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Favorite restaurants in Campania/Calabria/Sicily

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My wife and I just returned from a 2-week trip through Southern Italy. We used the Slow Food guide "Osterie & Locande d'Italia" (plus some spontaneous improvisation) and found it generally very useful. Not one recommendation was bad, most were very good, and a few were outstanding (as in "I can't believe I just paid 70 euros for a meal that is better than anything I could find in New York for $400"). I wanted to share the standouts of the trip:

Napoli: Lucilio. It's near the waterfront at Via Lucilio 11. Unassuming little place with really extraordinary tagliatelle with shrimp. 70 euros for dinner for 2.

Vietri sul Mare (Campania, at the eastern end of the Amalfi coast): Cafe degli Artisti. It's by the marina, just next to a parking lot -- this was a total random find as we were running out of time for lunch and all the Slowfood recommended places around there were full for lunch. It was one of the best meals we had, especially the mixed seafood appetizer (particularly the marinated squid) was unbelievable. 60 euros for 2.

Rende (Calabria, 10km northwest of Cosenza): Hostaria de Mendoza. My wife's #1 favorite Particular favorites were the tagliatelle with raw egg and truffles and the grilled porcini. The millefeuille is a great dessert. 60 euros for lunch for 2.

Scilla (Calabria, about 10km north of the ferry to Messina/Sicily): Alla Pescatora. My #1 favorite. Best were the grilled slice of swordfish and the tagliatelle with red shrimp. 70 euros for dinner for 2.

Letojanni (Sicily, just north of Taormina): Da Nino. Beautiful place in a tent on the beach. Best probably the raw seafood appetizer, though all of the cooked seafood is also quite amazing. 100 euros for lunch for 2.

Taormina (Sicily): Casa Grugno. Our one haute cuisine meal. We're generally not huge on places like this. Have been to Daniel, Le Bernardin, and a few other similar ones in New York and elsewhere but thought that Casa Grugno was actually better than any of these. There are two tasting menus, one meat and the other one seafood based; we had the meat-based one and thought it was great. If you eat there, be sure to get the matching wines. One of the reds in particular (a Sicilian Nero d'Avola called 3 Carati 2002 from a winery called Avide) was so good that we spent the reminder of our time in Italy trying to find it in wine shops, but to no avail. If anyone knows if it's available in the US, please tell me. 240 euros for dinner for 2.

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  1. What a great post. Thanks! How was driving around Vietri and the Amalfi coast in May?

    3 Replies
    1. re: erica

      It's a great time of the year for this trip, and the Amalfi Coast really is very beautiful if a bit overrun. That said, the highlights of the trip for me (apart from the above restaurants) were probably the archaeological sights (particularly the museum in Napoli, Herculaneum, and Paestum), Mount Etna, and Catania -- a wonder ful city that doesn't get nearly as much attention as it deserves. If you go to Catania, also be sure to visit the market just off Piazza del Duomo (my wife went a bit nuts taking pictures of all the amazing seafood and vegetables there).

      1. re: UWShound

        Thanks so much. I am planning a week in the Amalfi area and trying to decide between mid-April or early May...am feeling nervous about having a car but am not thrilled about the thought of busing everywhere...will also use the Slowfood guide for eating....

        We will put Catania on the list for next trip to Sicily!

        1. re: UWShound

          That market in Catania is amazing. The most frenetic, crazy market I have ever seen!

          There is a restaurant near by that I wish I had taken down the name of - but perhaps some other chowhounder will know the place. It is near the market, up a flight of stairs, and there is a GRILL in one of the rooms. Grill as in, big BBQ grill! Just a dude and a smoking grill in a tiny room (thankfully somewhat seperated from the dining room because it was pretty danged smoky in there.) They grill up the freshest fish for a clientele of locals and businessmen, and it was CHEAP.

          If you do make it to the Catania market, look for the place.