Amalfi Coast Restaurants
2 Traversa Dragone
Tel: 39 089 871 840
Atrani is Amalfi's smaller and more modest next-door neighbor. One of its attractions is this ultra-authentic trattoria, which offers one of the best traditional seafood meals anywhere along this coast. All the tables are inside, but the thick walls and barrel-vaulted ceilings keep things cool except on the hottest days. There's no fancy stuff: The Proto brothers, who run the place, know that the best thing to do with a fish if it's fresh is to grill it, so secondi consist mostly of swordfish, or turbot, or pezzogna (spotted bream, a local variety) grilled to perfection. But many people never even get that far, distracted as they are by the abundant spread of antipasti (which might include lightly stewed baby octopus or zucchini flowers filled with sheep's cheese) and by tempting, succulent pasta dishes such as scialatielli 'a paranza (thick, handmade spaghetti with mussels, clams, prawns, and tomatoes). Service is informal but friendly, and the whole ambience feels grittily local.
Open daily July through mid-September; Wednesdays through Mondays end of September through June.
38 Corso Garibaldi
Tel: 39 089 261 606
Cetara is a fishing port in the true sense of the word: Rather than have a few gaily painted wooden boats pulled up onto the beach, this lively town east of Amalfi has a fleet of state-of-the-art trawlers that venture as far as the coast of Libya and use tracker planes to help spot the shoals. It also boasts a couple of seafood restaurants that are as good as—and much better value than—anything you are likely to find between Amalfi and Positano. Our favorite is Acqua Pazza (the name refers to a local technique of cooking fish in a court bouillon), a laid-back den down by the port where every meal becomes a sort of salon presided over by genial owner-chef Gennaro Marciante. Don't miss the delicate seafood antipasti or the linguine with colatura d'alici, a local anchovy sauce that is the direct descendant of the garum of the Ancient Romans. But don't turn up too early for dinner: Things don't really get underway here until after 9 pm.
Open daily June through August; closed Mondays September through May; closed December through January.
178 Viale Pasitea
Tel: 39 089 875 128
This historic family restaurant has long been one of the most reliable places in Positano for a good-value meal. Its location, about halfway up the near-vertical stack of houses on the west side of town, makes for a thigh-testing climb from the beach, but it's well worth the effort, as Da Vincenzo is much better than any of its waterside rivals. This is a serious family restaurant with affable waiters who know a thing or two about wine, and a real dedication to seasonal local cuisine. Though the secondi are good, most habitués go for a selection of antipasti—don't miss the skewered grilled octopus accompanied by crispy, deep-fried artichokes—followed by a pasta dish such as the delicious, herby linguine with anchovies and wild fennel, perhaps finishing up with a homemade dessert made by Mamma Marcella. The outside tables are strung along the road, but close encounters with buses, scooters, and strolling locals are all part of the Da Vincenzo buzz.
Open Wednesdays through Mondays 1 to 3 pm and 7 pm to midnight, November through April.
11 Corso Sant'Agata
Sant' Agata sui due Golfi
Tel: 39 081 878 0026
The little town of Sant'Agata is a rather modest place, but it plays host to what is generally (and rightly) considered to be the best table south of Rome, presided over by the indefatigable Alfonso Iaccarino—grandson of the original Alfonso, who was born in 1890. (They like to keep things in the family here: Alfonso's sons Ernesto and Mario work as assistant chef and dining-room host, respectively). A 2007 makeover has brought the previously rather dated decor up to par with the cuisine, though the pink-and-green color combinations are still rather forceful. All the fruit, vegetables, and herbs come from the family's farm, Le Peracciole, including Nocellara, Moraiola, and Frantoio olives, which they handpick and cold-press the same day for the exquisite fruity, spicy oils integral to Iaccarino's cuisine. The food thinks local but acts global, updating age-old Campanian recipes in dishes such as annecchia (halfway between veal and beef) with guanciale bacon, fior di latte cheese, and potato-and-sage foam. The kitchen can also find virtue in simplicity, with a plate of ravioli filled with caciotto cheese and marjoram, topped with a sauce of Vesuvian tomatoes and basil. There's also the option of staying overnight in one of the nine rather grand rooms. And breakfast comes from Don Alfonso's kitchen.
