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Amalfi Coast Dining

Eat Like a Local
Amalfi Coast Dining
The regional food of Campania is among the best in Italy, and the variety of options on the coast is remarkable. Whether you prefer a simple plate of mozzarella and tomatoes, a puffy pizza, or a multicourse seafood meal, you will not be disappointed.
By Nicky Swallow, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Gianluca Moggi
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    Eat Like a Local
    Eat Like a Local
    Traditional regional cooking is based on fresh, seasonal ingredients from both sea and land. Try colatura di alici, an anchovy extract that shows up on pasta at AcquaPazza in Cetara. Other local specialties include deep-fried or marinated anchovies, pasta e fagioli (bean and pasta soup), and pasta with zucchini, eggplant, or mixed seafood. Ristorante Michel'angelo in Capri and Da Vicenzo in Positano are both good options for this kind of rustic, traditional fare.
    Photo by Gianluca Moggi
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    The Fine-Dining Scene
    The Fine-Dining Scene
    With the influx of gourmet chefs to the area, the Amalfi Coast has an abundance of fine-dining options. Innovative chef Matteo Temperini runs the kitchen at La Sponda in Positano, and has earned the establishment international recognition. The restaurant at the famous Hotel San Pietro serves up old-style glamour along with stellar food. Da Gemma deftly balances a welcoming attitude with a formal dining experience. But an evening of fine dining in a region so rich with culinary resources and extraordinary views doesn't always require hushed service, crystal stemware, and Michelin stars.
    Photo by Gianluca Moggi
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    Perfect Pizza
    Perfect Pizza
    The pizza in this part of Italy is the best you will find anywhere in the world, and for good reason: Pizza was invented in Naples. Although it is a simple dish, it’s difficult to make properly. For a perfect pie, the dough should be made fresh each morning, the tomatoes should be the San Marzano variety, and the mozzarella should be made from buffalo milk. An authentic pizza must be baked in a wood-fired oven. Traditional varieties include the Margherita (tomato and mozzarella) and the Napoli (with added anchovies and capers). Enjoy a pie from a terrace right over the sea at the Brasserie at Hotel Covo dei Saraceni, an experience that'll spoil you for the local delivery place back home. The pizza at Ravello's Cumpa' Cosimo is hard to resist; go with a crowd so you can sample and share the just-caught fish, traditional pastas, and homemade soups, too. Sal De Riso added pizza to the offerings at his pasticceria in Minori. Imagine what the famous pastry chef can do with pizza crust!
    Photo courtesy of the Brasserie at Hotel Covo dei Saraceni
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    Dairy Dreams
    Dairy Dreams
    Though much of the local fare comes from the sea, the mountainous terrain of the Sorrentine Peninsula is the perfect grazing place for cows and sheep, which, in addition to providing staple meats, also produce wonderful cheeses such as provolone and pecorino. Artichokes, zucchini, and tomatoes, along with fresh herbs such as fennel, marjoram, and mint flourish in the region. Lemons, olives, and grapes also thrive. Montepertuso, a village in the hills above Positano, is a great place to sample this local fare. The antipasti platter at Ristorante Santa Croce includes not just local meat and anchovies but also smoked provolone, a braid of fresh mozzarella, and just-made ricotta drizzled with local honey. Da Vicenzo in Positano stuffs zucchini blossoms with fresh ricotta, then batter-fries them for a luscious, crispy taste of dairy heaven.
    Photo by Gianluca Moggi
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    Bountiful Seafood
    Bountiful Seafood
    From modest dishes like the ubiquitous plates of deep-fried anchovies to more specialized fare such as pezzogna (a type of bream) and sea urchins, seafood lovers enjoy a lot of choice on the Amalfi Coast. Typical recipes include pasta dishes such as spaghetti with clams or paccheri with mixed seafood. Whole fish are usually roasted on a bed of potatoes and cherry tomatoes or poached in a fragrant broth. Fritto misto is another favorite; it consists of various seafoods—such as calamari, shrimp, and squid—deep-fried and best eaten on the beach with a jug of wine. In Cetara, Ristorante AcquaPazza is devoted to the local anchovy fisheries, and the menu is full of surprising twists on classic Italian dishes. A bottle of the fermented anchovy sauce, colatura di alici, can bring a taste of the region home. At Torre Saracena, the chef maintains shallow pools filled with live shellfish right outside the kitchen door, which guarantees that your lunch on the sunny terrace over the beach will be made from the freshest seafood possible.
