Our ship, the Noordam headed back to Italy and the port of Naples passing the islands of Capri and Ischia with Mt. Vesuvius in the distance. While Naples itself has a lot to offer any food lover, my plans were to visit the gorgeous Amalfi Coast and connect with Lauren Birmingham Piscitelli of CookingVacations.com in Positano for a few hours of culinary adventures.
Driving down to Positano is one of the most exquisite and blood curdling drives in the world. Passing between mountains and the Mediterranean there is nothing but jaw dropping sites of homes, villas, restaurants built into the vertical cliffs and this 2 lane road winding around and around with not much between it and the sea hundreds of feet below.
Lauren and I walked down the flower lined streets and steep steps to a famous bakery, La Zagara, where we could start our day with a coffee and delicious pastries. Sitting in the garden terrace surrounded by lemon groves and the cliffs all around, the owner chose to give me a sampling of many of their local cakes like cannoli, sfogliatelle, baba au rhum and delizia al limone. A bite of each was enough of a sugar rush for the day even though I could have easily finished them off. (Always good to have the crew around so there’s nothing to waste.)
The rest of my time in Positano was spent at La Taverna del Leone, a family owned restaurant since the 1960’s where the locals like to go. It was first opened as a pizza restaurant and while still having the best pizza around has evolved into a gourmet restaurant with a large variety of dishes using local traditions and products as well as international inspirations. I was brought into the kitchen where Lauren asked Chef Filomena to show me how to make gnocchi. Then, I watched the other chef prepare a dish called fish in “crazy water” or pesce all’Acqua pazza with the amberjack. It’s simply poached white fish with garlic and tomatoes but is said to be incredibly tasty – and it was. Of course I was not going to leave without trying the famous Neopolitan pizza and had a couple of different ones the pizza chef whipped up in less than a couple of minutes. Crispy, salty with fresh mozzarella and basil and not much sauce, the Margharita pizza was perfect and a great finish for the day.
Cheers and all the best,