Open Tuesday evening and all day Wednesday through Sunday, June through September; all day Wednesday through Sunday, October to mid-November, April, and May; closed mid-November through March.
97/99 Via Montepertuso
Tel: 39 089 811 806
High above Positano, on the slopes of Monte Sant'Angelo, is a tiny village called Montepertuso. Of an evening, Positanesi and tuned-in visitors brave the curving road to bask in the cool mountain air and to eat at Donna Rosa or Il Ritrovo. Donna Rosa is the more bijou-elegant of the pair, but what's on the plate is reassuringly unpretentious, with homemade pasta going into primi such as stripy black-and-white pasta strips served with seafood. The desserts are terrific (be sure to leave space for the hot chocolate soufflé), while the impressive wine list is particularly strong on whites from the Campania region. Note it's closed Tuesdays September through May.—Lee Marshall
Open daily June through August 12:30 to 2:30, 7:30 to 10:30 pm.
3 Via Pantaleone Comite
Tel: 39 089 871 241
The granddaughter of Hotel Santa Caterina's founder runs this upscale, upstairs place with tasty views over Amalfi's harbor—at their best if you book one of the three coveted tables on the outside loggia. Expect sophisticated, evolved Neapolitan dishes, often decorated with seasonal flowers. The emphasis, unsurprisingly, is on seafood: cod-filled ravioli topped with a sauce based on tartufi di mare, a large local clam; sea bass with lemon salt and fennel leaves. The eggplant-chocolate dessert, based on an ancient Amalfian recipe that is believed to have been imported from the Arab world, is revelatory.
Open Wednesdays through Mondays.
77 Via Montepertuso
Tel: 39 089 812 005
Il Ritrovo is a few doors down from Donna Rosa, the village of Montepertuso's other must-visit restaurant. This place is a classic family-run trattoria and it looks the part, with spunzilli tomatoes hanging in bunches from the wooden ceiling beams and a glassed-in veranda that is half mountain refuge, half Neapolitan Old Curiosity Shop. Chef and owner Salvatore Barba is an able interpreter of the local tradition, serving up, alongside all the usual fish and seafood classics, dishes such as paccheri in a sauce of walnuts and provola cheese, which derive from the more land-based cuisine of inland villages like Furore or Agerola. The house white wine, a summery local Tramonto, is delicious, but there's a well-stocked cellar should you need an alternative.—Lee Marshall
Open Thursdays through Tuesdays 12:30 to 3, 7:30 to 10 pm.
12 Via Matteo Camera
Tel: 39 089 871 029
Many tourists pass by Amalfi's best restaurant, put off perhaps by the lack of outdoor tables and the proximity to the main road. But inside there are two elegant marine-themed dining rooms with works of modern art by Vietri ceramicists, and gourmet seafood prepared by owner-chef Antonio Dipino. There's a six-course tasting menu, or you can choose à la carte from dishes such as risotto with lemon rind, prawns, and bottarga (mullet roe); or a fillet of the day's catch from the Gulf of Amalfi braised "acqua pazza" style in a broth that includes, alongside the usual onion, tomatoes, celery, and bay leaves, little bread cubes fried in seaweed. This is seriously creative stuff, not cucina di mamma. The ambience, the service, and the amazing wine list (the cellar holds over 15,000 bottles) all rise to the occasion.
Open Wednesdays through Mondays January through October.
