Journey through the Pastries of Napoli

Pastries of Naples Italy  


This recent trip to Naples wasn’t only about the pizza.  With delicious food that ranges from fried treats to decadent desserts, Neapolitan cuisine can satisfy any food lover.  This food lover absolutely sampled as much as possible.  Before delving into the Neapolitan sauces I learned to make with Napoli Unplugged, let’s start with my favorite course: dessert!

On my first day in the city, I got a rather impromptu pastry lesson on the streets of Naples. While patiently waiting for the walk sign before crossing the street and holding my first pastry purchase of the trip carefully in front of me, I saw two guys cross AGAINST the light!  I laughed at myself because it was then I realized how much safer it might be to cross with them and when there were no cars instead of waiting for a light to give me some false sense of security. 

One of the guys mistook my laughing as flirtation, and stopped to talk.  Certain that I was a foreigner, his first question was, “Di dove sei?” (Where are you from?).  What actually gave my foreign status away, I’m not sure: was it my red hair and pasty skin or the fact that I was actually waiting for a traffic light?  After I answered he called out to his friend, “Ay, Oh, lei e Amerigana!” 

His Neapolitan accent, pronouncing “Americana” with the hard g and the “Ay” and “Oh” to get his friend’s attention, made me laugh even harder.  This, of course, only encouraged them.  I continued to chat for a while and soon the subject of food came up.

They peeked into my bag and proceeded to school me on the make up of the Zeppole di San Giuseppe I had in my hand.  While they might have been the most unlikely source of information, what they said was similar to the information those in the pastry shops gave me. Besides, they were a fun intro to my pastry-eating adventures in Napoli.


Love Neapolitan food and its region? – Join me and taste and cook the best pizza, pasta & pastries this region offers on an 8-day/7-night all-inclusive vacation to the Amalfi Coast! We’ll definitely be tasting and making some of these delicious pastries

Food Lover’s Amalfi Coast Vacation – Reserve your spot today!





Below are photos and a few details of what I learned during my journey through the pastries of Napoli:




Sfogliatelle (Riccia) – To thoroughly appreciate this pastry, you need to eat it right out of the oven while it’s still warm.  (Like Parisian croissants and other viennoiserie, sfogliatella loses its deliciousness after a few hours.) The crust is crunchy and flaky and the filling creamy and not overly sweet.  The crust is a sort of puff pastry, where thin layers of pastry are rolled into a cylinder.  Between each layer of pastry is a thin layer of lard.  The pastry is formed into its famous clam-like shell and filled with a custard-like mixture of semolina, ricotta, eggs, sugar, candied citrus and a pinch of cinnamon.   



Sfogliatelle frolla

Sfogliatelle Frolla – The sister to the riccia (curly), the frolla uses pasta frolla (shortbread crust) instead of the flaky sfoglia crust.  The filling is the same; a mixture of semolina, ricotta, eggs, sugar, candied citrus and cinnamon.



Baba au Rhum from Naples

Baba au Rhum pastry


Baba au Rhum – A yeast-levened cake soaked in a rum simple syrup, these and the sfogliatelle are the sweet symbols of Napoli.  You can find baba (bah-BAH) plain, like the one above, or filled with fruit and sweetened whipped cream, Nutella, pastry cream, and even ricotta cream. I prefer the ones filled to offset the rum in the syrup.



Zeppole di San Giuseppe
Zeppole di San Giuseppe fried (at left) and baked (at right) 

Zeppole di San Giuseppe – These pastries are in abundance in pastry shops all over the city during the days surrounding il giorno di San Giuseppe (St. Joseph’s Day), March 19th.  It’s a choux paste piped in a ring shape.  The paste/dough is either fried or baked, and then filled with a lemon pastry cream and topped with macerated Amarena cherries.   

As I stated, they come in two forms, fried and baked. At the first pastry shop I asked the clerk which was better.  I got a look from him that said, “It’s obvious, Amerigana” as he told me, “I fritti” (the fried ones). At the second pastry shop, when I specifically asked for the one “al forno” (baked), I again got a look from the clerk, letting me know that I obviously chose the wrong one. I had to try both, and both were quite good.  Yes, the fried one is better.




Torta Caprese

Torta Caprese Cioccolato


Torta Caprese – This is a flourless chocolate cake from the Isle of Capri. There are many versions depending on how fine you chop the almonds. I prefer that the almonds are finely chopped, creating a denser and moister cake.  At Pasticceria Scaturchio they used more coarsely chopped almonds, but the cake was still quite moist due to a bit of liqueur included in the recipe.   



Torta Caprese al Limone

Torta Caprese al Limone – This is the lemon version to the chocolate cake from Capri.  White chocolate and lemon, lemon rind, and limoncello replace the dark chocolate and cocoa powder to give you a dense cake full of lemon flavor.  Also flourless, this cake uses ground almonds.  Like the chocolate version, much of the texture depends on how finely you chop the almonds.



