Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sweets and Other Eateries in Amalfi

In search of a café while K's family napped in the afternoon, we stumbled upon one in front of Trattoria da Barracca. We didn't get the name of the café as we primarily chose it to order water and coffee, as well as to take advantage of the free wifi signal. Though, we were pleasantly surprised by the dessert K ordered, the torta ricotta e pere. The ricotta and pear cake is apparently a local dessert, originating from a small pastry shop in Minori, along the Amalfi Coast. It's basically a pear and ricotta cream filling sandwiched between two sponge disks of ground hazelnut. Since this is totally K's type of dessert, I didn't plan on having more than a bite. But after the first spoonful, I couldn't help myself from taking more. I probably had more than K wanted me to.

Because of the scorching heat, we often wanted granita di limone, or Italian lemon ice instead of dessert. A' Sciula in Amalfi served the best lemon granitas as they specialize in lemon-flavored gelato, sorbet, yogurt, etc. Their sorbet and yogurt were also worth trying. 

The best gelato EVER goes to the gelateria across the beach and bus terminal by the port. I think the name is Bar Savoia. I mistook the sign, "Gelato Artigianale," as the name. It turns out that it means handcrafted gelato. Anyway, their flavors were ridiculously fresh tasting and strong, as if you were having the real fruit or nut. Over two days, we sampled strawberry, coconut, peach, coffee, and pistachio. I wish I could have tried them all. 

Another place we ate was Ristorante e Pizzeria "La Perla". K and I shared an octopus salad and linguine with sea urchin. Both were good and the prices were fair. We loved that it was tucked in a small alley parallel to the main strip.

At La Taverna di Masaniello, K and his sister both ordered pizza, while I ordered the homemade pasta with eggplant and mozzarella. The food was mediocre and inexpensive so it's fine if you want a  cheap lunch.

Even cheaper and with a better view was Bar Gran Caffè. We had salad, panini, and bruschette for lunch. The food wasn't anything special, but you couldn't beat the al fresco dining, which allowed you to see both the beach and cityscape.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Trattoria Bar "Il Tari"

Trattoria Bar "Il Tari" in Amalfi was recommended to us by the hotel. It had a more expansive menu than the others, including dishes like the squid stuffed with breadcrumbs, capers, and olives. Unable to turn down anything with breadcrumbs, capers, or olives, I was even able to enjoy this. The stuffed peppers with cheese and olives was tasty too. Rather than using fresh peppers, they used marinated peppers which made it better than I had imagined. The breadsticks were even worth mentioning. I know most people don't rave about breadsticks, except those from The Olive Garden. But, these were honestly the best breadsticks I've ever had, probably because they were handmade. And lastly, the wine worth jotting down: Ravello Russo "Selva delle Monache" from Costa d'Amalfi. I don't drink too often, and when I do, it's usually beer. However, K's dad needed someone to share a bottle as everyone else in the family hardly drinks. With wine this good, I had no problem helping.

Ristorante Lo Smeraldino

We couldn't have selected a better restaurant to have our first dinner in Amalfi. Ristorante Lo Smeraldino, not only had the best pizza in Amalfi, but the best view. The restaurant was located within steps of our hotel, in the marina. This night shot wasn't taken from the restaurant, but the view was very similar.

K's sister really liked the pizza here because of the crust. She's a huge fan of New York-style pizza and their crust resembled that most.

Obviously, there was more seafood. Presentation was much nicer than some of the other places too. One dish that we did not see too often was squid ink pasta. This place had a squid ink risotto, which was very good and a nice change.

The desserts were also fabulous. We had tiramisu and delizie al limone (lemon delight), a regional dessert filled with the lemon-based liqueur, limoncello. Neither were too sweet and very light.

Ristorante da Barracca

From Ischia, we rode the ferry to Capri and then to Amalfi, where we spent five days. For lunch, we tried Trattoria da Barracca, in a piazza (city square) slightly off the beaten path. It was a really cute eatery, as you can see in the picture above. I don't remember what we ate there besides the scialatielli (homemade pasta) with clams and zucchini. Don't get me wrong, the food was really good. But, after having the same dishes over and over, you easily forget what you ate. This dish was memorable because it was our first scialatielli. It's a thick pasta from the Amalfi Coast. Being fans of doughy noodles, K and I loved it.

La Bella Napoli

On our last night in Ischia, we went to La Bella Napoli by the port in Forio. K ordered gnocchi with clams, tomatoes, and bottarga (grated fish roe). The gnocchi was a little different than what we're used to in that they were smaller, rounder, and softer. Still, it was really good. I do not discriminate when it comes to pasta or noodles.

Craving some vegetables, I ordered this pizza. It was much better than the one we had in Napoli, with the best char.

If you happen to crave steak like K's dad, this is the place to order it. They prepared it exactly to his  liking—rare.


One of the absolute musts in Ischia is to go to one of the thermal pool parks. Because the area is volcanic, there are many natural hot springs on the island. We went to Negombo, where they have a beautiful beach in addition to the multiple thermal pools. Taking a nap on the beach after soaking in the pools was pure bliss.