Most first-time visitors are too busy holding onto the back of the seat to notice the traffic signs on the spectacular Sorrento–Positano route. But if you head west rather than east at the watershed town of Sant'Agata sui Due Golfi, a more rural side of the Amalfi Coast emerges, with villas grouped around small terraced olive and lemon groves and fertile market gardens. Beyond the pretty village of Nerano, the road drops to Marina di Cantone, a laid-back, slightly shabby, family-oriented resort with a long, thin sandy beach, which can also be reached by boat from Positano. Don't be fooled by appearances, though: Marina di Cantone has three of the best restaurants on the Amalfi Coast. The rather anonymous (not to say ugly) white building between the beach and parking lot houses the unmissable Taverna del Capitano (39-081-808-1028; www.tavernadelcapitano.it; closed Monday and Tuesday lunch), a creative seafood place run by the Caputo family, with son Alfonso in the kitchen. Occupying most of a wooden jetty a little further along the beach, Lo Scoglio is the reign of Mamma Antonietta: The rich and famous yacht over from Capri to sample her spaghetti alle zuccchine, dripping with butter and cheese, and served with lashings of black pepper (39-081-808-1026, open daily). But it doesn't end there: Just up the Nerano road is Quattro Passi, where the best of the day's finny catch is paired with the terra firma side of the local culinary tradition, with vegetables from owner-chef Antonio Mellino's own garden (39-081-808-1271, closed Tuesday evening, all day Wednesday). The wine cellar—which burrows under the road you just drove down—needs to be seen to be believed (and Mellino will happily oblige). A few simple rooms on the grounds make for decent bivouacs if you can't face the drive back to Positano.
242 Viale Pasitea
Tel: 39 089 812 3516
Don't be fooled by the ambient music and the Miami-minimalist design aesthetic. Beneath its stylish veneer, this cool new bar-restaurant a few doors up from Da Vincenzo has solid local credentials and takes its food and wine very seriously; it's also surprisingly good value—at least for Positano. Some dishes, like the pumpkin soup with rosemary oil and a sprinkling of shrimp, fall into the creative category; but others—the sartù di riso or slow-baked beef braciola in tomato sauce—are classic Neapolitan dishes, sharpened and refined rather than revisited. An outside patio set back from the road makes for a relaxed alfresco meal; in high season, it also acts as a venue for occasional jazz concerts. The wine list is a pleasure to read: It's not a huge selection, but one that's clearly been drawn up by someone who knows their Italian producers, from Alto Adige down to Campania.
Open daily 6 pm to 2 am, April through the first week of November.
28 Via San Giovanni del Toro
Tel: 39 089 818 181
The region's grandest dining (and no lunching) takes place at grandissimo hotel Palazzo Sasso, courtesy of young Pugliese chef Pino Lavarra, who took over from the original chef, Antonio Genovese, in 2001. In a low-ceilinged baronial hall that's been slightly Marriott-ized in multiple shades of beige, an army of waiters ferry the food—which turns out to be less alarmingly haute than the ambience, or the menu descriptions, suggest. Lavarra is a little more Slow Food than he used to be, anchoring his creations in locally sourced ingredients such as Cetara anchovies, Cilento mozzarella, and cheeses from Tramonti. This is southern Italian food writ large: basil-flavored chitarrini (a spaghetti variant) wrapped in swordfish carpaccio, or ricciola (amberjack) in anchovy emulsion with artichoke salad. Finish off with a famous decadent grand dessert al cioccolato, and steel yourself for the bill, which is likely to top 100 euros a head even if you go easy on the wine.
Open daily for dinner March through October.
147 Via Capriglione
Tel: 39 089 813 1333
Just occasionally it's nice to have an alternative to the Amalfi Coast's mamma-in-the-kitchen trattorias and formal seafood restaurants. The Casa Angelina design hotel's restaurant falls into neither camp: It's unashamedly contemporary, bringing some of the pizzazz of the new dining scene of Rome or Milan to a region that sometimes uses tradition as an excuse for lack of originality. A cool white and cream dining room with well-spaced tables looks onto a view of startling beauty, with the bay of Positano and the Li Galli islets in the distance (for the full diorama, book one of the tables on the outside terrace). Chef Vincenzo Vanacore plays around winningly with Neapolitan classics, fusing two standards (paccheri in seafood sauce, and fish soup) into a single dish, or offering a Sushi Napoletano, in which parboiled spaghetti chopped into rice-size fragments is tossed in garlic, chile, and oil and served with raw tuna and olives. Maître Andrea Confessore is an excellent multilingual host and guide to the well-chosen wine list. But attention to detail is only to be expected in a place where the color of the napkin the waiter brings is chosen according to what you happen to be wearing.—Lee Marshall
Open daily 1 to 3, 7:30 to 11 pm.