Writing a blog about glorious Italian restaurants is indeed a wonderful pleasure. Add to this pleasure the fact that these restaurants create their marvels of cuisine along the world’s most breath-taking coast line of Amalfi, and we are in the realm of ecstasy!
The Amalfi Coast restaurants that are elegantly distributed across this peninsula, capture the essence of life in the Campania region of Italy. Delighted guests will enjoy dishes both tasteful and diverse. Before getting into the specifics of an Amalfi Coast restaurant guide, I want to first explain what it is that makes Italian food – in all its guises – so truly enjoyable.
Any discussion about food and cooking must always refer to the greatness of the French table. The complexity of sauces, the style with which dishes are constructed, all of this when executed well guarantees a flawless dining experience. The Italian experience is different. Where dishes are born out of a classical foundation in France, in Italy they are a volcanic explosion of flavour and style derived from the rural kitchen. I would venture to say that there isn’t a chef in Italy today who hasn’t applied some of his or her grandmother’s wisdom when approaching the creation of a dish.
If French food were couture it would be Chanel whereas Italian food would be Valentino and Armani, with a cheeky dash of Prada or Miu Miu on the side followed by a luscious dessert of Dolce and Gabbana. All utterly diverting, fun, flavoursome – made from the very best ingredients and created with passion. Interestingly for any real food aficionados, the father of Italian cuisine is Pellegrino Artusi, the first Italian to unify regional Italian dishes in one book. Signor Artusi, who passed away in 1911, is credited as one of the many influences of Auguste Escoffier famously viewed as the creator of haute cuisine.
And so we begin ……
L’Antica Pizzaria Da Michele
Most travellers to the Amalfi Coast, start their trip in Naples and if you want to eat something historic then the only choice in this vibrant city is pizza. Naples has long had the reputation as the home of pizza in Italy. It is important that you put from your mind any pizza experiences you might have before entering this city. The blocky, stodgy, overloaded creations we call pizzas share none of their DNA with the marvels that are created in Naples. The lightness, the deliciously simple toppings are all captured in a fresh and pliable pizza that is cooked in 900⁰F wood fired ovens. Pizza, being essentially a street food, must retain its malleability allowing you to fold up the hot slice and eat it on the go without losing one morsel of its lush topping. Naples has mastered this art and if you can drop in to L’Antica Pizzaria Da Michele where the Cordurra family has been in business since 1870 you will experience pizza perfection. This Neapolitan landmark requires no fuss or nonsense to woo its patrons. The food is its own advocate!
Via Cesare Sersale 1-3, Naples
Open every day. Cash only, no credit cards accepted.
But let’s get to the Amalfi Coast restaurants now. Travelling from Punta Campanella to Salerno along the most spectacular coastal drive, weaving your way along to your perfect villa accommodation, you will be spoiled for dining choices.
Sorrento, the largest town on the Amalfi Peninsula is home to Il Buco, the Michelin starred restaurant headed up by Peppe Aversa. Chef Aversa believes that he is an ambassador for the local meats, fish, vegetables and dairy products that form the basis of all Amalfi Coast Italian restaurant menus. In the beautiful contemporary surroundings of Il Buco, the tasteful, well-spaced furniture is canopied by a domed ceiling of indigenous tuff stone. These chunky blocks of stone made from volcanic rock liberally found in this region of Italy remind us of the legacy of Vesuvius. This unique setting creates a romantic and intimate experience not unlike dining in a cave.
Any feeling of austerity is cleverly dispersed by the light contemporary interior that makes the space relaxed and comfortable. As in all Amalfi Coast restaurants, the knowledgeability and grace of the staff is enhanced even further by the warmth with which guests are greeted. As you feast on Homemade Ravioli filled with Rosemary Scented Lamb and Ichitana Sauce or devour the Linguini with Lemon scented Scorpion Fish on Roe and a Sundried Tomato Sauce your every need will be anticipated.
The stiff formality, so often experienced in Michelin starred properties, is nowhere evident here.
Piazza S Antonino, Sorrento.
Telephone: +39 081 97 82 354
Lunch 12:30-14:30 / Dinner 19:30-22:30
Closed Wednesday – Booking recommended – Credit Cards accepted
Getting off the beaten track on the Amalfi coast is surprisingly easy. Regardless of the bustle of high season, the topography of the landscape ensures large areas of countryside are dedicated to the ancient customs of agriculture and animal husbandry. The quality and diversity of produce furnishes all surrounding restaurants and cafes with the highest quality meats and vegetables. In addition, the clement weather with an abundance of sunshine, invigorates the local citrus groves and San Marzano tomato plants with a succulent sweetness. In fact, the local Feminello lemons are so famously sweet that they are sliced and eaten by the locals and have earned the nickname of ‘pane’ meaning bread.
