On the savoury front, Naples is the king of pizza. But what about the sweet side? Surely it’s not neglected in a city that brings together foodies from all corners of the Earth. Well, you’ll be happy to know that Naples does have a signature sweet treat: sfogliatelle.
Sfogliatelle (singular form: sfogliatella) are a shell-shaped pastry filled with sweet ricotta and (often) candied fruit. There are two types of sfogliatelle. Sfogliatelle riccia (meaning curly) are made with crunchy, flaky layers of pastry. On the other hand, sfogliatelle frolla are made with a shortcrust pastry and so they have a smooth shell and a softer texture.
I didn’t spend much time in Naples, but it was very clear to me that Neapolitans take their sfogliatelle seriously. When reading online before my trip, Antico Forno Delle Sfogliatelle Calde Fratelli Attanasio (which means “The Attanasio Brothers’ Antique Bakery of Hot Sfogliatelle”) is consistently labelled as the best bakery in Naples for sfogliatelle. It’s also VERY close to the train station so there was no reason for me to miss trying these legendary sfogliatelle.
The first day of my Italy trip involved me transiting from Rome to Naples. I, of course, had to get pizza (see my post about Pizzeria Di Matteo) and my plan was to get sfogliatelle at the end of the day before continuing my journey onward to Sant’Agnello. I arrived at Antico Forno Attanasio at around 7pm and it was heaving. There were SO many people waiting to get their hands on the goods! And they were all locals, might I add.
When you arrive, you have to take a number, tell the cashier your order, pay up front, and then wait for your number to be called. They were currently at number 66 and when I looked at the next number in the ticket dispenser it was 90! Madness! Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to wait as I needed to catch a train to Sant’Agnello, but I vowed to return when transiting back through Naples. FYI: when I make a foodie vow, I keep it!
A few days later I returned to Antico Forno Attanasio at around 11am and there was still a crowd, albeit not as large a gathering as the one a few nights prior. The whole crowd was made up of locals who were also willing to wait for their share of warm sfogliatelle. As I waited for my number to be called, Italian conversations buzzed all around me. I’m fairly certain that I was the only foreigner there (and with my large backpack and camera in tow, it was painfully obvious!).
The display counter had a wide selection of pastries and desserts. I really wanted to try one of everything! They had babà al rum (a rum soaked cake), zeppoline (baked cream puffs), cannoli, biscuits, cakes, tarts, and of course sfogliatelle. The sfogliatelle were flying off the shelf. The bakers were bringing trays of fresh sfogliatelle into the warming oven behind the serving counter on a regular basis. From there, the staff loaded them onto paper trays for the eager customers. I noticed that the locals were buying sfogliatelle by the dozen. I told you they take their sfogliatelle seriously!
When it was my turn to order, I decided that I wanted to try a range of their pastries in order to get an overall sense of what this place makes. I opted for a sfogliatella frolla (soft), a sfogliatella ricci (flaky), a sfogliatella Santa Rosa (topped with pastry cream and cherries), a babà cioccolato, and two chocolate sticks. I’ll admit that I went a bit overboard. It looked like I was buying for two, but really I was buying for one over-zealous appetite. There was NO way I was going to be able to eat all of this in one sitting, but in time I would surely eat it all.
With my wrapped package of pastries in hand, I marched to the train station. While I waited for my train to Rome, I began digging into my treats. The sfogliatella frolla was A-MAZING. The shell was soft and buttery and the smooth ricotta filling within was perfection. I absolutely loved it! And what’s more, it was so fresh that it was still warm! The flavour and texture of the sfogliatelle are not the only reason people flock to Antico Forno Attanasio. The bakery is known for serving their sfogliatelle straight from the oven and it totally changes the experience!
I next dug into the babà al cioccolato, which was topped with a generous dollop of Nutella. What’s not to love? Although after eating this, I reached a state of sugar fullness and I had to slow down.
Later in the day I ate the sfogliatella ricci and the sfogliatella Santa Rosa. Man, they were GOOD. The buttery layers of flaky pastry complemented the hint of cinnamon in the ricotta filling. I suspect that while Neapolitans happily devour both varieties of sfogliatelle, each person has a particular weakness for one over the other. I ever so slightly preferred the soft one to the crunchy one, but both were delizioso.
Here’s a little tidbit: the story goes that sfogliatelle Santa Rosa were first made in the Monastery of Saint Rose back in the 1600s by nuns and the recipe was kept a secret for a significant amount of time. That is, until a Neapolitan pastry chef obtained the recipe in the 1800s. Don’t you just love food history?!
So is it worth waiting in line at Antico Forno Attanasio to try these famed sfogliatelle? YES, YES, A MILLION TIMES YES. After getting yourself a Neapolitan pizza, trek over to Antico Forno Attanasio for what many locals will argue are the best sfogliatelle in the city. And you definitely should go as overboard with your order as I did. Do me proud!
- When you arrive, push your way through the crowd and into the left of the bakery in order to take a number from the ticket dispenser.
- Normally, you should tell the cashier what you want to order, pay, and he/she will give you a receipt which you hand over the counter once your number is called.
- It can be difficult to see the dessert counter through the waiting crowd, so an alternative is to wait until your number is called and to tell the bakery attendant that you will pay after you’ve made your order. He or she will pass on your wrapped pastries to the cashier and then you can pay at the till. If you’re like me and you want to see the full range of treats before making a choice, this is the best option.
- Antico Forno Attanasio is take-away and cash only.