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Bella Italia Summer '18

Bella Italia Summer '18

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Bella, bella Italia! I was beyond blessed to have the opportunity to travel to this beautiful country again this past summer. I first visited Italy in Summer of 2016 and was pretty positive it would be many years before I would have the time to return. Thankfully, my family has strong ties to this beautiful place as they lived there for 4 years while my dad was in high school due to my grandfather being stationed there. As long as it is in the cards, we all plan to return annually to visit this place that’s stolen all of our hearts. When my dad shared the invite to my husband, grandmother and I to join him for this years trip we jumped on the opportunity. My husband wasn’t able to join me when I first visited and I could not wait for him to experience the views, food and culture I’d swooned over ever since.

Agu, a friend of my dads that he met while they lived in Naples, lives in Rome and hosted us for the first few days before heading to the coast. She is not only the sweetest host, but she is also a Sommelier with myriad knowledge about all of the best wineries and wine varietals from each region we traveled to, as well as our go-getter translator that any non-Italian speaking visitor would be lucky to have!

We spent our first 2 days in Rome, prior to heading to Naples/Pozzuoli for 3 days (where my dad and Grandmother lived), and finally on to ‘Marina del Cantone’, a little beachside village town tucked away in the mountainous Amalfi coast for the remainder of our stay. I could happily spend the entire trip in this little town where the locals welcome you with open arms. We even extended our stay here by one more night because we were enjoying it so thoroughly. I could easily bog this post down with all of the many details of every spot we visited, every cafe and restaurant we ate and how we spent our days but I believe I will leave it up to the photos to tell the story. I  hope you will enjoy this deep dive into our travel (FOOD) adventures from our ‘Italia 2018’ Summer trip.

Upon arrival, Agu greeted us with a chilled bottle of ‘Derthona’ Timorasso which has more body and depth than your typical white wine, paired with some fresh bread and local cheese! We went to ‘Baccano’ in downtown Rome for dinner and unfortunately (after being awake traveling for 33 hours & nearly taking a face dive into my delicious pasta dish), I cannot recall what I even ate and took zero photos of my dish and only photographed the restaurant (foodie fail).

In Rome, we enjoyed a quick visit to the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. We partook in some delicious pizza pomodoro & prosecco at ‘Aroma’ with a stunning view of the Colosseum from their rooftop terrace. On our last evening in Rome we had the pleasure of visiting Agu’s sister’s fiancé's restaurant, Filodolio Cucina Extra Vergine- which was easily one of my favorite foodie experiences of the trip. I highly recommend this spot for authentic Italian fine-dining if you’re ever in Rome!

At Filodolio we enjoyed (from top left —> right): Aperol spritzers as an apéritif, “Cappuccino” of roasted tomatoes with mozzarella foam, “chips” made from spinach & squid ink which literally melted in your mouth, goat cheese smothered in watermelon and EVOO, an Anchovy cheesecake with basil mayonnaise, Roasted Octopus with pesto, burrata and sun-dried tomatoes, roasted root vegetables, Guinea fowl cooked 3-ways, Napoli blend pasta with corguette flowers, roasted almonds and provolone and last but not least a Roman semolina gnocchi with ricotta mousse! And I can honestly say that I tasted (and loved)  it ALL.

Next, we were off to the ancient seaside city of Pozzuoli which is in Naples. This is the city where my Dad’s family were blessed enough to live for 4 years during High School. This is also where he met Agu, who’s parents still live in the same neighborhood where they were stationed! Agu’s parents prepared a delicious spread of homemade burrata, prosciutto wrapped breadsticks and Italian rice salad that we enjoyed while awing over their never-ending views from their patio. We went to dinner at ‘Ristorante Europa’ in the marina of Pozzuoli which we visited on my first trip to Italy in 2016. We opted for the ‘Spaghetti alla Vognole’ (Spaghetti with clams) and the Swordfish steaks which did not disappoint!

On one of our Pozzuoli days we decided to take the ferry over to the tiny, mountainous island of ‘Ischia’ which was easily one of my favorite spots we visited! We rented vespas and toured the small island, lounged on Maronti Beach for a few hours and had lunch at the cutest little cafe on the water, Ristorante Pallone. We dined on antipasto, olives, white wine, prosciutto e melone,  stuffed zucchini blossoms and mozzarella stuffed fried anchovies- which were HANDS DOWN my favorite dish of the trip. Never-have-I-ever ordered anchovies, nor did I know I would enjoy them, but these fried anchovies were outta this world delicious. The combination of our cool crisp white wine mixed with the saltiness of the fish was beyond words. Another perk of traveling with a Sommelier- she asks to see the wine cellars wherever we go, and this was one for the books! 

