Sorrento – The high end

As I mentioned in my previous post, Sorrento is a beautiful place with lots of excellent restaurants but there are a fair few tourist-traps too. You have to be quite careful where you go. Below are some of the posher places I’ve been to which were okay, but overall I think you’d get better value for money elsewhere (see my ‘Sorrento – keeping it cheap’ post.

If you want somewhere truly special then go to the two Michelin star Don Alfonso in nearby Sant’ Agata, more of which in my next post.

All these places and more can be found on my Google map.

In May 2015:

Il Buco (Advanced B), 2a Rampa Marina Piccola, www.ilbucoristorante.it

A relatively new place I think, it gets two forks out of three from Gambero Rosso and a favourable mention from local reviewer Lucinao Pignataro. Personally I think the food is mediocre and not worth the money, but maybe I was just unlucky.

I rocked up without a reservation so was fortunate to get in. I wanted one of the outside booths but all they could give me as a single diner was a seat in the tunnel at the end of the street. It was okay; I could see the sea and catch the glow of the sunset but still, not the nicest spot.

The chef is front of house and gave me his recommendations in English, starting with the wine, a Fiano di Avellino from Cantina de Barone called ‘Particella 928’ which was good (B+). There were twelve similar wines on the list and this was mid-range at about €30.

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The individual dishes on the a la carte menu were quite expensive so I went for the €75 tasting menu.

After an uninspiring amuse bouche (C) the first dish was ‘Caponata with ‘Agerolese’ biscuit, crunchy vegetables, Caciottina cheese and datterini tomatoes’ which was okay (B) but I couldn’t make out how the biscuit or tomatoes featured. The cheese was good though, very fresh, soft and slightly salty (B).

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The ‘Candela pasta with Neapolitan ragu’ was my favourite dish (A). The chef told me that the pork ragu had been simmered for seven hours, which is standard for a good ragu.

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Next the main was ‘Beef roulade stuffed with escarole with rosemary potatoes’ but I found the beef to be a bit tough (C).

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‘Pear and Provolone del Monaco salad with mixed berry sauce’ involved some good local provolone (B) from Vico Equense and a nice pear compote (A) with an unexciting salad (C). The cheese is called ‘del Monaco’ because the ponchos the shepherds wore made the look like monks.

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Not sure what happened to the berry sauce, maybe it was with the following sorbet palate cleanser (B).

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‘Rum-citrus spiked brioche with vanilla ice cream’ aka ‘baba’ was great (A) and I learned that it’s made with Jamaican rum (I’m guessing Wray & Nephew) which is something I’ve always wondered about.

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With this a wonderful glass of Pantelleira (A) and some biscotti to finish (B).

So okay food but overpriced. I won’t be going back.

In June 2008:

L’Antica Trattoria (Advanced A), 33 Via Giuliani (off Corso Italia), www.lanticatrattoria.com

The interior is a maze of small rooms and snugs but I choose to sit outside under the vine-covered trellis, within earshot of the trickling fountain. The decor theme was a little too gorgeous for my taste (white chairs with aquamarine cushions) but it was still very pleasant.

The customers around me seemed to be mainly fat rich men with young blonde girlfriends, who were being serenaded by the in-house mandolin player. Usually I detest live music when I’m eating but I’ve never seen this instrument played with such feeling and I thoroughly enjoyed his renditions of ‘O Sole Mio’, ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ and ‘House of the Rising Sun’ (!).

I had the five-course tasting menu for €49, which was expensive but the food was sublime. They also had a vegetarian tasting menu for the same price. To kick off I got a complimentary glass of prosecco (A) and a couple of canapés (B), flatbreads (A) and some gorgeous green olives (A).

After this a deep-fried zucchini flower, wrapped in prosciutto and stuffed with ricotta (B), followed by a primo of homemade spaghetti with taratufi, lupini and vongole clams, and cozze (mussels) (A).

Next an extra dish of a quiche-like tart of ricotta and local spinach (B) followed by a secondo of Pesce Bandiera in a sauce of garlic and Pomodorini di Pendolo (curvaceous cherry tomatoes from the mineral-rich slopes of Vesuvius, said to be amongst the tastiest in all of Italy!) (A).

L'Antica Trattoria

This was accompanied by a beautifully arranged contorni of broccoli (A), carrots (B), fennel (C), courgettes (B), asparagus (B) and pepperoni (A) and washed down with an excellent Greco di Tufo (Vigne Irpine ’06) (A), an ancient grape variety brought to Campania by the Greeks.

At this point, feeling the cold slightly, I adjoined to the drawing room to peruse the coffee table books and food photos and watch the action in the kitchen through the electronic glass windows of the waiter’s hatch. I cracked a few of the excellent local walnuts (for which Sorrento is also deservedly famous) and nibbled on what I thought were complimentary mini-cakes, including a caramel topped profiterole (A).

My proper dessert was another three lemon cakes and sorbets, the aptly named Fantasi di Sorrento (A) washed down with a wonderful fully flavoured limoncello.

The service was excellent throughout; they even arranged a lunch reservation for me at Don Alfonso the next day, which they described as ‘the best’. It was hard to imagine anything better but unfortunately I couldn’t go in the end as they had cleaned me out!

And this was my only gripe. It turned out I had to pay for the extras of the tart and the cakes although they hadn’t told me this at the time. The total bill was €92, including €27 for the wine. By all means come here for a treat, but keep an eye on their up selling.

O’ Parucchiano (High Intermediate B), 71 Corso Italia, www.parrucchiano.com

This restaurant has a lovely outdoor area where you can sit under the lemon trees. It looks small from the street but they could probably sit 500 inside. Again the house Aglianico was undrinkable (a recurring problem in Sorrento) but they didn’t charge when I complained and I had a very nice Greco di Tufo (Villa Raiano ’07) for €15 instead.

There is a secret menu of unusual dishes in addition to the main one. I wasn’t impressed by the almond ravioli but the Filetto di Orata in Cartoccio (fish baked in foil) was fantastic if a little small for €13.50 (by 2008 prices). Lemon profiteroles were ok.

Cover is €1.80 and service is 15% but my waiter was worth it. Worth another visit just for the location.

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