Neapolitan Potato Croquettes: History, Info, Interesting Facts

Neapolitan potato croquettes: history, info, interesting facts


The Neapolitan potato croquettes, also known as ‘Crocchè’, are among the most typical and traditional specialties from the ‘City of the Sun’. Let’s find out why they’re so charming, while strolling through the fascinating alleys of the old town, the ‘Vicoli’, meeting their people and listening to their music … not just food!

Crocchè: the Neapolitan potato croquettes. Delicious street food from the ‘City of the Sun’


The history of Neapolitan potato croquettes.

Neapolitan Potato Croquettes: Ferdinand I of The Two Sicilies (img-04)

The origins of the Neapolitan potato Crocchè are anything but certain. In this respect, It should be remembered that specialties quite similar to it are part of the gastronomic tradition of many countries in the world. Nowadays, the most believable theories associate this delicacy to a couple of nations in particular: France and Spain. It’s no coincidence, considering that their past domination over the city of Naples and, more in general, over southern Italy (*1), was in fact particularly significant, deeply influencing also food.

French origins:

According to this theory, that is also the most popular, the Neapolitan Crocchè could be the evolution of the French ‘croquettes’. It’s more than likely that their recipe was introduced in the city during the second half of the 1700s by the French chefs who prepared the court banquets for Ferdinand I of Bourbon (*2) and his wife Maria Carolina of Austria.

Read more

Spanish origins:

The second hypothesis, generally considered less likely, suggests that the Neapolitan Crocchè could be the evolution of the Spanish ‘croquetas’.

*1: This is the reason why specialties very similar to Crocchè, such as the Sicilian ‘cazzilli’, are prepared in many places of southern Italy.
*2: Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies, ex Ferdinand III of Sicily and Ferdinand IV King of Naples. He was nicknamed ‘Re Nasone’ (‘Big Nose’ King), due to the size of his nose (as evidenced in many portraits of its time), and ‘Re Lazzarone’ (‘King of the Poors’), because he loved to mix (in incognito) with its subjects.


Naples: the essential ingredient for perfect potato croquettes.

Neapolitan Potato Croquettes: Crocchè, detail.

It’s so easy to spend entire days walking through the Old Town of Naples, exploring its narrow alleys, the ‘vicoli’. It’s such an interesting and pleasant journey, something that should be tried at least once in life. A few steps are enough to be surrounded by the sounds and the colors of an incredibly vital place. It’s so nice to get lost here, wandering around just for the pleasure of doing it.
Such an experience can be further improved by eating something delicious, meant to be tasted ‘on the go’. Where to look for it? Well, it’s quite simple actually: when strolling through the vicoli, it’s easy to come across a ‘friggitoria’. It’s a particular kind of food shop: the name comes from the Italian verb ‘friggere’ (‘to fry’). Not surprisingly, a great part of its specialties is fried.
Read more

It’s possible to choose which one to buy directly from the street: a difficult task because they all look so delicious. One of the most typical is the ‘Crocché’, name used in this city for a particular kind of potato croquette. Even if this food is well known worldwide, here it’s kind of special, not just for the recipe, but also for an ingredient that, in some way, improves its flavor. This ingredient is Naples itself! The only way to understand what this means is to taste it.

There is something so ‘Neapolitan’ in every Crocchè, something deeply connected with the sunny disposition of this city and its people.

Once again, culture has a fundamental role in improving the taste of food: a popular culture, deeply influenced by the Classical Age, by Ancient Greece and by the thought of its philosophers.


‘Crocchè’ and ‘Panzerotto’: two types of Neapolitan potato croquettes.

The ‘crocchè’ (the classic potato croquette), is often confused with its ‘big brother’, the ‘panzerotto’, also known as ‘panzarotto’. They are in fact quite similar to each other: the panzerotto differs from the crocchè for its size and the presence of a filling.
Let’s give a closer look at these two delicacies:

Neapolitan Potato Croquettes: Crocchè, detail. Neapolitan Potato Croquettes: Crocchè, detail.


The ‘crocchè’ is usually quite small, not more than 3/4 centimeters long. Its dark-gold breading looks very appetizing and covers a soft part made with potatoes, eggs, bread crumbs, parsley and black pepper.

Neapolitan Potato Croquettes: Crocchè, detail. Neapolitan Potato Croquettes: Crocchè, detail.


The ‘panzerotto’ is bigger than a Crocchè: around 7/8 centimeters. Its golden breading covers a soft filling made with potatoes, parsley and black pepper, enriched with smoked provola cheese and/or mozzarella.