Invariably visitors to the Amalfi Coast follow the main routes from Sorrento to Positano bypassing what, for me, is a peaceful and idyllic part of the peninsula, Massa Lubrense. If you are wise enough to be staying at one of the exceptional private villas dotted along this coast line, you will appreciate the value of having your days spent in quiet solitude, stepping out now and then to absorb the glamorous bustle of the resorts for lunches and dinners. If you are staying in one of the busy centres, then my next two dining recommendations might appeal as an antidote to the more hectic Amalfi lifestyle.
Firstly, Antico Francischielle a small hotel and restaurant founded in 1909 is situated in the Massa Lubrense area of the peninsula. This unpretentious property has unrivalled views of Vesuvius and Capri from its terrace. The family run business, welcomes guest of all ages, with a genuine warmth and offers delicious traditional Italian foods full of flavour. It really feels as though you are in an Italian home for the sheer authenticity of the fare and relaxed ambiance. The remote location of this property allows guests to either use it as a base to start a wonderful hike along hillside paths that will take you to Sorrento or enjoy a 25 minute stroll to the beach access point of Puolo.
If you wish to dine at this restaurant then the proprietor will kindly arrange a car and driver to collect you and return you to your Italian villa free of charge. This is an invaluable service as navigating the local roads at night time after a lemoncello or two is not always the easiest!
The homemade pastas, the array of sea food and meat dishes are terrific value. As you watch the sun slip beneath the horizon you will be glad you went ‘off grid’ for an evening or two.
Telephone: +39 081 533 9780
Open for lunch and dinner
In contrast to this very traditional restaurant, you could visit the Relais Blu Fine Dining restaurant also located in splendid isolation in Massa Lubrense. This contemporary, new property with its Michelin starred restaurant, offers visitors a standard of cuisine exceptional to anywhere in Italy in a show-stopping location. The terrace has a panoramic view over the Tyrrhenian Sea with Capri sitting there like a diamond in a splendid setting.
The award winning chef who is the creative genius at Relais Blu has devised such dishes as King Crab “Cappellacci” filled with king crab on “broccoli friarielli” and light Crab Consomme. Or perhaps a dish of Flying Squid and Potatoes sees a creamy dish of potato and parsley with Roast Dumplings and a Flying Squid Ragout. I certainly recommend you wait the requisite 20 minutes to try the Lemon Soufflé with Pastry Ice Cream. Sublime. A well curated cellar ensures an exceptional choice of wines that will work in harmony with the fresh flavours of the food. Open for lunch and dinner but closed on Monday’s, this is worth the drive to sit and marvel at the views both on your plate and from the terrace!
Boutique Hotel and Fine Dining Restaurant
Lunch – 12:00-14:30 / Dinner – 19:00-22:30
Every day except Monday
Positano, probably the most visited town on the Amalfi coast, is draped like its famed bougainvillaea along a sheer cliff, pooling gracefully around lovely beaches. This magical town with such narrow stepped streets that it keeps traffic at bay, is a wonderful destination for memorable lunches or dinners and as a launching spot to make the voyage by hydrofoil to Capri. One of my favourite dinner destinations is Next 2, on Via Pasitea. This modern restaurant has a very beautiful terrace with climbing jasmine that will imbue a romantic dinner with a subtle scented backdrop. The open kitchen produces such cleverly devised dishes as the antipasti, Tre Assaggi della Tradizione, three miniaturised Italian regulars of a tiny pizza, stuffed zucchini blossoms and aubergine parmigiana on one plate. A delicious seafood offering in the form of the Fettucelle all’astice (blue lobster fettucelle) and a meaty treat of Guancia di Manzo – Braised beef cheek served with bell peppers and leeks are all rendered to perfection. Call into Next 2’s wonderful bar for one of their speciality cocktails using homemade infusions and essences formulated from local herbs and fruits. A charming start to your dining experience.
Via Pasitea, 242, Positano.
Telephone: +39 089 812 3516
Dinner: 18:30-23:00 / 7 Days
Back on the coastal route halfway between Positano and Amalfi lies the small fishing village of Priaino. If you are looking for an Amalfi coast restaurant in a cave, then the dramatically named Il Pirata (the Pirate) will fulfil your wishes. This beach club bar and restaurant allows visitors to rent a sun lounger on its private blue flag beach and enjoy refreshing drinks, Wi-Fi, lunch or dinner on the terrace overlooking the sea.
The quiet village of Priaino has other cafes and restaurants that make this village a lovely starting point for some walks up along the cliff paths into the hills above or enjoy time out on the water. But it is Il Pirata, hewn out of the stony cliff that is a haven of rest away from the bustling coastline. The menu of classic Amalfi dishes – seafood, pastas and risottos will satisfy all tastes and the relaxed informality of the space makes it a great spot for a leisurely lunch or cocktails and dinner.
Via Terramare, Priaino.
Telephone: +39 089 874377
Open daily 12:30pm – closing.
The town of Amalfi is the next gastronomic destination on this Amalfi odyssey. A diverse town that has architectural reminders of its ancient past in the form of the large 11th century, Arabic-Norman cathedral of Sant’Andrea. With plenty of shops and cafes to dip in and out of it is the restaurants of Da Gemma or L’Abside that promise an intimate and friendly dining experience.