Technically Piazza Garibaldi is in the district known as the Zona Industriale but the area to the immediate south of the square, where many of these restaurants are located, is known as Mercato (despite there being no market!). See my other post on Garibaldi for a more general introduction to Naples.
For other places (mainly pizzerias) a short walk away (10/15mins) please see my posts on Forcella and Vicaria. Here’s my Google map of Naples to help you.
Trattora e Pizzeria Da Donato (Low Intermediate A), NEW ADDRESS: 41 Via Silvio Spaventa, GEM ALERT!
With your back to the station in Piazza Garibaldi turn down the third side street on the left (Cantina dei Mille is on the corner) and walk past La Brace and Avillenese (mentioned below). You’ll find Da Donato on the right.
Da Donato currently ranks at #17 on Trip Advisor (in March 2015) and is consequently very busy, so it’s pretty essential to book in the evenings or you won’t get in. I didn’t have a reservation the first time I went but as I’d arrived exactly when they opened at 7.30 they let me eat on the promise I would finish in 30 mins. I took 45 and they were ok about it.
I recommend starting with the Bruschetta Al Fantasia, four olive-oil doused pieces of toast topped with bitter friarelli (B), roasted peppers (A), fried button mushrooms (A) and fennel, the latter being the nicest preparation I’ve ever tasted for that vegetable (A+). I’d love to know their secret.
For the pasta course, Spaghetti alla Scoglio (pasta with clams and mussels) is a good choice (B).
Or the Paccheri Ragu e Ricotta is also nice (B).
You could follow this with Frittura di Alici (B+), battered, deep-fried anchovies served in brown paper cones, as is the local habit. Maybe get a green salad to go with it.
Their house white is pretty good for what it is (A) and their Greco di Tufo from Donnahiara is not bad (B) for €15. However their limoncello could do with being chilled a bit more (B). They also have Amaro di Capo from Calabria, which is my favourite bitter digestivo (A).
Three courses with wine and digestivos comes in at only €30 for one, which is an absolute steal. A place I return to time and time again.
Mimi alla Ferrovia (Intermediate A+), 19-21 Via A.D’Aragona, www.mimiallaferrovia.it, Tel. 081 553 8525.
With your back to the train station, go to the far right hand corner of the square and turn right at the Argo porn cinema (!) It’s down the side street, on the left, hidden behind some potted bushes. Be warned this is an area where prostitutes hang around on the street.
In my opinion this is the best mid-range place to eat around the square although it’s a little hard to find. It’s a famous formal Neapolitan restaurant visited by many celebrities over the years as the pictures on the wall attest.
To start I recommend the ‘Antipasti alla Mimi’ which on this occasion (it can vary) involved a ball of mozzarella (A) and a small soft ricotta cheese with a cherry tomato ‘jam’ (A+) and…
…varius kinds of deep-fried rustici; ricotta with ham, bianchetti (whitebait) (A), deep fried pepperoni with cheese and a small slab of Parmagiana (B+).
I love their signature dish ‘Linguine alla Mimi’ (A). It can contain up to ten types of bivalves and crustaceans depending on what’s available from the Porta Nolana market down the road. It wasn’t on the menu last time I went but they’ll make it if you ask them.
Drinks wise they have a great range of floral Campanian whites, the best I’ve had being a 2009 Cutizzi Riserva Greco di Tufo from Fuedi di San Gregorio (A+).
The house wines are also good (B) and they have great limoncello which is made by one of the waiters (A), but the coffee is terrible (C).
The waiters are very dry (my old friend Luciano especially) but not downright rude which is unusual for Naples! Michele the proprietor is quite frosty however his son Salvatore speaks English and is more gregarious. Two people can eat and drink well here for about €35 each.
Antico Forno delle Fratelli Attanasio (Elementary A) Vico Ferrovia, www.sfogliatelleattanasio.it GEM ALERT!
