Travel Journal: Italy – Part 6, Amalfi Eats

This Travel Tuesday brings us to what has become one of my favorite places.  Go to the Amalfi Coast for the beauty, stay for the food.

While Tuscany was all heavy meat, the Amalfi Coast is seafood seafood seafood.  This lighter food was a very welcome change of pace.  FYI: check my the foodie posts from our Italian honeymoon in Parts 2 (here) and 4 (here) to see how this compared.

Night of July 8th

We had snacked on the train to Naples for lunch so that’s nothing to write home about.  Once we made it to Amalfi, we walked around to explore our home for the next four nights before making our way to dinner.  We wanted to eat outside and found a cluster of three or four restaurants that made a little square within a back alley behind an art gallery we had visited.

We picked Trattoria da Barracca because the menu looked good and we were attracted to the bright blue and white colors.  We started with a tomato mozzarella salad because it felt like such a nice seaside treat.  We thought it was a fluke that the tomatoes were so bright here, but soon learned that all over the Amalfi Coast the tomatoes look like gemstones.  Their flavor was incredible.  Albert had swordfish, I had tilapia with a lemon butter sauce, and we split a pasta with clams that was quite good.  Like the tomatoes, we soon learned that pasta on the Amalfi Coast is cooked perfectly.  We don’t even know what al dente means in America, apparently.

da Barraca wasn’t necessarily the best meal of the trip, but it was solid, and I liked the easy-goingness of it all.  We never tried nearby l’Abside, but I hear it’s similar and potentially better.  Overall, the food in Amalfi may not be as spectacular as the food in nearby Positano, but they still seem to know what they’re doing.

Night of July 9th

We all know lemons are a big thing in the Amalfi Coast.  Lemon sorbet, in particular, is everywhere; however, before the trip I was told I had to try a particular specialty: lemon sorbet served inside a lemon.  Before lunch, we made sure to seek out this treat.  Gimmick-y?  Perhaps.  Still loved it.  I actually think I’d like to recreate this at home, maybe for a party…maybe with an orange?

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While there, I also had a spritz (spritzes are HUGE in Italy) with strawberry sorbet at the bottom.  I’m not huge on spritzes (too sweet) but this happened to be a very nice treat.

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Chez Black had been recommended by a few people who had just returned from the area.  It’s popular and hard to miss because it’s right on the beach and one of the first things you see when you get off the ferry.  I thought that would mean the food wouldn’t be that good, but this one lived up to the hype.

I ordered uni pasta, where the sea urchin was basically mashed into a sauce for more of that perfectly cooked spaghetti.  It was served inside a giant plastic bowl in the shape of a sea urchin so that was a fun bonus.  Albert loved his white pizza and only allowed me the teeniest of bites before he polished off the whole thing.  Honestly, I could have eaten every meal here and am a little bummed I didn’t.

We also split an appetizer of cheese wrapped in lemon leaves.  Like I said, lemons are a major part of their cuisine and this was a wonderful use of the fruit.  I definitely recommend ordering this.

Albert had gone for a run that morning and discovered Ristorante La Perla and suggested we go there for supper.  I was still stuffed from our late lunch so I just snacked on bruschetta (good, particularly the bread).  Again, this wasn’t our best meal of the trip but it wasn’t bad at all, and we particularly enjoyed meeting the family who owns the restaurant along with their adorable son (whose babysitter had cancelled for the evening).

Much like every other night of the trip, we ended the evening by grabbing gelato.  In Amalfi, it was really nice to eat our dessert on the steps of the duomo.  I loved the little mini cone that came perched atop the full size cone of gelato.

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Night of July 10th

As I mentioned in my Amalfi Activities post, we originally intended to spend Monday the 10th in Capri, but we had boat troubles and decided to go back to Positano instead.  We went on quite the hike in search of a restaurant that had been recommended…only to find out it was closed on Mondays.  Oops.  We almost went back to Chez Black but felt the need to mix it up a bit, so we went to doors down to La Cambusa.  I liked that this restaurant was right on the beach but offered slightly better views, being one level up.  I also loved the bright tiles and plates.  It felt 100% summer by the sea.

