When the Moon Hits Your Eye: Where to Eat the Best Pizza, Sfogliatelle and Babà in Naples

The Italian city is held together by a thriving food culture, influencing diets the world over.

Neapolitan pizza margherita
Neapolitan pizza margherita, of course. NurPhoto via Getty Images

The most famous anthem for one of the most unique cities comes courtesy of the Italian singer Pino Daniele. Napule è tutto nu suonno. E a’ sape tutto o’ munno,” he croons in the aptly-named 1977 hit Napule è.

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The lyrics translate to “Naples is really just a dream and the whole world knows it,” and are a deft description of the hectic, crowded city, which, unlike Rome, doesn’t cater to tourists, and unlike Milan, has a certain amount of grit. What it does have in common with the rest of Italy is that the people here are all held together by a thriving food culture, influencing diets the world over.

The city revolves around food, and the cuisine comes with no frills and lots of history. Naples is, after all, the birthplace of pizza (pizzaiuolo, the art of Neapolitan pizza-making, holds UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Status), along with plenty of other homegrown delights, all of which help make Napoli a must-visit stop on any tourist’s tour of Italy. 

Whether you’re spending a few days here or just have an afternoon in the splendid city, these are the historic cafes, neighborhood eateries and iconic pizza places to visit in Naples. 

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L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele

Via Cesare Sersale 1, 80139, Napoli, Italy

When visiting Paris, you go to the Eiffel Tower; in New York, you see the Statue of Liberty. And in Naples, you head to L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele. This renowned pizzeria first opened in 1870, and today, offers just four varieties of pizza (margherita, marinara, cosacca and marita), with lines that often stretch down the block. But as Julia Roberts said in Eat, Pray, Love (her character visits this very spot in the film): “This is pizza margherita in Napoli, it is your moral imperative to eat and enjoy that pizza.” 

a large pizza oven
Pizzeria Trianon.

Pizzeria Trianon

Via Pietro Colletta, 44, 80139 Napoli NA, Italy

Let’s say you want to skip Da Michele, either because you don’t want the endless line to gobble up too much of your day, or perhaps you’re just a contrarian. Behold: Pizzeria Trianon. Located just around the corner from Da Michele, and just as historic (it’s celebrating 100 years in business in 2023), Trianon has the space to accommodate plenty of hungry visitors looking for high-quality Neapolitan pizza. Take a seat in the multi-level digs and order a wood-fried pie, with dough made using a technique passed down through the generations. Top it with sausage, broccoli or anchovies, take a bite and you might forget all about Da Michele. 

inside of puff pastry
Pintauro.

Pintauro

Via Toledo, 275, 80132 Napoli NA, Italy

Sfogliatella is one of Napoli’s most iconic desserts. This ricotta-filled flaky pastry is a hallmark of Italian bakeries everywhere, but it all started here at Pintauro: a 200-year-old bakery that introduced the world to the tasty wonders of sfogliatella. Once you bite into Pintauro’s iteration of the treat, which is crunchy on the outside and soft and luscious on the inside, you’ll come to realize that these could very well be the best sfogliatella you’ll ever have the pleasure of trying. 

exterior of pizza place
Gran Caffè Gambrinus.

Gran Caffè Gambrinus

Via Chiaia, 1, 80132 Napoli NA, Italy

It’s the mother of all Neapolitan espresso and pastry shops. Initially founded in 1860, this historic cafe, located near the Royal Palace and the Teatro di San Carlo opera house, treats the concoction of a steaming cup of espresso as artistically as Michelangelo did when he created David. The pastries here are just as delectable as the coffee, with beloved Neapolitan sweets like the babà (rum soaked sponge cake), pastiera (Easter grain pie) and multiple varieties of the aforementioned sfogliatella. It’s no wonder everyone from Oscar Wilde to Ernest Hemingway were rumored to frequent Gambrinus. 