Vico Ferrovia is the immediate first left off Via Milano, which is the 3rd right off Piazza Garibaldi with your back to the station. Pay first and take a number if it’s busy.
This bakery is a good place for a sweet if you don’t fancy an ice cream; you can get a Sfogliatelle Caldo straight from the oven (€1.10). I usually come here in the day time for my dessert after a lunchtime pizza at Trianon or Michele (see my Forcella post) but they are open in the evenings till 19.30 as well (closed Monday).
Filled with ricotta cream, Sfogliatelli Frolla (smooth and round) or Ricci (rippled and in the shape of a shell) are famous symbols of the city and can be found in pastry shops all over the country. Both varieties have the same ingredients but the more popular ricci are crunchier and flakier.
Salsamenteria (Intermediate B), 79 Via Firenze
This salumeria has a good range of local products.
On one occasion I took home a small Provolone cheese from Sorrento, a spicy Neapolitan salami, some balsamic pickled onions, a tin of best quality Ventresca and two tins of ordinary good quality tuna and a packet of Paccheri di Gragnano, a Campanian town reputed for its pasta.
However be warned they could sell sand to Arabs here so don’t let them push you into buying anything you don’t want. I once ended up with half a huge Casatiello when all I did was put my head in for a look. They were more restrained on my last visit though.
However there are also a few places around the square that I think are quite average, or worse…
Cantina de Mille (Elementary C), 1 Via Silvio Spaventa
Third left off the square with your back to the station, on the corner with the square.
The staff are friendly but I think the food can be pretty variable (it scored a C for me last time I went in 2008). However if you order well I’m sure it’s fine. The menu makes for hilarious reading (‘fingered lobster’ anyone?). Don´t think you can go wrong with a pizza here.
La Brace (Elementary C+), 14 Via Silvio Spaventa
When I went with colleagues in 2008 we got large portions of average fare at a fairly reasonable price e.g. €10 for a huge plate of seafood linguine. It has a terrace outside so you can eat al fresco. The service is a bit brusque but seems to mellow if you make the effort to speak Italian. Lots of locals which is usually a good sign. Pizzas are available too.
Ristorante Avellinese (Elementary C-), 31-35 Via Silvio Spaventa
Definitely one to avoid after my last experience in 2011. I’ve eaten here a couple of times but I should have known better really with all the prices around €4/5 for each dish in an area full of tourist hotels. They don’t even stock Fiano di Avelllino, the famous wine from the town the restaurant is named after. The €7 white Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, was drinkable (C) but the waiter expected me to drink it lukewarm till I asked for an ice bucket.
I started with the Saute di Frutti di Mare but couldn’t eat it (D). The clams and mussels were tiny, tasteless, grey in colour and hadn’t been scrubbed properly. No excuse really when there’s a great market selling high quality seafood just a few streets away. For the pasta course I kept it as simple as possible by ordering Spaghetti al Pomodoro which they couldn’t really get wrong (B). The following grilled pork was ok (C) but I bent the cheap cutlery cutting it up. I could only eat a few of the mealy chips that I ordered on the side (D+).
I bought a grappa to cheer myself up at the end but that was also one of the worst I’ve ever had and I had to leave it. At least they had the grace to not charge me for the clams. I only paid €18 for the lot which ultimately is hard to argue with. However, don’t come here if you care about eating well.
Hotel Cavour (Intermediate B-), 32 Piazza Garibaldi, on the corner with Corso Garibaldi. The green sign on the roof is easy to spot.
I saw this hotel restaurant recommended in an Italian food guide so gave it a whirl in 2008. They do a three-course Menu del Giorno for €14 which is good value. I had a vegetable risotto (B), pork cutlet (C) with chips (B) and a panacotta to finish (B). A fairly ropey house red was €10 (C). The decor is horrible and the maitre d was an absolute tyrant, stalking the tables and speaking to customers in a very loud voice. He even told me that he charges French people more! The food is fine if you’re not too fussy.
Reviews written in June 2011 and March 2015.