The ‘Friggitoria’: part of a long tradition.

As already said, Crocchè can be bought in a ‘friggitoria’: this word comes from ‘friggere’, the Italian for ‘to fry’. As per its name, it’s a food shop selling mainly (but not only) fried stuff. Simple and yet delicious preparations that can be easily eaten while walking.
At first sight, there are some similarities between a friggitoria and modern fast foods.

Neapolitan Potato Croquettes: Neapolitan friggitoria, home of crocchè. Neapolitan Potato Croquettes: Ercolano, caupona.

This kind of commercial activities has existed since the distant past, meeting a common need: feeding passers-by. Something that can be easily demonstrated by visiting Pompeii and Herculaneum. These ancient cities are still almost intact: the volcanic ashes that covered them many centuries ago, have also protected them from the passage of time. ‘Thanks’ to Mount Vesuvius, it’s still possible to see these places as they were when Emperor Titus ruled over the Roman Empire. Walking through their streets, it’s easy to come across a ‘caupona’: a small food shop that long ago served food and beverages. The caupona can be considered the ancestor of the friggitoria.

Nowadays, there are many ‘friggitorie’ in almost every Italian city: the most famous are in Naples, Genoa and Palermo.

Neapolitan Potato Croquettes: Ercolano, excavation.


‘Agorázein’ and potato croquettes in Naples.

To understand something more about the ‘special ingredient’ that improves so much the taste of the Neapolitan potato croquette, the ‘Crocchè’, it’s useful to remember the origin and the meaning of the word ‘agoràzein’. It comes from ‘agorà’, a term frequently used in ancient Greece: it was the central square of a ‘polis’, the Ellenic City-State. Much more than a gathering place, it represented the pumping heart of a magnificent civilization. A meeting point not just for politicians, artists and philosophers, but also and foremost for common people.

‘Agoràzein’ means strolling around, enjoying the beauty of the place, the warmth of the sun, the company of interesting people, intriguing conversations, good food and so on.

The philosopher Plato, in one of his famous writings, the Dialogues, explains that this activity was once much appreciated in Athens.

Neapolitan Potato Croquettes: Naples, Pigna Secca. Neapolitan Potato Croquettes: Naples, Pigna Secca.

‘Il passeggiare’:

Many centuries ago Naples was part of a Greek colony, the ‘Magna Graecia’: at that time its name was Neapolis (nea: new, polis: city). More than two thousands years have passed since then and the people of this city still retains a great part of the old habits. One of them is ‘il passeggiare’, the strolling around: something very similar to the ‘agoràzein’. Once again, pleasure comes from beautiful places, nice weather, good company and … delicious food.

Neapolitan Potato Croquettes: Crocchè and pasta cresciuta. Neapolitan Potato Croquettes: Crocchè and pasta cresciuta.

‘Lo sfizio’:

The joy of strolling around the Old Town of Naples can be further improved by eating something delicious. The Neapolitans use a specific term to describe such food: ‘sfizioso’. A Crocchè may be a good example of ‘sfizio’ (whim) since it’s not meant just to feed, but also to give pleasure. This small delicacy is like a single piece in a great mosaic offering, to those who can appreciate it, a delightful experience in which all senses are involved.

In conclusion, it’s possible to say that ‘il passeggiare’, the strolling around, is something extremely important to understand the Neapolitan way of life: an Epicurean way of living, inviting people to enjoy themselves as much as possible … until it’s possible.

Neapolitan Potato Croquettes: Sfizio in Naples.


Burckhardt explains the ‘agorázein’.

The famous historian Jacob Burckhardt, in one of his books, ‘The Greeks and Greek Modern Civilization’, describes the activity of ‘agorazein’:

Read more
Neapolitan Potato Croquettes: Jacob Burckhardt (img-01)

“Here, in full view of the ships, surrounded by as many temples, civic buildings, monuments, shops and moneychangers’ stalls as there was room for, the Greeks could occupy themselves with agorazein, that activity no northerner can render in a single word. Dictionaries give: ‘go about in the marketplace, shopping, chatting, consulting’, but can never convey the delightful leisurely mixture of doing business, conversing, standing and strolling about together. It is enough to know that the morning hours were generally described by it: the time when everybody is in the agora“.

WebFoodCulture: the most typical specialties, the most traditional restaurants and producers.

The most typical specialties, the most traditional restaurants and producers.


‘Vicoli’: strange places, full of life.

