(all photos in this post taken with my iPhone through Camera Plus)
For those of you who follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you know that I just got back from Italy. We spent a few days in Rome and then went to the Campania region of Italy, which included the Island of Capri and the Amalfi Coast. It was really hard to come back, to say the least.
Capri at night
The Amalfi Coast really got to me. We've been to other areas of Italy before but I think by far it's the most beautiful area yet. I wanted to go to the Island of Capri, where my parents honeymooned. It was my favorite place. Not only was the island so beautiful, but the food was so great. The island is covered in lemon groves and everyone has a vegetable garden there. We were directed by the men at our hotel to a little place that the locals go to eat and we had a lunch that knocked us out. It was an unassuming place with local workers having their lunch - just a diner, Capri style.
lunch at Verginiello on Capri
The Caprese Salad at this place was made with the real deal - the incredible mozarella di bufala - buffalo milk mozzarella - that is made in this region of Italy. When you taste it, you realize you've never really tasted mozzarella cheese before. It's just out of this world. It's on the pizzas, too and takes them to a different level.
the perfect breakfast on Capri - lemon cake, fresh orange, cappuccino
My older brother, his wife and one of my nephews traveled with us. We based ourselves out of Sorrento and did day trips to Heculaneum, Positano, Amalfi and Ravello (another favorite). One of the things that being in this area allowed us to do was to go to Naples, where my older brother was born. My husband had the idea that it would be fun to try to find the very piazza that an old photograph was taken in of my mother and my brother. People helped identify that piazza for us and we actually found it and took some pictures there. I couldn't be in Naples, though, and not try to make the mecca to da Michele for pizza, considered ground zero for authentic Neopolitan pizza. You may have read about it.
the line at da Michele in Naples
Well, after we walked through the absolute craziness that is this part of Naples, the line was as I feared - out the door. But I had a backup plan because anyone who is familiar with da Michele knows that Trianon, across the street, is a definite contender. In fact, our Italian guide that we had on our Colosseum tour told us he likes Trianon better than da Michele. At any rate, the pizza was fantastic and we washed it down with Italian beer.
One of the things I really got a kick out of eating in this area was the fried fresh anchovies. For all you anchovy haters out there, these are totally different. They're crunchy, fresh and they sprinkle them with sea salt and pepper and give you lemons to squeeze over them. They are so good - but my brother was the only one who would eat them with me! Of course, he used to fix anchovy sandwiches when we were kids.
fried fresh anchovies in Sorrento
The produce that you see all over the Amalfi coast is incredible. These people have the most amazing ingredients. The streets of Sorrento are lined with beautiful orange trees, full of fruit and the entire Amalfi coast is filled with lemon groves everywhere. I brought back some intense hot chili peppers from Amalfi but what I really wanted to do was to stuff my suitcase full of those incredible lemons. Not allowed! All I want to do now is cook with lemons - you will definitely be seeing some lemon recipes coming up.
lemons in Sorrento
An interesting marketing ploy in Amalfi
Amalfi and Positano were beautiful towns but I really fell in love with Ravello. It is way up high and the bus ride up there was amazing - those Italian bus drivers on the Amalfi coast are truly skilled. Once you are up in Ravello, the views are amazing and the villas you can tour are beautiful. This little town is so peaceful and unique.
Ceramic Shop in Ravello
Villa Cimbrone terrace in Ravello
I am always struck when I go to Italy by the food - the quality of ingredients and the attention to detail always amazes me. We just don't have that here in the United States. In Italy, it seems every little shop or diner takes such great pride in the food. There is a real difference there.
shop in Rome
Nothing proves that point better than stopping at an Italian rest stop. On our way back to Rome from the coast, I had hired a driver to take us back and he stopped halfway during the trip at a rest stop. It was incredible. The food was amazing at this place and so beautifully displayed. They had everything from real Porchetta to platters of vegetables, beautiful pannini, suppli and bottles of wine. There is just nothing like it in this country. We have hot dogs and twirling pretzels.
Italian rest stop food - seriously
Gnocchi with Black Truffle in Trastevere. One of the most amazing dishes ever.
We went to Trastevere one night for dinner. This neighborhood has sure changed over the years. When Brian and I first went to Italy many years ago, this was just a working class neighborhood with really great food. Then Madonna showed up. Now it's a really happening place - it's very crowded with tourists. But the food is still outstanding and the charm factor is still high. We had a killer Negroamaro wine at the restaurant we ate at - we've been sampling Negroamaros everywhere we go and it's been fun.
Gelataria del Teatro in Rome
We ate way too much gelato in Italy. Sometimes twice a day. What is it with the Italians and gelato? Every 50 feet is a gelato shop. We don't have ice cream every 50 feet over here. It's just not fair. And it's so good. I used to go to Italy and be able to resist. But what the heck - life is short and nociolla gelato is so good.
crab ravioli with the most delicious zucchini sauce
It was so energizing and inspiring to be in Italy with all that great food. I'm looking forward to doing some Roman and Amalfi coast cooking with you!