Delizia al Limone

Delizia al Limone – As its name says, it’s a lemon delight.  Lemon sponge cake imbibed with a limoncello spiked simple syrup, filled with lemon pastry cream and iced with lemon flavored whipped cream.  If you love the lemons, especially the lemons from the Amalfi coast, this is your dessert. (We’ll make this dessert together during the Food Lover’s Amalfi Coast vacation!)



Ricotta e Pera Pastry
Ricotta e Pera with Pan di Spagna (sponge cake)


Ricotta e Pera pastry from Naples
Ricotta e Pera with Biscotti (hazelnut cookies)


Ricotta e Pera – Ricotta cream and whipped cream together with poached pears are sandwiched between a hazelnut biscotti, and sometimes two layers of sponge cake.  I found that restaurants usually serve this dessert with the sponge cake, probably to make it easier to eat.  Pastry shops usually serve it with the biscotti.  While the crunchy biscotti pushes out the soft center when you’re eating it, causing a bit of mess when eating, I still prefer it for the contrast in textures.



Pastiera Easter Cake from Naples

Pastiera – “Non puo mancare sulla tavola di Pasqua” (It can’t be missing on the Easter table) – This is the saying I saw and heard whenever the subject of Pastiera came up.  Because I was in Naples during the “Easter season” (which seems to start immediately after Carnevale), I sampled several.  It was in every pastry shop and on every restaurant menu while I was there in March. 

The crust is a pasta frolla, traditionally made with lard (strutto) instead of butter.  The filling is a ricotta cream and egg mixture that is lightly flavored with rose flower water an studded with cooked hulled wheatberries (grano precotto) and sometimes candied citrus fruit.  (I thought the candied citrus fruit was a must, but a Neapolitan restauranteur told me they are optional – and even made a special Pastiera without the candied citrus for me).  


Scaturchio Pasticceria in Naples

Scaturchio’s – Napoli’s oldest pasticceria

The chocolate disk in the top photo isn’t a pastry you’ll find throughout Naples, but it is the specialty of Scaturchio’s.  It’s their Ministeriale, a chocolate medallion filled with a chocolate and liqueur cream.  It was very good and very rich, with a potent punch of liqueur.  I may have been a little drunk after eating it.


Scaturchio Ministeriale Chocolate Medallion
Scaturchio’s Ministeriale – Chocolate Medallion


Pastries from Naples Italy
Pastries from the Gran Caffe Cimmino


Most of the pastries in these photos came from Scaturchio’s (the oldest pastry shop in Naples) or the Gran Caffe Cimmino.   

ScaturchioPiazza San Domenico Maggiore, 19 

Gran Caffe Cimmino – via Gaetano Filangeri, 12 






  1. Rosa
    April 6th

    Mamma mia, one week more and I’ll be tucking into so much Pastiera my eyes will be bulging!
    I always have the sfoigliatelle from the local’s bar Internazionale at the top at Positano, but the pastries in the window at the Zagara are so tempting too.
    Get round up here. Bet you have fun compiling this!

  2. This seriously has me wanting to RUN to the nearly italian bakery and load up on pastry. Of course, nothing will quite compare to what you got to experience in Naples (I only sought out pizza there, I apparently should have searched for pastry as well!), but it might come in the ballpark!

  3. Celia
    April 6th

    Ooooh, so delicious! My family is from Naples, and I’ve been over a few times. I now have the worst craving for sfogliatelle…

  4. What a great post…. fantastico! You’ve just helped us choose our summer holiday! What better way to spend time tasting pastries. They all look just sublime. That sfogliatelle is definitely on my list: thanks for filling us in that it needs to be warm.

  5. Sortachef
    April 6th

    Oh, man! I’m ready to pack my bags! Thanks for a great travel odyssey!

  6. Paula
    April 6th

    What more can I add … I am gaining weight just reading this.

  7. Wanderluster
    April 6th

    Oh my! These are truly works of art!

  8. Kathy
    April 13th

    Thank you all for your very kind comments!
    Rosa – I’ve noted those two pastry shops in Positano for my return to the Amalfi Coast.
    Kimmy – Yes, I’m definitely a Naples pizza lover, but the pastries, and also the fried treats, pasta & main courses, are just as good.
    Dana – LOL! I start to drool, too, when I look back at these photos.
    Jill – Glad to hear you’re putting Naples on your vacation destination this year….you’ll love all the food.

  9. What a delicious post! I still crave a baba I had in Sicily – so much rum, my head was spinning…

  10. Patrice Millot
    April 29th

    I just discovered you in a strange and unexpected way. I discovered an Italian gelateria in Bournemouth where l recently arrived for work. Had a coffee and decided to taste an assortment of mini italian pastries l had never seen before such as Sfoigliatine etc…The italian waitress was very knowledgeable and so convincing that l tasted more and more of them and then went on a Naples best pastries website to know more. And this is how your website just popped in. And l loved what l read. Voila. And l would really live to follow what you do..I wish you a nice Sunday!!!

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