Naples, Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast are a culinary Valhalla, where produce and well-trained taste buds have created one of the world’s most envied culinary landscapes. Whet your appetite with the following Italian food essentials, straight from the pages of Lonely Planet’s latest Naples, Pompeii & the Amalfi Coast travel guide.
A day in food
- Colazione (breakfast): often little more than a pre-work espresso with a cornetto (Italian croissant) or a sfogliatella (sweet ricotta-filled pastry).
- Pranzo (lunch): traditionally the main meal of the day, with many businesses closing for la pausa (afternoon break). Standard restaurant times are noon to 3pm, though locals don’t lunch before 2pm.
- Aperitivo: popular in Naples, post-work drinks sees numerous bars offer tasty morsels for the price of a drink between 5pm and 8pm.
- Cena (dinner): traditionally lighter than lunch, though still a main meal. Standard restaurant hours are 7.30pm to 11pm (later in summer). Most locals don’t dine before 8.30pm.
What to eat
Italian term for ‘pride of place’ is campanilismo but a more accurate word would be formaggisimo: loyalty to the local cheese. Each region is fiercely proud of its local delicacies, from fine cheeses to inspired pasta sauces and sinfully indulgent desserts. The following are some of the best.
Naples: features Italy’s best pizza, as well as spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams) and pasta cacio e pepe (pasta with caciocavallo cheese and pepper). Fill up on sartù (rice timbale with cheese, vegetables and meat). Snack on pizza fritta (fried pizza dough stuffed with charcuterie, cheese and tomato) and supplì di riso (fried rice balls). Desserts include pastiera napoletana (a citrus-scented ricotta tart).
Caserta: internationally renowned for its moreish mozzarella di bufala (buffalo-milk mozzarella).
Capri: light insalata caprese (mozzarella, tomato and basil salad) and calorific torta caprese (almond and chocolate cake). Wash it down with limoncello (lemon liqueur).
Ischia: plunge into spaghetti alla puttanesca (spaghetti with olives, chilli, garlic and tomato sauce), coniglio all’ischiatana (rabbit with garlic, chilli, tomato, herbs and white wine), and aromatic vino from top local wineries Casa D’Ambra and Pietritorcia.
Minori: taste-test the town’s pasta, especially its fresh scialatielli (thick ribbons of pasta) and ’ndunderi, ancient Roman percursors of gnocchi.
Cetara: savour Italy’s best anchovies with spaghetti con alici e finocchietto selvatico (spaghetti with anchovies and wild fennel) and colatura di alici (anchovy essence).
Salerno & the Cilento: drizzle Colline Salernitane DOP extra virgin olive oil and devour buffalo-milk mozzarella from Paestum. Other notable Cilento cheeses include goat’s milk cacioricotta di capra and cow’s milk caciocavallo podolico.
When to go: seasonal food highlights
There’s never a bad time to raise your fork in Campania. Plan your trip to accompany your favourite flavours:
Spring (Mar–May): asparagus, artichokes and Easter specialities. Celebrate regional vino at Naples’ Wine & The City.
Summer (Jun–Aug): eggplants, peppers, tomatoes and Cetara’s Sagra del Tonno. Bite into albicocche vesuviane (Vesuvian apricots) and pere mastantuono (mastantuono pears).
Autumn (Sep–Oct): mushrooms, chestnuts, black truﬄes and mele annurche (annurche apples). Plough through pasta at Minori’s Gustaminori food fest and taste-test island ﬂavours at Ischia’s Vinischia.
Winter (Dec–Feb): Christmas and Carnevale treats, plus turf staples like zuppa di castagne e fagioli (chestnut and bean soup). Dig into sausages by a bonﬁre at Sorrento’s Sagra della Salsiccia e Ceppone.
This article was published in April 2013. It was updated by Helena Smith in October 2015.
Enticed by the plump mozzarella and aromatic wines of Italy's loveliest stretch of coast? Plan your trip with Lonely Planet's Naples, Pompeii & the Amalfi Coast travel guide.