At a dinner party in Positano, a friend’s four-year old daughter cleaned her plate of mozzarella and tomatoes, octopus salad and anchovies and asked her mother for more, twice, before the main course even came out. I was simultaneously impressed and charmed. A girl of my own heart. I asked, “How do you say ‘good-eater’ in Italian?” “Una buona forchetta.” A good fork. Yes, I can certainly relate.
I often tell people that eating is my hobby. A far more poetic description is that for me, meals solidify memories. The most memorable meals of my life, I can tell you not only where I was, what I smelled and what I tasted, but who I met and how I felt.
So not surprising then that my life in travel revolves around food. 🙂 During my summer in Positano, I had the pleasure of adding to my restaurant recommendation list.
Il Ritrovo: After a beautiful hike on the Path of the Gods, we ended back in the main piazza at Montepertuso for a late lunch at Il Ritrovo. Chef Salvatore and his lovely brother Paolo made me feel right at home bringing me a glass of refreshing prosecco as I looked out to the ocean from our table on the terrace. I started with a beautiful grilled octopus recommended the chef and sampled a few of the sautéed local shrimp – to die for. Then Chef Salvatore surprised me with bruschetta and zucchini flowers (after saying they were my favourite) and for a main course sautéed mussels and clams. Fresh ingredients are the star here : On my most recent visit, Paolo convinced me to have a special pasta made with mushrooms he had gathered that day. I don’t have a picture because I was too much immersed in bliss, savoring this creation to come up for air, but it was quite possibly the most delicious pasta I’ve ever had. I heard this sentiment echoed by a whole group at the table next to me. Il Ritrovo is about a 10 minute drive above Positano but like most restaurants in Montepertuso, it has a complimentary shuttle that will pick you up and drop you off if you make arrangements. It’s definitely worth getting out of Positano center for this gem.
La Sponda: Smack in the center of Positano at the famed Le Sirenuse hotel, is Michellen-starred La Sponda. Admittedly I was always intimidated of both the hotel and the restaurant on my early visits to Positano but I really had no need to be. I first visited the Champagne and Oyster Bar a couple of years ago and was surprised at how even in the most elegant atmosphere the staff put me at ease. It’s the same in the restaurant as the maitre d’ welcomed me warmly and showed me to my table where sommelier Cristian greeted me with a visit from the champagne trolley. The champagne, Jack Legras, was a creamy delight that was the most beautiful champagne I’ve ever tasted. Normally I would choose the tasting menu with wine pairings but I actually felt that it was too much food for me on that particular night so I chose to order a la carte and let Cristian choose wines to match each course. I had a lovely tuna starter, then pasta with fresh fish (again convinced by my server), John Dory with saffron sauce for a main and then finally the lemon soufflé with lemon granita. Every course was presented beautifully by the attentive staff and everything was tasty and fresh. My one criticism is that the soufflé was a bit too eggy in texture for my liking, but otherwise tasty. La Sponda prides itself on the romantic atmosphere – lit by 400 candles nightly according to their website – and on this particular night when rain kept the outside dining terrace closed, it created an intimate glow. Now I did have some special treatment, my visit arranged by the sommelier himself, but I can attest that everyone is made to feel special at La Sponda. The staff doesn’t take for granted that a restaurant of this calibre and reputation is an occasion destination and they endeavour to make everyone have the once-in-a-lifetime memories every night.
Casa Mele: Opened in June 2014, Casa Mele is Positano’s newest culinary offering. Just off of the main road up from the Sponda bus stop, you’ll first notice the chalkboard painted pig greeting you at the entrance. The interior is clean-lined and modern with a few vintage touches like the floral lampshades arranged into a chandelier. There’s no sea view or terrace here, but Chef Raffra does one better with his sleek open kitchen and huge window so you can watch all of the action. I went with three other diners on my visit so we were able to share and sample a range of dishes. To start, we were treated to a little cheese with peppers and tomatoes. Then it was on to the seafood salad and fresh grilled vegetables. A seafood risotto followed. For a main, I had a beautifully cooked seabass while my friends shared the seafood soup. You can’t usually go wrong with seafood on the Amalfi Coast as its freshness lends itself to simple preparations which allow the ingredients to shine. Chef Raffra elevates even the simplest ingredients with attention to flavor combinations and elegant preparations. For dessert, I chose my favourite delizia al limone, a local lemon cake which Chef Raffa serves in a kind of deconstructed version of light cake layered with lemon crème. I find that most restaurants in Positano, while skilled at savory selections, struggle with desserts – the exceptions being the tiramisu at Da Vincenzo and basically everything at Casa e Bottega. But Chef Raffra excels in his inventive takes on regional classics. Bravo, indeed.
Il Ritrovo Via Montepertuso, 77 84017 Positano, Italy Phone: (+39) 089-812005 La Sponda Via S. Sebastiano, 2 84017 Positano, Italy Phone: (+39) 089-875066 Casa Mele Via G. Marconi, 76 84017 Positano, Italy Phone: (+39) 089-811364
© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2014.