Our first stop on the Costiera Amalfitana was Sorrento. Michele wanted to stay in Sorrento because there were a number of restaurants that she wanted to go to that could be reached by bus or by the Circumvesuviana, the train that goes from Sorrento to Naples.
Before heading into the countryside, we tried a few restaurants in Sorrento. Walking down the steps to the restaurants Il Buco di Giuseppe Aversa you notice the little platforms or terraces on different levels where you can dine. Since it was a nice night we decided to have dinner outdoors on one of the terraces.
The waiter spoke English and told us that during the winter months he worked in Florida. He gave us the English menu but we told him we wanted the Italian one since we did not understand the description of the dishes in English!
The food was a combination of traditional and innovative based on local ingredients. Two dishes that stood out: ricotta ravioli with a hint of lemon on a bed of escarole with an octopus ragu. The other was paccheri di Gragnano, large tubes of dried pasta with tomatoes, mozzarella and escarole. Michele loved the tomato and fennel breadsticks, the escarole bread and the focaccia.
Paccheri di Gragano
They have an extensive wine list and we drank the Pietramarina Etna Bianco Superiore DOCG 2008 from Benanti made from 100% Carracanti.
Restaurant La Basilica is a traditional style restaurant with a very good wine list. The dishes that stood out where the octopus in tomato sauce, the fried fish mixed grill and the grilled langoustine-some of the best I have had in Italy.
We drank the Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC 2004 100% Trebbiano from Eduardo Valentini. It was 50 Euros, which is less than retail in NYC. The outside tables are on either side of a narrow street so there are always people walking past you. This can add to the charm as can the guitar player and singer, who was very good.
Da Franco Pizzeria was recommended to us for pizza. I ordered a Pizza Margarita, which was not very good. Michele ordered the Saltimbocca Franco- a sandwich made from pizza dough stuffed with melted mozzarella, tomato, prosciutto, and rughetta. It was terrific. We went back again and this time both of us ordered the Da Franco- Michele really liked it!
Our first trip out of town was to restaurant Antico Franceschiello in Messa Lubrense. The bus ride to the town was only 20 minutes but when we were on our way there we were not sure if the restaurant was in the town of out of town. When we arrived in town we went to the tourist office and were told that the restaurant was almost 2kl in the direction of Sorrento and there would not be another bus for some time. It was a nice day so we decided to walk.
In the restaurant we sat at a corner table overlooking a lemon orchard with a fabulous view of Vesuvius and Capri.
The wine we drank was a Bianco Terra del Volturio IGP 2010 called 3-tre, punto trentatre 33(3.33). It is 100% Pellagrello Bianco and the producer is Tenuta Pezza Pane. 3.33 refers to the bushel, the ancient unit of measurement used in agriculture in the province of Caserta corresponding to 3.33 sq. ft.
We liked everything here especially the pasta with squid ink, the roasted peppers with eggplant filling–Michele said it was just like her grand mother’s only lighter–and the octopus with marinated artichokes.
One of the restaurants she wanted to go to was Lo Stuzzichino in Sant’Agata sui Due Golfi about a 30-minute ride by bus. We knew this restaurant was in the town and it was easy to locate.
The owner of the restaurant is Domenico (Mimmo) De Gregorio and he is also the sommelier. In the kitchen are his father Paolo, his mother Filomena and his wife Dora. Often when Mimmo was shouting an order to the kitchen he would holler “Mamma”. It is a true family restaurant.
One of the dishes that stood out was the ravioli, some were made with cows milk ricotta and others with sheep milk ricotta and it was easy to tell the difference. The last course was a fillet of pezzogna and it just about knocked me over. It was the best fish fillet that I have had in years.
He suggested a Fiano di Avellino DOCG 2011 from Vadiaperti. It was a full-bodied wine but it needed more time and did not open up until the end of the meal.
After lunch Mimmo and I had a long conversation about the wines of the area. He asked me if I have ever had wine made from the Caprettone or Catalanesca grapes and said they were cultivated in the heart of Mount Vesuvio. When I said that I hadn’t, he gave me a bottle of wine from Società Agricola Cantine Olivella. It was a Vesuvio Bianco DOC 2011 and it is made from the Caprettone grape. The name of the wine is Emblema.
I had never heard of either the winery or the grape variety.
Back in Sorrento I tried the wine again and I liked it. In a wine store I found another wine made from the Catalanesca grape from the same producer and it was only 9 Euros. More on these wines in another article.
Michele wanted to go to restaurant Torre del Saracino in Vico Equense. We had met the chef, Gennaro Esposito, in NYC when he was doing a demonstration and we liked the food. This time we called the restaurant and they told us to get off the circumversuviana the stop before Vico Equense and they would drive us down to the restaurant, which is on the beach.
This is a charming modern restaurant with excellent service and a great wine list. Michele liked the Pellagrello Bianco from Tenuta Pezza Paneso much that we ordered it again.
We left the menu up to the chef and what followed was a wonderful 12-course lunch. Some of the dishes were: paccheri with fried anchovies on a sweet and sour onion sauce, scabbard fish alla parmigiana, pea soup with one ricotta dumpling, a lemon raviolo and with raw shrimp and lightly cooked calamari, and his famous fish soup with 10 pastas which we had in NYC. The highlight of this great meal might have been the grilled monkfish and foie gras with lettuce, celery leaves and lemon cream sauce. The wine that they served with this course was a sweet wine the Muffato della Sala Umbria IGT 2007 from Marchesi Antinori made from 60% Sauvignon Blanc and 40% Grechetto, Traminer and Riesling.
When I complimented the sommelier on the pairing he gave me two official looking papers to sign stating that I liked the combination! There were a number of desserts including a chocolate mold with mandarin and ricotta filling. To top it all off there was a chocolate cart with many different kinds of chocolate to try.
It was a fitting end to our stay in Sorrento and we were looked forward to our stay in Praiano, which is between Positano and Amalfi.