Those with a sweet tooth will find much to enjoy on a visit to Naples. The city boasts in fact a wide variety of indulgent cakes and desserts. Here’s what to try when you’re in town (and where).
Campania’s oldest dessert, sfogliatella was invented in the cloistered convent of Santa Rosa in Conca dei Marini on the Amalfi Coast in the 17th century. A pastry chef from Naples, Pasquale Pintauro, later acquired the original recipe and began selling the pastries in his shop in 1818.
Sfogliatelle, made to resemble a monk’s cowl, are traditionally filled with ricotta, semolina, milk, candied eggs and sugar; fillings may vary and can include almond paste or candied citron peel. The dough is shaped to form pockets and is baked until the layers separate, to form the sfogliatella's typical ridges.
Where: Antico Forno f.lli Attanasio, vico Ferrovia 1/2/3/4, Naples.
A famous Neapolitan dessert that is traditionally eaten at Easter, but really works for all occasions, pastiera napoletana is made with ricotta, candied fruit, eggs, sugar and wheat boiled in milk.
Apparently, the modern pastiera was also invented in a convent, this time right in Naples. Pastiera should be prepared a few days before eating so that the different flavors can mix well. It should be served in the appropriate pans called “ruoti” so that it doesn’t crumble.
Where: Pasquale Marigliano, via G. D’Annunzio 23, San Gennarello di Ottaviano, Naples.
The dessert that is now synonymous with Naples wasn’t actually invented in Naples, but in France (which in turn was inspired by a classic Polish dessert) and later exported to the Italian city.
The dough technique and leavening times are essential to a good babà. The dough is left to rise for a long time in an elongated cone trunk, then cooked in a very hot oven. This gives it an amber color and its typical “mushroom” shape. After it’s cooked, it’s left to dry for at least a day to drain most of the moisture. It is then partially immersed in large containers full of a hot liquid, either sugar syrup, rum (classic version), or other spirits such as limoncello.
Where: Pasticceria Leone, via Riviera di Chiaia 61, Naples.
There’s no Father’s Day in Naples without zeppole, but this classic pastry is popular all year round. It's made with flour and water; the dough is then deep-fried and topped with powdered sugar and filled with crema pasticcera (custard) and three black cherries in its classic version; variants include jelly, cannoli-style pastry cream, or a butter-and-honey mixture.
Where: Tarallificio Pasticceria Leopoldo, via Foria 212, Naples.
Graffa is a sugar-coated fried donut with a base of flour, eggs and yeast usually prepared at Carnival time, but available throughout the year.
Graffa was invented during the Austrian domination of Campania in the 18th century. In fact, it’s a reworked version of the Austrian Krapfen, small fried sweets filled with jam.
Where: Pasticceria Capriccio, via S. Giovanni a Carbonara 39, Naples.
What's your favorite Neapolitan dessert?