After seeing marinated anchovies on the menu of every Amalfi Coast restaurant, I felt it was time to try them.  I loved them!  These are not like the anchovies you get in a can here.  They’re basically mini fishies.  These were perfectly marinated and a perfect start to the meal.  For my entree, I had a seafood risotto and Albert had a seafood pasta.

Editor’s Note: I’m having a hard time uploading pics from this meal as with some of the photos from the previous Chez Black meal – I’ll update the post as soon as my wifi improves!

I had only received one real recommendation for restaurants in Amalfi, and it was Da Gemma.  When I asked the woman at the front desk of our b&b about it, she said it was the nicest restaurant in Amalfi – oo la la!  I had wanted to do one tasting menu during our trip and this one seemed like a good one since the price wasn’t bad (6 courses for 70 euros) and the restaurant overlooked the center of town.

All of the food was prepared nicely.  I particularly liked the tuna carpaccio with orange and the cod.  My only complaint is that while very good, one or two dishes were repetitive, using the same sauce in two items for instance.  Overall, it was a lovely dinner and good to see we didn’t need to go to Positano for a nice meal.

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Now that we were out of the Tuscany region we decided to switch to white!

Night of July 11th

We spent our last full day in the Amalfi Coast in Ravello and the surrounding area for a completely different experience than our previous seaside days.  The second half of the day was spent at a winery where the family prepared us lunch with their wines after touring the vineyards.  We had panzanella salad, several types of cheese, a simple pasta with red sauce, vegetables, and homemade sausage.

We finished the meal with an Amalfi Coast specialty: amaretti cookies with orange peel.  They were soft and cake-like.  I’m not a huge cookie person but definitely enjoyed this, especially with a glass of port.

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For our final meal, the woman at the front desk recommended we go to either Lido Azzurro or Smeraldino.  Both are right on the water and offer beautiful views.  We went with Lido Azzurro because I thought the little boat at the entrance was cute.

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It really was a beautiful spot to enjoy our final meal in Amalfi.

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We started by sharing a pasta with ginormous prawns.  Yum.  This was definitely the best dish of the night.  If my time in the Amalfi Coast taught me anything, it’s that while there you need to eat seafood pasta for every meal.  You won’t regret it.

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We did not get suckered into paying for the guitar player to serenade us…but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the music when the table right next to us paid for a song.

Albert ordered steak for his main meal (he was kinda over seafood at this point) and I went with two appetizers.  Since we’d already had the pasta and the octopus I was craving wasn’t on the menu, I decided to get two appetizers: fried stuffed tomatoes and marinated anchovies.  Again I enjoyed the anchovies and was happy to gobble them up, knowing I’d never find a dish like this back in the states or even in Italy once we left the coast.  The tomatoes, on the other hand, were not so great.  I didn’t even finish them because they were just…blah.  Since the other food was good, the wine yummy, and the sunset so nice, I couldn’t really complain.

Foodie Field Notes: 

  • Local Fare: 
    • Lemon Everything: Sorbet and cheese wrapped in lemon leaves are the top picks
    • Seafood of All Kinds:
      • Prawns: These are less jumbo shrimp, more tiny lobsters.
      • Seafood Pasta (any and all): Amazing.  I also thought all pasta here happened to be cooked perfectly.
      • Marinated Anchovies: These are not the anchovies you imagine.  I know not everyone can wrap their heads around this…but try because they’re quite good.
    • Tomatoes: They seemed brighter and more full of flavor here without being too sweet.
    • Limoncello: This must be the #1 product of the Amalfi Coast.  If you don’t have some, you basically didn’t even go to the Amalfi Coast.
  • Tips: 
    • We didn’t get drinks at Franco’s [at Le Sireneuse in Positano], but the view is spectacular so I would check that out at some point.  Even if you’re only in Positano for a day trip, it’s nice to have a cocktail.  It’s always 5 o’clock when you’re on vacation.
    • As a whole, the food in Positano is better than the food in Amalfi.  That said, if you’re staying in Amalfi like we did, you’ll likely be eating the majority of your suppers there so I would focus Amalfi dining excursions on places that have the best atmosphere.  To me, that would be the restaurants right at the marina or in the middle of the town square.