Common wisdom dictates that, as soon as you get to Naples (Napoli, in Italian), you’d better go looking for pizza. It was invented here, after all, and it really is so good that you could easily survive just on that. Common wisdom, however, ignores one of the street food secrets all locals know: after two or three pizzas, you should really move on to cuoppo.

‘Cuoppo’ is a dialect word for a cone of straw paper. It is also a rather heavy insult for not especially attractive women, so be careful using it. To find the right place to order a cuoppo, however, is definitely easy: just follow the delicious smell of fried food, and you’ll eventually get to one of the many street vendors specializing in this very Neapolitan treat. At a cursory glance a cuoppo would look just like a bunch of deep fried stuff, not particularly different from a British fish and chips cone, or one of the countless fried horrors commonly found at American street fairs. Still, the devil is in the details – and when it comes to food, Italy has enough great details to keep you busy for a very long time. First of all, whatever ingredients go in a cuoppo are fried in extra-virgin olive oil. Its boiling point and molecular characteristics are such that it makes an extremely light frying – and a tasty one to boot. Then, the ingredients aren’t served straight out of the pan, but they are left a couple of minutes aside, packed in paper which absorbs any excess oil. But most of all, as it often happens with Italian cuisine, the components themselves are especially fresh, local and savory.

Here are the main cuoppo variations available at most vendors:
  • Cuoppo e’ terra (ground mix) – The classic mix is composed of potato croquettes, a breaded rice ball, frittata (omelet), courgette flower, aubergines, zucchini, polenta and zeppoline,  small sweet dough balls. Hardcore traditionalists also add panzerotti (dough pockets filled with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese).
  • Cuoppo e’ mare (sea mix) – cuttlefish, calamari, white fish, prawn tails, breaded cod, whitebait balls
  • Cuoppo re’ crocchette – chicken nuggets
  • Cuoppo re’ chele – Crab claws
  • Cuoppo doce (sweet) – Nutella or white chocolate-covered fritters
  • Cuoppo allesse – A typical breakfast variations in Fall and Winter, it contains peeled chestnuts boiled with laurel and a bit of salt