neapolitan dishes but also enriched with the stories and traditions that shape the city’s food culture. For those seeking an authentic Napoli food experience and a chance to see the city through the eyes of a local, this tour is an unmissable opportunity. Check out more details of the tour on the official Napoli Food Tour page and book your tour to embrace this unique experience.