On our last evening in Pozzuoli, Matt and I had a date night complete with ALL the pizza. I chose a pesto with yellow tomatoes and Matt went with the margarita. In the morning, off to the coast we went!

We weren’t due to check in to our Airbnb until 3pm so we took our time getting through the winding tiny mountain roads and stopped into one of our favorite hill-side restaurants from our first trip, Zio Sam. We were so pleased to be greeted by our same waiter from 2 summers ago and we had a phenomenal lunch with great views. We dined on caprese salads, mozzarella en corrozza and Gnocchi alla Sorrentina. This hidden gem is pretty difficult to find but if you’re feeling adventurous it’s worth getting lost for!

And now, on to the best portion of the trip… the Amalfi Coast and Marina del Cantone. I could have easily spent the entire 10 days in this little town. It is hard to describe the feeling of “home” I get when visiting this area of Nerano, but it’s a feeling unlike many others.

To summarize some of the “eats” below, they were all from dining establishments in Marina del Cantone.  La Scoglio in the heart of MDC has some of the best Spaghetti alla Nerano *which is my absolute favorite dish to order and is only available in this area of the coast*.  La Perla Beach Club has the tastiest fresh peach sangria, octopus salad, chocolate croissants & espresso. Concha del Sogno is one of our favorite splurge dinners and they have the most delicious salt encrusted fish! Cafe Yeye is MDC’s newest cafe which quickly became our favorite spot to walk to every morning for coffee and fresh pastries, and to end with every night for cocktails. Seriously though, check out the cuteness that is Cafe Yeye- I wanted to take this place, the morning view and the sweet owner home with me!!

It is also worth mentioning, I fell in LOVE with ‘San Salvatore’ wines while on this trip. We tried 3 different varietals and I could not get over how smooth every one was. Even my husband who is not a big wine-lover fell in love with the Rosé (Vetere). I personally loved the white, ‘Pian di Stio’. This winemaker is local to the Amalfi coast region and they are 100% organic and biodynamic. The mountainous region where the vineyard is located has a high level of biodiversity and the soil is rich in minerals. There is a large influence of the nearby Tyrrhenian sea and nearly perfect sun exposure which helps to create an ideal microclimate. I have searched and searched the states for a way to order this wine but currently it is not available for worldwide shipping which truly breaks my heart (but gives me all the reasons to go back!).

POSITANO, POSITANO, POSITANO <3 <3 <3 I absolutely loved this sweet little town! I don’t know if it was the amazing lunch we ate at ‘Chez Black’, the 45-minute Vespa ride through the winding roads high up on the cliffside with views to die for, or the tiny little streets with shops tucked away every where you turn- but I can’t wait to go back and spend more time in this beautiful town! We dined on fresh margaritas, heart shaped pizza pomodoro, mussels and ravioli. While we dined, we watched ‘Pasquale’ paint watercolors of the coast. My sweet grandmother gifted me with a pair of his beautiful paintings that I get to enjoy every day! Positano is a definite must if you ever visit the coast!

Y’all, I know this is getting long. But I just can’t help myself. I have to share all of the best places with you and it feels wrong to leave any detail out! With that being said, on to SORRENTO we go! I know I have gushed about every place we’ve been being my “favorite” but what’s one more!? Sorrento is pretty high up on my list, especially for shopping!! D’Anton is a must if you’re in the area- they’ve got the best iced cappuccino and fresh-fruit parfaits as well as some of the cutest home decor!

And to draw the trip to a close, we brought it full circle with a boat day which took us along the coast from MDC to Amalfi. The view of Positano from the water is one of the most breathtaking things I’ve had the blessing to witness. My dad did an excellent job bribing the host at ‘Da Adolfo’ which is typically booked solid, so we were able to sneak in for a quick bite of fresh spaghetti, sangria, mozzarella stuffed lemon leaves and bolognese! Of all of my (many) recommendations- taking a boat around the coast and stopping into this hole in the “cliff” restaurant is my Number 1 suggestion! Prior to flying back to the states we stopping into one of our favorite Rome cafes for dinner, Cafe Propaganda, which is right down the street from the Colosseum. The flavor of the food here matches the presentation which is rare! Their carbonara was the best I’ve ever had and they had the neatest “sugar balloon” dessert filled with white chocolate mousse!

If you made it to the end of this novel of a trip recap, thank you for reliving some of my most precious travel memories with me! And please reach out if you need a quicker recap/list of my top recommendations for your Italy trip! If it is not on your bucket-list, ADD IT!

<3 Gabrielle

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