The flavour of Naples dominates the whole of Campania. It’s the true home of the pizza, rapidly baked in searingly hot wood-fired ovens and running with olive oil, as well as fantastic street food, served in numerous outlets known as friggitorie – sample delicacies such as fried pizzas (pizzette or panzarotti), heavenly crocchè (potato croquettes), arancini (rice balls) and fiorilli (courgette flowers in batter).
Naples is also the home of pasta and tomato sauce, made with fresh tomatoes and basil, and laced with garlic. Aubergines and courgettes turn up endlessly in pasta sauces, as does the tomato-mozzarella pairing (the regions to the north and east of Naples are the home of mozzarella), the latter particularly good with gnocchi. Seafood is excellent all along the coast: clams combine with garlic and oil for superb spaghetti alle vongole; mussels are often prepared as zuppa di cozze (with hot pepper sauce and croutons); fresh squid and octopus are ubiquitous.
There are loads of great pastries: not to be missed is the sfogliatella, a flaky triangular pastry-case stuffed with ricotta and candied peel, and the fragrant Easter cake, pastiera, made with ricotta and softened wheat grain. Further to the south, the marshy plains of the Cilento produce fabulous strawberries, artichokes and mozzarella cheese – much of the mozzarella that comes from here is made from pure buffalo milk, unmixed with cow’s milk.
The volcanic slopes of Vesuvius are among the most ancient wine-producing areas in Italy, but despite that the region doesn’t have a great reputation for wine. The best choices for a Campanian white are Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino and Falanghina – all fruity yet dry. Ischia also produces good whites, notably Biancolella, while Lacryma Christi, from the slopes of Mount Vesuvius, is available in red and white varieties and is enjoying a resurgence after years of being considered cheap plonk. Among pure reds, there’s the unusual but delicious Gragnano, a red sparkling wine that’s best served slightly chilled, and Taurasi – like the best wines of the region made from the local Aglianico grape.