There's a lot of good food along the Amalfi Coast. Gillian Price is no fool - her guides are always for places with food as outstanding as the scenery.
Culinary delights along the Amalfi Coast
Pomodoro (tomato) and luscious creamy mozzarella cheese, preferably made with latte di bufala (buffalo milk), easily top the produce list. They make a joint appearance with the help of aromatic basil on traditional Neapolitan pizza baked in wood-fired ovens.
Gnocchi alla sorrentina is a tasty filling opening course to a meal – a tomato and white cheese sauce melted over tiny delicate potato dumplings. Scialatielli means homemade pasta that comes in short cut segments – perfect with a spicy sauce of stewed aubergine (melanzane). Maccheroni on the other hand bear no resemblance to the stodgy excuse served as macaroni overseas. Often hand-made and slightly undercooked, al dente, varieties of rigatoni tubes or twisted fusilli retain their shape perfectly when accompanying all matter of fish and meat sauces.
On the fish front, restaurants will often serve the day’s catch so ask what’s on or check the blackboard menu. Totani are a type of calamari, stewed or tossed lightly with prawns and rocket. A traditional method is Totani alla Praianese, freshly fished and sautéed with potatoes. Any variety of pasta alla pescatore means with seafood.
On Ischia you’ll be able to enjoy Pasta con fagioli, cozze e provolone, a winning combination of pasta with beans, mussels and melted provolone cheese. Coniglio all’Ischitana means rabbit stewed with garlic, tomato, white wine, chilli and herbs.
Capri has its famous Insalata caprese, namely mozzarella served with slices of fresh tomato and basil. Then there are fragrant Ravioli alla caprese, homemade pasta pockets filled with egg, parmesan, marjoram and caciotta cheese.
Non mangio né carne né pesce is Italian for ‘I don’t eat meat or fish’, which is more helpful than telling people you’re a vegetarian.
Something to drink
As far as drinks go, connoisseurs will enjoy delicious spring water flowing from village fountains during walks unless labelled ‘non potabile’ (tap water is always safe to drink). Fresh orange juice from locally grown fruit and squeezed on the spot is simply delicious and widely on offer.
A number of wines, white in particular, hail from these fertile regions. From the outskirts of Naples come Campi Flegrei and Greco di Tufo and Ischia has a recommendable Biancolella with just a light hint of fizz. However production struggles to keep up with demand from visitors so you will often be drinking wines from other areas such as Puglia, which produces memorable Falanghina.
If there's room for dessert
Stronger stuff comes as nocino, made from the famed Sorrento noci or walnuts. The fame of the delicate Limoncello liquor – served in thimble-size ice-frosty glasses – has already spread well from its home base on the Amalfi Coast. More delights come with citrus: desserts the ilk of delizia al limone, a soft dome of feather-light sponge with lemon cream. Watch out for Babà al rhum, syrupy sponge cones often served with cream.
A time-honoured tart from Naples, baked to celebrate Easter but produced by all reputable pasticcerie year-round, is the pastiera napoletana, a sweet pie filled with a luscious mix of ricotta, chunks of candied orange and cooked wheat.
Biscotti all’amarena are another treat, a glacéed pastry sandwich around an amarena cherry filling. Then there are shell-shaped, multi-layered sfogliatelle consumed oven-warm when the pastry is still chewy and the sweet cheese-fruit mixture fragrant. Lastly, don’t miss the huge coda di aragosta (lobster tail) cakes filled with a soft Chantilly cream, often lemony.
Breakfast and lunch on the go
As concerns picnic lunches, most neighbourhood grocery shops are usually happy to make up bread rolls (panini) filled with your choice of cheese (formaggio) or cold meat such as salami or ham (prosciutto), easy to order from unfailingly attractive counter displays.
Breakfast is a simple affair – most Italians take a coffee as cappuccino (with frothy milk) or espresso (black concentrated strong shot) standing up at the local café; usually accompanied by a cornetto, as the croissant is known in the Naples region. Hotels and B&Bs will offer the choice of tea as well, and provide bread, butter and jam, fruit juice and occasionally cereals if you’re lucky.