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Jul 11, 2009 02:31 PM

Report from Positano

Just returned from another fabulous week in Positano and have some updates to share.
The first night, we went back to Max, which we enjoyed very much last year. Thumbs down!! Even though it's still being recommended on this site, we found both food and service hugely diminished from the year before.
Instead of our usual trip to Buca di Baca, we went across the steps to La Cambusa and were absolutely thrilled. We had dinner with an Italian-American named Francesco Carpegna who lives in Positano and seems to know everyone including the entire staff at La Cambusa. At his suggestion we ordered off the menu -- a whole fish for five people prepared "aqua pazza" style which is cooked with tomatoes and herbs in a small amount of water/white wine. We were presented with the whole cooked fish which was then perfectly fileted into five servings and was absolutely delicious. (We did, however, continue our daily visits to the gelato stand under the Buca de Baca).
On our third day, we went on the most magnificent hike I've ever taken with the above mentioned Francesco. He does walking tours throughout the region and is a fabulous, knowledgeable guide who gets you places that are off limits to most tourists. (You can check out his website at We hiked three valleys with amazing primoridial vistas, some of which can only be accessed with a licensed guide. The hike was challenging, but doable even if you're not in great shape and is well worth it. After coming to Positano for years, I had no idea these places even existed. At the end of the day, we were too tired to travel far afield for dinner and Francesco suggested we try the Poseidon Hotel which was a flight of steps up from the apt. we rented. In all the times I've been to Positano, it never occurred to me to eat there and it was a lovely surprise. The restaurant is on the second floor terrace and has a wonderful, romantic view. Better yet, the food was glorious. We had a divine vegetable soup that was just pure fresh produce cooked al dente with herbs and broth. Fish in a lemon sauce was what the Amalfi coast is all about. Service was lovely too.
I wanted to try Don Alfonso since I've heard so much about it. Sure enough, Francesco was a friend of the owner's daughter-in-law, called ahead and got us special treatment. Even with the loss of a star, the food was great, but even better was the atmosphere. Don Alfonso's wife Livia, (elegant in leopard pants, leather jacket and sneakers!) trolls the dining room making sure everyone is happy, as she so clearly is. After dinner, she insisted we visit the wine cellar which was fashioned from an ancient Roman cistern which Don Alfonso discovered when he fell into a hole while walking on his property. Then, she plied us with gifts from their organic farm including olive oil, pasta, and jarred tomatoes. I'm sure we got some special treatment because of the connection, but anyone who showed an interest was equally rewarded with a tour and products. I was informed that there's a new 2 star restaurant in the area (I think it's called Il Capitano but I'm not sure) but the totality of our visit was so special, I'm glad we went to Don Alfonso and highly recommend it. They also run an inn and cooking classes connected to the restaurant, which had the cooks in my family salivating.
Although they've had plenty of mentions on CH, I'd never been to Bruno or Il Ritrovo so we tried those as well. The food was good at both places and the atmosphere fun, but not star quality. Although I did have a pear-ricotta cheese cake at Il Ritrovo that was to die for.
One last mention -- on our way back we stopped in Rome and walked by a pizza joint that had Italians standing in line around the block waiting for tables, so of course, we tried it the next night. It's called Da Baffetto and probably everyone who has been to Rome knows about it except me. Anyway, it was, indeed, the best pizza I've ever had in my life.
Can't wait to do it all again!

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  1. You know, THAT is the way to travel. I absolutely loved reading this post. While I was on a solo journey to southern Italy in 1996, I met up with a couple of American guides from the traveling company BB&R & they took me to a restaurant high up above the sea. We walked around a corner, walked some more and then, walked up around another corner and voila! There was this quaint, cliffside, family-owned restaurant that as I remember, served the one and only pizza I had in Italy that was fabulously delicious. It was thin, properly crisped with wood flavors embedded into the crust. Blanketed in fresh arugula, sliced, ruby-red cherry tomatoes and a sprinkling of sea salt, I swooned! How could I not? I was relishing in the fact that I was eating this most wonderful pizza while gazing into the mediterranean sea and drinking some of the best brunello in one sitting...
    ...and although the moment is unforgettable, unfortunately - I have forgotten the name of the trattoria.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Sampaguita

      I ate at Il Capitano when it first opened up. It was very good but it didn't compare to Don Alfonso. It is right on the water so you can't beat the view.

      1. re: theresah

        So, that's the name! Il Capitano! Thank you!

        Well, I always try to follow a fellow CH's tip and the next time I get to venture over to Positano, I'm going to try Don Alfonso. But, if I do go, could you give me some examples of what you had to order? What is their speciality? Is D.A. a trattoria too or more of a restaurante?

        1. re: Sampaguita

          I did a search on both Il Capitano and Don Alfonso's.

          Thank you Theresa, but actually, Il Capitano isn't the small trattoria we visited for our 2pm lunch....but now I am much more intrigued about the 2 restaurants you mentioned Theresa, and will see if we can go to both on our next trip to Italy. Both sound so good.

          1. re: Sampaguita

            Sampaguita, my brain is spinning. I am going to go through all of my receipts and try to tell exactly what we had. It appears that we have similiar tastes. Will be in Positano in September. I go every year so my head is full of wonderful meals that I have had. In fact, I have never been disappointed in this area. I will hopefully have something for you by the end of the week. I take it that you have read TripAdvisor as well.


            1. re: theresah

              Sampaguita-- is it possible that the family-owned restaurant was Lo Guarracino?

              1. re: theresah

                Was it Taverna del Capitano in Marina del Cantone?

                1. re: hamletk

                  Chowhounders! You are all so fabulous. Not only did you help me find the place I ate at so many years ago, but you've given me NEW and ENTICING places for me to visit and swoon over in Positano! Wow, you are all so good at this food "thang"!!!

                  Agsotr got it right. It is LO GUARRACINO. Just looking at pictures of their "ristorante, bar, pizzaria on their website brings back very good memories. Luscious mozzarella, incredibly flavorful basil and tomatoes, that crust! Oh my, the crust....and arugula that is delightful. Lo Guarracino was quaint, welcoming, warm-hearted and relaxing. A lovely time, a lovely place.

                  Maybe all of us can meet up someday here? Wouldn't that be fun?

                  Theresah, Agsotr, Hamletk, Ildirect....Molto Grazie!!!

      2. I was very disappointed in Don Alfonso. We had a tasting menu. The restaurant was beautiful, service was excellent, the food presentation was outstanding, the prices were in the nosebleed category, and the flavors were just ordinary.

        Just the day before, we enjoyed a fabulous meal at Caruso's in Sorrento. We were touring the upscale shops around lunch time and asked on of the shop proprietors to recommend a lunch place. Without hesitation, she said that Caruso's was the best restaurant in the area. We would have never found it without her recommendation. It only has two forks in the Michelin red guide which is a grave injustice. The meal was as good or better than many of the one and two star Michelin places we've dined at over the years. It is on a side street off the main plaza. It is both a restaurant and a museum celebrating the life of the great Caruso.

        We had a great waiter who helped us order. What a memorable meal. Caruso's is a reason to return to Sorrento.

        Keep in mind, however, when you read these reviews that each meal at any restaurant will never be an exact duplicate of what someone else had at a different time and date. The meal that I didn't care for at Don Alfonso wasn't likely the same menu enjoyed by lldirect (posting above). I might go back to Caruso and find that the chef and menu had changed. These reviews are helpful but there are many variables.