    Photo by Kristen Fortier
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    The Coastal Wines
    The Coastal Wines
    The sheer limestone slopes of the Monti Lattari range are home to countless vineyards producing an array of local wines. Drive up to the villages of Furore and Agerola to see wine producers handpicking their grapes (the terraces are too steep and narrow for machines). Many of the grape varieties grown here are unique to the area and go into Marisa Cuomo’s award-winning wines. Over in Tramonti, the Tenuta San Francesco and Capitignano labels also produce excellent vintages. Many of the wineries are open to the public, so you can visit their cellars and buy your bottles from the source.
    Photo by Gianluca Moggi
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    Local Cakes and Desserts
    Local Cakes and Desserts
    Many of the cakes and desserts found on the Amalfi Coast are made with the variety of indigenous, elongated lemons known as sfusato. Perhaps the most famous cake is the creamy delizie al limone, a sponge cake made with lemon custard and ricotta cheese. (Da Vicenzo in Positano serves a notable example so save room.) Ricotta-filled sfogliatelle pastries are served for breakfast, while rum-doused babà (small yeast cakes) make for a rich dessert after dinner. When on Capri, try the torta caprese, a flourless chocolate cake baked with ground almonds. Good bakeries to check out include Sal De Riso in Minori (don't miss the sfogliatelle) and Da Alberto in Capri (great torta caprese in lemon or chocolate).
    Photo by Gianluca Moggi
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    Limoncello
    Limoncello
    The sfusato lemons growing on terraces all along the Amalfi Coast go into local foods and sweets, and also into the liqueur called limoncello. Made from the lemon zest, which is steeped in grain alcohol and then added to syrup, limoncello is often offered after a meal as a digestivo and is best served straight from the freezer. It has gained popularity around the world and can be purchased from mass producers, but make sure to go to the source while you're in this part of Italy. The liqueur is produced in homes or by small artisan companies in Amalfi and on Capri.
    Photo by Gianluca Moggi
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    The Amalfi Coast's Frozen Specialties
    The Amalfi Coast's Frozen Specialties
    While all of Italy is known for its gelato, the Amalfi Coast has its own icy specialties. Granita di limone is a sort of sorbet or slush flavored with indigenous lemons and eaten with a spoon (or sucked through a straw). It’s wonderfully refreshing on a hot day, and you’ll see mobile booths selling it up and down the coast, sometimes offering coffee or almond granita, too. Also check for unusual flavors of ice cream such as prickly pear or lemon cream. Pasticceria Sal De Riso in Minori is known for its legendary creamy ricotta and pear, and in Capri, Gelateria Buonocore not only makes its own gelato but the crispy cones as well. The refreshing lemon popsicles served at Paradise Bar on the beach in Positano are made from local fruit, so cool off with a taste of Amalfi.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Capri’s Cuisine
    Capri’s Cuisine
    Capri’s most famous culinary export is the ubiquitous insalata caprese, a salad of buffalo mozzarella, sun-ripened tomatoes, and peppery local basil. A perfectly simple version is served at Villa Margherita, while Da Gemma has created its own modern spin on the classic: one made with just-picked tomatoes, as well as fried slices and liquefied ones. Try the fat, round ravioli caprese, which are stuffed with caciotta cheese and fresh marjoram and served with tomato sauce. Also sample a torta caprese, moist chocolate cake made with ground almonds, a fine slice of which can be had at Ristorante Michel'angelo. Try any of the local wines for a refreshing accompaniment for dinner, and end your meal with a bracing sip of limoncello.
    Photo by age fotostock