Culinary Campania

A guide to the best dishes, food specialties, and wines of Italy's Campania region

Pizza

The world owes Naples a great debt if for no other reason than for the invention of the "plain" pizza Margherita, a perfect balance of thin flaky dough, tomato sauce, fresh basil, and gooey mozzarella.

Naples had good stock to work with, for Campania is the center of mozzarella production in Italy, with fine mozzarella di bufala, or buffalo-milk mozzarella, made on farms on the Cliento coast around Paestum and served in restaurants across the province.

(Actually, on pizza you'll more often find fiordilatte cheese, which is mozzarella made with cow's milk and holds up better to the heat of cooking).

Non-seafood dishes

Mozzarella is also a key ingredient in gnocchi alla Sorrentina (or any other pasta thusly named), a gooey mix of pasta, tomatoes, and cheese.

Neapolitans are masters of the simple dishes, including pasta e fagioli (beans and pasta), and scaloppina al limone, a simple veal scallop in a lemon sauce.

Seafood

But since Campania is mainly coastal, some of its best cuisine is of a fishy nature. Any pasta or risotto (rice) alla pescatora (fisherman's style) or ai frutti di mare (literally "fruits of the sea") will be infused with a selection of seafood, generally some combination of:

  • vongole (clams)
  • cozze (mussels)
  • ostriche (oysters)
  • calamari (squid)
  • polpo (octopus)
  • gamberi/gamberoni/scampi (shrimp)
  • ricci di mare (sea urchin)
  • aragostini (crawfish)
  • aragote (lobster)
  • granchio (crab)

Any pasta cooked al cartoccio is basically the same sort of seafood-smothered dish, only this time all the ingredients are tossed together, wrapped in foil, and baked.

Naples' most typical dish is spaghetti con le vongole, spaghetti tossed with the tiny, delicious clams found in the city's bay called vongole veraci.

You may find your fresh fish cooked all'acqua pazza, in "crazy waters" with baby tomatoes, white wine, and spices (often including capers).

Campania wines & liqueurs

Of Campanian wines, some of the best include Lacryma Christi,"Christ's Tears," grown on the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius by monks, Ravello's juicy local white, and the dry Greco di Tufo.

In shops on Capri and along the Amalfi Coast, you'll find bottles of limoncello, a liqueur made with lemon zest and lots of sugar (best when drunk ice-cold).

» Vineyard tours of Campania

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