Heading to southern Italy anytime soon?
Italy holds an unwavering place high up on many travelers bucket lists - and with good reason. And probably the number one reason you'll hear from everyone who've been there is "the food". Oh my goodness, the food! Though I do love the food in Bologna and Emilia Romagna - considered, even among Italians, to be some of the best food in Italy - my heart literally belongs in the south. It's where my family comes from. Here are some of my favorite places to eat along Italy's Amalfi Coast, from Naples to Amalfi and including the island of Capri. This is a very short list and some of these places you'll see on forums again and again. Some, however, I didn't discover until I arrived. They are worth a visit, so start jotting down your dining list!
But first: What made these so special?
At all of these restaurants, I didn't just enjoy good food, I had dining experiences which involved a combination of the following:
- Great food - freshly prepared ingredients, accompanying condiments, and a beautiful presentation
- Pleasant Interaction with Waitstaff and Chefs - all of these places were genuinely interested to engage with you (but didn't go too far), explained history of the dish, restaurant, or chef, and appeared to enjoy the service. Some of them sang Italian songs, or invited us near the kitchen, but it was never too much or intrusive.
- Excellent Service - there's 'pleasant interaction' and then there's excellent service. Knowing your menus, product, and preparation, and then delivering it in a timely fashion is just as important as the meal itself. The service in all the places listed here was Very Good to I Couldn't Have Asked for Anything More.
- Time to Linger - If Italians do one thing well, it's linger, or savor the moment they're in. They take hours to eat, and smoke a cigarette, talk, laugh, drink some limoncello, then start another course - it almost makes me want to take up smoking! But the waitstaff at these restaurants did not push us to hurry so they could turn the table (Americans take note)! Even at the bustling Pizzeria da Michele where the line to get in the small pizzeria is out the door, we felt free to relax and enjoy the entire experience.
If you're thinking about skipping Naples on your Amalfi Coast vacation, please don't! Sure it's a "grittier" port city as some have described, but Naples offers an authentic glimpse into real Neapolitan life. Although I almost hated it at first, it was for a completely different reason. My advice? Don't shy away from one of the most interesting cities you're likely to find anywhere.
Bar Caffe Gambrinus - Just off the famous Piazza del Plebiscito, the historic Caffe Gambrinus had the best coffee drinks of our trip! Every one was insanely delicious, and truly a work of art, as were the tempting goodies and savory bites that accompanied the drinks, coffee or otherwise. Great european atmosphere inside and out!
Antonio e Antonio - Good pasta and great desserts, and right across the street from the Santa Lucia waterfront and Castel d'Ovo.
Da Giorgio - TRY: Fried peppers with fresh basil, Pizza Napoli with anchovy, Spaghetti with cherry tomatoes.
Da Paulino - An open-air restaurant tucked away in a residential part of the island, the best seats are outside under the lemon tree grove. TRY: Fresh bufala mozzarella grilled between lemon leaves; Primi - Risotto al limone with baby prawns and arugula; Secondi - grilled seafood and veal cutlet with cherry tomato and arugula salad.
Buca di Bacco - TRY: Primi - Scaliatelli pasta with clams, shrimp, mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes; Segundi - whole fresh fish with cherry tomatoes; Dessert - Baba rhum
Marina Grande Salumeria - I don't remember the name, but this salumeria is right on the water at the port of Marina Grande (with a bright yellow awning). They'll make you the BEST Caprese Sandwich of bufala mozzarella, marinated tomatoes, and fresh basil on a fresh baked sandwich roll - what the locals eat. Or they'll make whatever meat and cheese combo you want. Perfect anytime, but especially for a picnic lunch trip to the Blue Grotto or a day on the water.
Ristorante Michel'angelo - traditional Caprese cuisine including fresh pastas made daily, this authentic restaurant will soon become a favorite of yours too. TRY: the Grilled smoked mozzarella served with mixed bruschetta, and a fresh pasta of the day.
Donna Rosa - This amazing restaurant lies high up in the hills of Positano, so grab a taxi. The food is delicious, the open kitchen prep is entertaining and their wine list is well-rounded in selection and price. They also have a seasonal cooking school I've heard good things about, though I had just missed it with the timing of our trip. TRY: Primi - Ravioli ala Donna Rosa and Bucatini al Amatriciana; Secundi - Bresaola (Braciole).
Bar Buca di Bacco (on the beach) - Great place for lunch or dinner, and some of the best people watching on the water. TRY: The Pasta Fagiole and Insalata.
Ravello Sandwich Shop - Down a quaint side street in Ravello is a salumeria that sells the Anna Maria, Queen of Sandwiches, and it really is! I forget the name of her store, (its just off the main Piazza) but ask around, and look for the sign "Queen of Sandwiches" taped to the counter - they are very good - and one of them makes a perfect afternoon picnic while you stroll around Villa Cimbrone or the other amazing places to discover on an afternoon in Ravello.
Inn Bufalito - TRY: Buffalo any way! I had the Stewed buffalo and potatoes, and the Buffalo leg shank. I also loved their Spaghetti Pomodorini.
Basilica - A lovely and comfortable restaurant off the main square in Sorrento, Basilica has amazing pastas and insalata, but it was one of the few places to serve Fried, Stuffed Squash Blossoms, a traditional Italian dish I didn't see often enough in Italy. And they were to die for! MUST TRY: the Squash Blossoms.
Gelateria Primavera - Gelato! Gelato! Gelato! and over 80 flavors! (I loved the walnut, or Noci). Longtime fans of The Bold & The Beautiful will remember this place from when they filmed in Positano back in the 80's and the photos on the wall will bring back many great memories of Ridge and Brooke :-)
So Many Places, So Little Time!
The thing with Italy is this: there is lots of good food, and chefs who cook with love, and I'm so sorry I had to miss some places. I will head right for these places on my next visit. Ahhh, I can only dream until then....