Hydrocarbon-contaminated superficial sediments collected from the Harbor of Milazzo (Tirrenean Sea, northern Sicily), a zone strongly affected by anthropogenic activities, were examined for in situ biodegradative capacities. A culture-independent molecular phylogenetic approach was used to study the influence of hydrocarbon and nutrient addition on the activity and diversity of the indigenous microbiota during a microcosm evaluation. The autochthonous microbial community in non-polluted sediments was represented by eubacterial phylotypes grouped within Proteobacteria, CFB and Firmicutes. The archaeal domain was represented by members of Marine Group I of Crenarchaeota. The majority of recovered sequences was affiliated with heterotrophic genera Clostridium and Vibrio, typical members of eutrophic coastal environments. Amendments of hydrocarbons and mineral nutrients to microcosms dramatically changed the initial diversity of the microbial community. Only bacterial phylotypes affiliated with Proteobacteria and CFB division were detected. The decrease in diversity observed in several microcosms could be explained by the strong selection for microorganisms belonging to group of marine hydrocarbonoclastic gamma-Proteobacteria, namely Alcanivorax, Cycloclasticus, Marinobacter, Marinobacterium/Neptunomonas and Thalassolituus. This study demonstrated that nutrient amendment to hydrocarbon-contaminated superficial sediments enhanced the indigenous microbial biodegradation activity and that highly specialized marine hydrocarbonoclastic bacteria, representing a minor fraction in the natural microbial community, play an important role in the biodegradation of petroleum hydrocarbons accidentally entering the coastal environment.