I am going to be in Sorrento for a week pretty soon, and I will need to entertain myself during the day since my wife will be at a conference. Can anyone recommend good places to eat *alone* (cafes, etc.) which also have good, local, authentic chow? Most of the recommendations I've seen on this board focus on sit-down dinners/etc.
Bonus points if it's the kind of place I might be able to hang out for a while and work on my laptop -- but mostly I'd choose good chow first.
I'm also interested in any sort of culinary tours or excursions which might exist. I will not have a car, but I would consider renting a scooter or taking public trans if necessary.
We mostly had good but not fabulous food in Sorrento. But on Via Giuliani is a gelateria called Davide that had the best gelato I ate in Italy. Try their zabaglione.
If you have time while you are in the area, treat yourself by contacting Alberio Astaria at his wine shop at Via Capo 12. (sort of at the toward-Amalfi end of town) He conducts small food and wine tours in the countryside near Sorrento. He took us to a local olive grove and olive oil company called Gargiulo, where a delightful young woman who is the fifth-generation olive oil producer in that family gave us a tour and an olive oil tasting (yum, much smoother than Tuscan oils). Their organic ("biological") oil and their lemon and orange-infused oils are excellent. Then we went up into the hills around Massa Lubense where we visited an artisanal limoncello factory and a small restaurant whose name I'm sorry I can't remember, but it is run by friends of his, and the amazing food and wine just kept coming. Alberio's website is http://www.soledisorrento.com, and you can e-mail him for info from there. (He has a marvelous selection of wines and liqueurs in his shop, and is very helpful, but as we discovered, shipping wine back from Italy is a huge pain.)
One caveat about Sorrento. If anyone suggests dining at the Foreigners' Club...don't. It is full of expatriate Brits over fifty (yeah, so am I, but anyway), apparently trying to forget they're in Italy. I can't believe I allowed myself to be persuaded to waste one of my precious Italian dinner times there.
I was there last week with a friend. On the advice of the barman at our hotel, we tried two places: Zi' Antonio and Il Buco.
Zi' Antonio is in the fishing village area of Sorrento, which is tiny and charming. The restaurant sprawls from the entry out onto open piers next to small boats. On a summer evening it was lovely and romantic. The prices were moderate. There is a local fish (can't remember the name but I'm sure they can tell you--it was about the most expensive thing on the menu) that was the best fish I have ever had--very fresh and mild. They will cook it in various ways, but I highly recommend the salt crust. The restaurant will send a free car to come pick you and take you back to your hotel (we tipped the driver a few euros each way).
Il Buco is significantly more expensive and less traditional. It's located just next to the Tasso Theatre (home of the "Sorrento Musical", which is surprisingly good fun) on Piazza Sant' Antonino. It is also lovely and romantic, with tables outside on descending levels leading down to the restaurant. We had the meat and fish tasting menus, which were fantastic. Several Asian influences, such as lemongrass. They have an incredible wine list. We asked them to pair wines with the tasting menus, and the wines were so great we were a bit afraid of the bill, but it was much more modest than we expected. They were extremely nice, as well.
I would also go to the bar at the Hotel Continental and try a Pimm's Cup from the barman, Giovanni (source of the restaurant recommendations). He makes great drinks.
My wife and I were in Sorrento last year for an overnighter and ditto what MorganSF said about Il Buco. We really enjoyed our experience there. We ate inside because it was a rainy evening, and it is beautiful inside (as well as outside as was mentioned). The food and wine were fabulous, and the service was very attentive and friendly, they always addressed me by name whenever they came to the table throughout the evening. Also, something I've never seen anywhere before, when you walk into the restaurant's entrance, there is a CC monitor that allows you to view the kitchen in action. I thought that was pretty cool. The kitchen looked spotless by the way.
Oh, that's interesting about the monitor! I didn't see that. We were the last ones at the restaurant that night, and before we left our nice waiter gave us a tour of the inside of the restaurant and the kitchen, which was indeed spotless. The inside looked really pretty as well, and must be a great place to spend a rainy evening! They didn't address us by name, but then we were walk-ins (no reservations), so they didn't know our names.
I just found my receipt from Zi' Antonio. The fish is called Pezzogno, and the wine they recommend to have with it is Fiamo di Avellino. Our fish, enough for two, was €35.50 (it's sold by weight), which is expensive, but well worth it. The entire bill, with wine, sides, starters (stuffed zucchini flowers!), etc. was €88.50. The address is:
Ristorante Zi' Antonio
Tel: 39 0818073033