Frittatine
Frittatine. Rob LeDonne

Antica Pizzeria Di Matteo

Via dei Tribunali, 94, 80138 Napoli NA, Italy

Allow me to introduce you to your new favorite food: Frittatine, or fried pasta balls. Antica Pizzeria Di Matteo, a favorite in the city since 1936, is the best place to try this tasty, round ball of goodness. Stuffed with cheese and béchamel as well as the traditional bucatini, these are crunchy on the outside, and like a cheesy plate of pasta inside. Sure, Di Matteo pushes some of the best pizza and calzone around, too, but it’s frittatine they’re most proud of. Leave it to the Italians to invent a way to eat pasta on the go. 

a handheld fried pizza
Sorbillo Wallet and Fried Pizza.

Sorbillo Wallet and Fried Pizza

Via Toledo, 244 80132 Napoli NA, Italy

Speaking of on-the-go food: In fast-paced Napoli, the locals are often either rushing to or from work, and the tourists are usually traipsing from one shop and sight to another. So it stands to reason that the local food, including on bustling Toledo street and by the city’s docks, is often in to-go form. Here’s where the Sorbillo fried pizza, a marvelous snack of ingenuity in the form of a folded-up fried pizza, stuffed with your choice of fillings. Rejoice when your order is  given to you wrapped in blue-striped paper, like a gift from the culinary gods. This treat is the brainchild of the pizzaiolo legend Gino Sorbillo, who also has a traditional eatery, the equally iconic Gino e Toto Sorbillo, nearby, among many other pizza meccas worldwide.

terrace at hotel in naples
La Terrazza dei Barbanti. La Terrazza dei Barbanti

La Terrazza dei Barbanti at Hotel San Francesco al Monte

C.so Vittorio Emanuele, 328, 80135 Napoli NA, Italy

Let’s face it: Naples isn’t exactly known for its fine dining scene. However, there are elegant options to be found, and one of these restaurants is atop the Hotel San Francesco al Monte. Originally built as a monastery in the 16th century, the property was later renovated for civilian use, while keeping its medieval qualities, including intricate stonework floors, massive dining rooms and a chapel. La Terrazza dei Barbanti is perched on the roof of the hotel, and the restaurant offers panoramic views of the city (including the mighty Mount Vesuvius), a resident piano player and delectable dishes such as simple local pastas like orecchiette with octopus and red tuna with carrot puree. 

Totò, Eduardo e … Pasta e fagioli

C.so Vittorio Emanuele, 514, 80135 Napoli NA, Italy

Leave the city center for a legitimate neighborhood restaurant, with nary a tourist in sight. At the curiously-named Totò, Eduardo e…Pasta e fagioli, the dish of pasta and beans is certainly on the menu, as are a variety of hometown plates, including the pasta and potatoes with provola cheese, a heavy entrée which just might be the very definition of comfort food. The Genovese sauce, made with pork and onions, is another highlight at this eatery, which has been around for 50 years. Eat and drink the night away on the breezy terrace, surrounded by cardboard cutouts of local soccer stars—because if there’s one thing Neapolitans love more than food, it’s their hometown team. 

a glass of wine against taps
Bacco’s.

Bacco’s

Via Michelangelo da Caravaggio, 56, 80126 Napoli NA, Italy

For another off-the-beaten path, local-approved spot, head to Bacco’s. It’s a wine-lover’s dream; here, the vino comes in the form of draft nozzles, which pour out whatever red, white or bubbly you prefer. For a weary American used to getting financially fleeced when it comes to wine, it’s a treat that quality glasses here are available for just €3 (a touch over $3). Even better: if you’re feeling especially parched and adventurous, Bacco’s also offers an approximately $8.75 all-you-can drink option. Choose from 14 top-quality vinos, including Sicilian Nero D’avola and a lusciously sweet Primitivo.

When the Moon Hits Your Eye: Where to Eat the Best Pizza, Sfogliatelle and Babà in Naples