Neapolitan Potato Croquettes: Naples, San Gregorio Armeno.

The word ‘vicolo’ comes from the Latin ‘viculus’ and means ‘narrow alley’. Great part of these ‘vicoli’ is in the Old Town of many Italian cities.
The most interesting and colorful are probably in Naples: their origin dates back to the Sixteenth Century, the period of the Spanish rule on the city. Not surprisingly, the most characteristic can be found in a district known as ‘Quartieri Spagnoli’ (Spanish district). Even if they are very narrow, they have accommodated for centuries, side by side, the houses of the poor (the ‘bassi’) and many different kinds of shops and small workshops.
A lot of people live in the vicoli still today: these odd roads are like small, self-contained universes. Walking through these places, passersby are immediately surrounded by an incredible variety of human activities.

Strolling in a Vicolo is an extraordinary experience that should be enjoyed at least once in life. All the senses are overwhelmed by an incredible mix of sounds, colors, smells and tastes.

Neapolitan Potato Croquettes: Naples, Pigna Secca.


Naples, the birthplace of potato croquettes.

Naples, the ‘city of the sun’, is the county seat of Campania region. Its origins date back to the 8th Century BC

Neapolitan Potato Croquettes: crown


It’s quite difficult to determine which is the most ancient friggitoria in Naples.
Read more

Until we find it out, please refer to the following list including some of the most traditional places where you can savor Crocchè prepared according to the original recipe:
Friggitoria Fiorenzano
Via Pignasecca, 48, 80134 Naples;
Official website
Friggitoria Vomero
Via Domenico Cimarosa, 44, 80129 Naples;
Rosticceria Imperatore
Viale Colli Aminei, 66, 80131 Naples;


Neapolitan potato croquettes: ingredients.

The ingredients used to prepare the Neapolitan potato croquettes are:

  • Potatoes;
  • Parmigiano and/or Pecorino cheese;
  • Eggs;
  • Parsley;
  • Salt;
  • Pepper;

Neapolitan Potato Croquettes: How to make Crocchè.


How to make Neapolitan potato croquettes (video).

Here follows a video showing how to make the Neapolitan potato croquettes (although the video is in Italian language, it’s easy to understand the procedure)

Neapolitan potato croquettes: calories and nutritional values.


Neapolitan potato croquettes: calories and nutritional values.”

One hundred grams of Neapolitan potato croquettes (four / five pieces, more or less) contain approximately 180/190 Kcals. There are carbohydrates, fats, proteins, fibers, sodium.

Neapolitan Potato Croquettes: 'Crocchè' or 'Panzerotto'?


‘Crocchè’ or ‘panzerotto’?

In Naples the word ‘crocchè’ is often used instead of ‘panzarotto’.
To be sure of using the correct name, it’s important to remember that:
The crocchè is small and without any filling.
The panzerotto is much bigger and stuffed.

It’s also very important to remember that, in the rest of Italy, the name ‘panzerotto’ is used for small stuffed pouches of pizza dough, baked or fried.

WebFoodCulture: only the most typical and traditional food & wine.



Music in the ‘vicoli’.

Some typical Neapolitan music by Roberto Murolo to accompany the exquisite potato croquettes known as ‘Crocchè’:

Note: join Spotify and listen to the full song.



Using a ‘cuoppo’ for fried food.

In Naples the ‘cuoppo’ (or ‘cuopp’), a cone made with straw paper, is used by the local people to carry around the delicacies just bought in a ‘friggitoria’ (typical fried food shop).

Neapolitan Potato Croquettes: Beverages for Crocchè.


The right beverage.

What to drink with a crocchè? Neapolitans usually choose beer.
Another good choice could be red wine: something quite tannic, quite soft, and quite fresh.
The tannicity balances the greasiness of the frying.
The softness balances the saltiness.
The acidity balances the sweet tendency of the potato.


Click here.

The images bearing the logo ‘webfoodculture’ are copyrighted.

The following images are public domain:

img-01 (*) – Jacob Burckhardt, 1892 (Wikipedia Link) {PD-US}
img-02 (*) – Greek philosopher Epicurus, Nuremberg Chronicle (Wikipedia Link) {PD-Art} {PD-US}
img-03 (*) – Totò, sign picture, 1943 (Wikipedia Link) {PD-US}
img-03 (*) – Portrait of Ferdinand I of The Two Sicilies, 1825 (Wikipedia Link) {PD-Art} {PD-US}

(*) The copyright of this image has expired.
(**) Image released in public domain by its author.