Singing fishermen, dazzling blue seas and truly delicious anchovies are just some of the delights of Italy’s Amalfi coast says Australian/Italian celebrity chef Stefano Manfredi. Back home in Sydney after a trip to shoot photos for his next cook book about pizza, Manfredi shares some of his favourite spots, dishes and drinks.
After recently travelling to Naples to shoot local pizza master Enzo Coccia and general scenes of people eating fried pizza on the street (of course), Manfredi and his photographer headed down to the Amalfi Coast.
While Manfredi is indeed Italian, he hails from the northern part in the Lombardy province of Brescia where the land is flat, rice is grown and the nearby lakes sit under the Alps. And so the southern coastline of Italy’s Sorrentine Peninsula, in the Campania region with its perilous cliffs, winding narrow roads and pretty pastel coloured buildings holds an exotic charm.
“The Amalfi Coast couldn’t be any more of a contrast (to Brescia),” says Manfredi.
“The landscape, climate and food are very different, I find myself spending more and more time in the south of Italy each year. It’s fascinating in so many aspects.”
He’s now no stranger to these parts though, having visited the famous coastline at least a dozen times in the past 15 years.
“It was Naples that first drew me to such a wonderful city living tenuously below the sleeping monster Vesuvius and then to the wider Amalfi Coast and beyond.”
For Manfredi, the Amalfi coast signifies “spectacular buildings perched over a sparkling blue sea, windingly narrow roads with hairpin corners, long lunches feasting on seafood and pasta, chilled white wines (all mineral and crisp, borne of volcanic soils) and fishermen singing as they bring in their catch to one of the most beautiful shorelines in the world.”
This recent trip focused around the beautiful town of Cetara, famous for its anchovies and the making of fish sauce – colatura di alici.
“Cetara is one of the Mediterranean’s most important tuna ports so local tuna is fantastic. Any of the 'blue' fish, like anchovies, sardines, bonito and the like are excellent, as are the scampi, prawns, calamari and cuttlefish. But also the fruit and vegetables are terrific. Artichokes, lettuces of all kinds, zucchini and flowers, beans and grains like farro. Lemons, pomegranates, prickly pear and figs are excellent.”
From Cetara, Manfredi travelled further down the coast to Paestum, “...an amazingly beautiful place full of Greek temples. It’s also famous for the production of buffalo mozzarella. We visited and shot at Barlotti — this is worth a day trip!”
But let’s get to meal specifics. Manfredi gives a rundown of a typical days' menu on the coast.
More on Italy's most famous coastline: Coasting In Amalfi
Take the road less travelled in Italy: Secret Tuscany
What to eat
Usually espresso, a pastry and a freshly squeezed orange juice for me. The juice is a feature of virtually all cafés in Italy and it’s squeezed to order. I particularly like the blood oranges when they’re in season.
But this time we stayed in a great B&B and had freshly made buffalo ricotta with some local orange flower honey. It was one of those experiences that make you stop and simply enjoy the moment.
It’s the big meal of the day. Take your time. Have antipasto of marinated anchovies, stuffed zucchini flowers filled with ricotta, raw tuna simply dressed with great extra virgin olive oil and local violet artichokes in a salad.
Follow with spaghetti with colatura d’alici and then share a whole grilled fish, straight from the sea. Finish with some lemon gelato and an espresso and then walk around the streets before having a siesta.
It’s a little less formal. Perhaps a fish soup with some vegetables. It does start late, usually not before 8:30pm and more likely 9:30pm around these parts.
Where to eat
Gennaro Esposito’s La Torra del Saracino
For grand style dining this Two Michelin Starred restaurant just north of Sorrento at Vico Equenso has stunning views across the water to Vesuvius. I had a wonderful soup made from mixed small bits of pasta from Gragnano flavoured with pieces of fish and crustaceans. For more visit torredelsaracino.it.
In Cetara we had eaten at a highly regarded restaurant one night and were disappointed, as it happens. The next day we had started shooting early and had met some fishermen who had a great looking catch, the best of which was being sent to this small restaurant. We had a great lunch.
Catera is one of the Mediterranean’s most important tuna ports and the tuna dishes are great. Also excellent are their marinated anchovies and the tauten (small squid) with smoked potatoes in lemon leaves. Wonderful also is the spaghettini with colatura di alici (fish sauce). For more visit sanpietroristorante.it.
Casual lunch doesn’t come much better than at buffalo mozzarella producer Barlotti. Made with raw milk. Also worth trying is their gelato made with buffalo milk. For more visit barlotti.it.
Go to Naples! Enzo Coccia’s La Notizia and Antica Pizza Fritta Da Zia Esterina. you could also try Gino Sorbillo’s fried pizza place in Piazza Trieste.
A note on wine
The local Amalfi wines: whites from the varieties Falanghina and Biancolella; reds from the varieties Aglianico and Piedirosso.