Salerno – places to eat and drink in the Centro Storico
Salerno has heaps of restaurants and it can be difficult to chose a good one so I hope my experiences will help you find the good stuff. I’ve divided the dining posts into two geographical zones; the old town or Centro Storico on the one hand and the waterfront and the new town to the east on the other (please see next post). The better places to eat generally seem to be in the old town. I’ve listed the establishments in order of preference. Here’s a Google map with everywhere I mention plotted on.
Caffè Mercanti (Intermediate B+), 114 Via Mercanti
This is a really cool, atmospheric little bistro that serves precooked food to drink with your tipple.
In 2015 my friend Dee and I each had a slice of Parmagiana and Torta di Scarola (escarole pie) for €5 each (B) and shared a good bottle of local Coda di Volpe (B) for €18.
Antica Pizzeria del Vicolo della Neve (Elementary B+), 24 Viccolo della Neve, www.vicolodellaneve.it, closed Wednesday, no reservations on Friday or Saturday.
This old place is a little hard to find however if you go to 148 Via dei Mercanti, the alley opposite is Viccolo della Neve (Alley of Snow). The restaurant is a short way down on the left.
Okay first off, haute cuisine this ain’t but what this place lacks in finesse it makes up for in atmosphere, in spades. Listed in Gambero Rosso as a low cost restaurant, it’s very popular with locals, especially families, because of its rustic value-for-money food.
I’ve been twice; early on a Tuesday night in June when it was about a third full, and at 8pm on a Saturday night in November when I had to wait twenty minutes for a table. There were still twenty people waiting outside when I left at 9.30 so on busy nights you might want to go at 7 when it opens to try to avoid the queues.
When it’s busy the action is frenetic; scruffy waiters in ill-fitting red waistcoats and plasters on their faces negotiate the fifteen cramped tables, doling out big mounds of food from the kitchen and the huge pans sitting in a glass cupboard. You have to shout your order at them as they go past.
My chap was a bit brusque at first but lightened up when I started taking notes! (I even got a smile and a pat on the back). The food arrives in metal bowls on trays (because they’re very hot) and there’s little time between courses. At the weekend this certainly isn’t the place for a relaxed slow meal; they want you in and out as quickly as possible.
In 2009 there are only two pasta dishes on the menu; Lasagna (with mozzarella, ricotta, salami, eggs and small meatballs) or the equally classic Pasta e Fagioli (various sizes of pasta tubes baked in a sauce of beans and tomato), both of which are subject to availability. Think they have a choice of three pasta dishes now.
I tried the Pasta e Fagioli on my 2015 visit. The pasta was overcooked, flabby and slightly singed (the heat it up in the pizza oven) yet somehow lovable (C+).
Just in case you feel cheated on the carbs, you also get half a French loaf, toasted and drizzled with olive oil (C).
In contrast to the pasta, there’s no shortage of vegetable side dishes; about sixteen in all I think. I had the Peperoni Ripieni; a whole capsicum of truly gigantic proportions, stuffed with bread, capers and anchovies and slightly blackened again. It was fine (C+) but could have fed a family of four on its own. The picture shows just part of it.
There are about a dozen meat and fish mains, including some scary items like cotiche (pig skin), and back in 2009 but no longer, busecca (veal spleen). On both occasions I’ve had the Polpette; their very large and very dense meatballs (C+), with roast potatoes. Again, I couldn’t finish it all despite being ravenous.
The house Aglianico red is usually relatively drinkable (C or C+) and very cheap.
My four dishes and a half bottle of red in 2015 cost me the grand sum of €31 and the amount of food I got could easily have fed three or four people, so bring reinforcements if you can. As I say, it’s rough and ready but definitely worth going just for the ambience.
One place that I really wanted to try was Osteria Canali (1 fork from Gambero Rosso, three courses for €30, closed Sunday evening and Monday) which is at 34 Via dei Canali, www.osteriacanali.it, but they seemed to be recovering from a private party all the time I was there.
Please see my other posts for restaurants and bars in the new town, and places to stay.