At one o' clock, we ate lunch at the restaurant in the park. I remember that fact because we were all hungry by noon, but the restaurant wasn't open yet. (A tell-tale sign we were in Italy.) With huge appetites, we devoured clams and mussels in tomato broth, grilled prawns, linguine with clams, as well as lemon-cream pasta and spaghetti with eggplant. To our surprise, the food was really superb. Everything was cooked perfectly and well seasoned. 

Marinated Anchovies

After lunch in Napoli, K and I headed to the island of Ischia by ferry to meet up with K's family. Our first dinner was at La Tinaia Pizzeria in Forio. There, we ordered a ton of dishes—too many to recall. But, among the highlights of the meal were these marinated anchovies. I generally stay away from anchovies, but these were very tasty. The fact that they were dressed in lemon juice, vinegar, and olive oil helped immensely.

The restaurant is a great place to go if you have a large group. There is plenty of seating, but be sure to eat outside in the summer as there is no air conditioning!

If you're in the mood for gelato, go to Bar Gelateria Roxy, located across the street. We sampled several flavors: hazelnut, pistachio, chocolate chip, strawberry, peach, melon, and coconut. They were all superior to any gelato we've had in the States.   

First Pizza in Italy

Upon arrival in Napoli, we took the bus straight to Molo Beverello Port to get our first taste of real Neapolitan pizza at Antica Brandi Pizzeria. This is where Margherita pizza was invented, in 1889. Since Margherita pizza is one of our favorites, we had to try theirs. Our first thought was that we've had better pizza in Brooklyn. No joke! (From this trip, we learned that we have really, really good pizza here.) Theirs was quite salty and the cheese was lumpy. However, it did have a nice char and the crust was chewy. Overall, it was good, but we just expected more from this place.   

In addition to the Margherita pizza, we ordered the one above, which came with four different toppings: mushrooms, prosciutto, baby clams, and cheese. I loved how they placed bread between each topping to truly separate them. And, I found it interesting that they threw in the entire clam, shell and all.

Despite our disappointment, we enjoyed dining al fresco, serenaded by a band, among the other tourists. After being on a plane for eight hours, it was nice to finally be outside, in Italy, and eat real food.

Napoli, Ischia, and the Amalfi Coast

K and I recently returned from Italy. We were in Napoli, Ischia, and the Amalfi Coast for eight full days with his family, taking in gorgeous views, like the one in Conca dei Marini, and eating regional Italian food. The area is known for their fresh seafood, Neapolitan pizza, and giant lemons—as large as a cantaloupe! So, stick to their specialties and you'll be pleased. DO NOT order a steak or chicken, as we regrettably did. As someone who doesn't eat much seafood, I have to admit that it was challenging at times, especially because all the places serve the same Italian dishes. Coming from New York City, where we eat different cuisines each day, I found this to be very odd. However, they offer plenty of delicious eggplant and zucchini dishes and the seafood is prepared so well, you just have to try it!

Please pardon the photo; it was taken with my phone, not one of K's super duper cameras. This was the best image representing the Amalfi Coast sans people. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Oven-Fried Chicken with Cornmeal Crust

My ever resourceful K made Joy of Cooking's Oven-Fried Chicken with Cornmeal Crust tonight to use up the leftover buttermilk. I planned on making the Chilled Avocado Soup with it, but was pleased to have this instead. It came out better than what I had remembered. The skin was super crispy and flavorful this time. As a result of mistaking the cayenne pepper for the chili powder, it also had a little more kick. If you don't mind some heat, I highly recommend making the substitution.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Mapo Tofu

Even though my tongue went numb several times tonight, I couldn't stop myself from shoveling more tofu into my mouth. Just thinking about it again makes me salivate. That's how good it is.

K has tried many other versions of mapo tofu, but the recipe he follows most is by Appetite for China blogger, Diana Kuan. The substitutions K made were largely due to availability of ingredients, except using beef instead of pork. That's simply my preference. Feel free to follow the original recipe as is. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Cremini Mushroom Soba

Here's another mushroom noodle dish. Yes, we love our mushrooms and noodles. However, it's unlike the others. It doesn't have any Asian ingredients other than the soba. I intended to make a variation of the 'Japanese' Cold Noodles with Yuzu, but remembered that we're low on rice vinegar. Since we had cremini mushrooms, I thought it'd be interesting to try a Western cold noodle dish. Halfway through roasting the mushrooms, I came up with the idea to toss them in soba and use the mushroom 'juice' as the sauce. Surprisingly, it went really well with the soba. With only mushrooms, butter, olive oil, rosemary, garlic, salt, and pepper, the sauce is subtle but flavorful. Not wanting the greens to overpower the mushrooms, they went into a salad with tomatoes and a balsamic vinaigrette instead.

This is an original dish by yours truly, so measurements are approximate. Please continue reading for the recipe.