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RestoReview: The Amalfi Coast

Dear Friends & Eaters,

Some time ago, my friend Josephine recently asked me to provide her with the names of good restaurants on the Amalfi Coast for a family vacation.  So I sent out emails to my cousins and friends in the area and they came up with some great suggestions that I cannot wait to share with you.  The Amalfi Coast is one of the most beautiful corners of the world and the food is nothing short of finger-licking good. But you have to know where to go to get the best possible experience.  You won’t find as many tourist traps (as in cities like Rome Florence and Venice) but to eat like a local you need to go where locals go. This year, during our summer vacation, I updated the list so that you can take advantage of the  best restaurants on the Amalfi Coast.

Positano

Positano can be a bit of a tourist trap because it is very popular with people visiting from all over the world.  Having visited Positano during the summer for many years, I have tried many of the restaurants in the harbor area and up the hill towards the parking lots (make sure to pick one that is far away from the city center because after eating you will need the hike to burn the calories). These are my favorite:

  • La Sponda in the Sirenuse Hotel.  This restaurant has a much deserved Michelin Star. The ambiance is great especially at night when you table overlooks the Positano Harbor. The food is excellent but pricy: if you want to splurge this would be the place to do it! (NOTE: since you are at it check out the fragrance collections created by the owner of Sirenuse, Marina Sersale. I have been a long time used of Eau d’Italie)
  • Le terrazze:  another scenic location with a great restaurant.  The menu is creative mediterranean cuisine. I recommend this restaurant because the food is great and after dinner you can burn the inevitable calories at the club, called Music on the Rocks, a real institution in the Amalfi Coast nightlife.
  • Chez Black: if you enjoyed the food and atmosphere at Le terrazze you can’t miss Chez Black, the restaurant owned by the same family on the harbor. Skip the pizza and focus on the lobster spaghetti, served with a special bib so you won’t mess up your clothes!
  • Il covo dei saraceni: this restaurant also in the harbor area allows you to see Positano from a different angle, from the north side of the harbor. I love the hotel and frequently stay there, but the restaurant and the pool are really divine. There is a small brasserie serving, local fare, like pizza, pasta and salads, but I really enjoy the proper restaurant, perfect at night with the lights of the beach.
  • La tagliata: if you had enough seafood and you want a good steak there is no better place than this restaurant in Montepertuso. It is rustic and unassuming but the produce comes from the organic farm next door and the food is simple but delicious.
  • La Zagara: if you are not done with your calorie intake the best place to load up on dessert is this small pastry shop in the main street of positano.  I usually go for the delizia al limone (a lemon sponge cake drenched in limoncello and coated in lemon pastry cream), but pretty much anything they make is great because, due to the location they sell out every day.

Amalfi:

Amalfi gives the name to the coast because it has a rich history and through the centuries has been the most important city of the area. Once a maritime republic along with Genoa, Pisa and Venice, this little town featured the first concept of social melting pot with  Arabs and Cristians living (almost always) peacefully together. The food and architecture are heavily influenced by the dualism.

  • La caravella: this small restaurant in the city center has a Michelin Star and an elegant decor that makes up for the lack of a view. The chef Antonio Dipino takes traditional recipes and works on the textures and techniques to create innovative dishes that still taste like your grandma’s would have.
  • Eolo: this restaurant, in the Marina Riviera hotel, has a great view and great local dishes. Check out the wonderful wine cellar behind the latticed glass and iron doors!
  • Santa Caterina: the restaurant is located in one of the most charming hotels of the coast. One of my friends was invited to a wedding there and loved the ambiance and the decor.  The food is less creative than in other restaurants but skillfully cooked.
  • Marina Grande: This restaurant, located in a beach resort is an institution in Amalfi. The food is a unexpectedly more creative than the rest and the ingredients are super fresh. The chef’s mantra is “all the ingredients must be local” and this “0 kilometers” policy means that the serves will likely be able to tell you the exact farm/fish boat from with the ingredients come from.

Cetara

Cetara is not so popular with the American crowd but it is a real jewel for the locals. It is closer to Salerno so I have visited often and enjoyed many summer days there.  Cetara is famous for its “cianciole” the fishing boats used to fish “alici” (mediterranean anchovies and sardines) and tuna. It is also famous for the so called “colatura di alici” the essence of anchovies that is bottled and used to add umami to many pasta dishes…. see, we knew umami before anyone else did!

  • Acquapazza is a small trattoria near the docks. The food is creative and fun to eat. You can imagine that the chefs must have fun thinking of all the dishes.  This restaurant is very dear to me because one of the chefs is Luciano Piscino, a childhood friend, who was also a great soccer player (although he never picked me to be on his team). Who knew he would grow up to be an accomplishad chef!
  • Al convento: if you are looking for rustic food in Cetara this is the place to go! If you can’t eat any more alici, I recommend you try this restaurant for your meat fix.

I hope this guide helps you navigating the restaurant on the Amalfi Coast during your vacation. Don’t forget to share this article and if you have questions please post them in the comment section below.

Ciao!