Calabria – places to eat and drink in Tropea

After breakfast in Parghelia (see next post) I’d walk about twenty minutes to the main beach which is about two thirds of the way to Tropea. Map here.

You can hire sun loungers and other kit here, and also eat at a beach restaurant, which you can’t do at the secluded beaches in Parghelia.

The best food I ate in Tropea was at this place on the beach…

Lido la Grazie (Intermediate B+), Contrada Marina La Grazia

I ate lunch here twice and was very well taken care of by the mother and son team on the bar who run the place and their friendly waiters.

I also rented the lido’s sun loungers (a lattina with an ombrello) which cost 5€ for half a day or 9€ for a full day.

On one occasion I had the Spaghetti alla Vongole con Zenzero, Buccia di Lime, Aglio e Clorofilla di Prezzemolo, or spaghetti and clams with ginger, lime zest, garlic and a ‘chlorophyll’ paste of parsley, which was really good (B+).

I couldn’t argue with the Grigliata Mista di Pesce either (B+).

For dessert I continued to make the most of Calabria’s cherry season (A).

On the second visit I had the Antipasto della Casa; from top left going clockwise; Cipolla in Agrodolce (sweet and sour onion), Polpette di Melanzane (aubergine balls), Zucchina Gratinata (courgette au gratin), Frittelle di Fiori di Zucca e Acchiughe (pumpkin flower and sardine fritter), Peperoni Grigliati (grilled peppers), Sformatino di Parmagiana (parmagiana flan), all of which were fine (B).

I followed up with a primo of Fettucine allo Scoglio e Pesto alle Alghe; pasta ribbons with mussels and two kinds of clams (vongole and fasolari) in a seaweed pesto (A).

With this, the best bottle of white I’d had in Calabria on this trip, a Chardonnay from Tenuta Iuzzilini (B+).

The bill for this came to 42€ which was very fair I felt. So, no hesitations in recommending this place. Great food and lovely service from waiters who were my friends by the end of the two visits.

Speaking of friends, my mate Nicole, who is Calabrese and comes to Tropea nearly every year, recommends Lido de Nonno next door to Lido la Grazie for its good, cheap seafood. However it hadn’t opened yet when I was there as it was only May which isn’t officially summer as far as the Italians are concerned, although the temperatures were in the high twenties which is quite hot enough for me! She loves good grub so it must be a good place to try as well.

On my first day in the old town I did a walk round of all the restaurants I had on my hit list (map here). There were a lot that supposedly had good food so I tried to be quite strict with my choices.

More recent 2019 research indicates that Osteria Del Pescatore at 7 Via del Monte may well have the best food in town.

Not knowing that in 2017, I chose this next romantic restaurant purely because their best table was up for grabs…

Pimm’s (High Intermediate A), 2 Largo Migliarese,

Not sure why this lovely restaurant has the same name as an awful English amaro (perhaps comparable to Campari but not nearly as nice) but once you forget about that it’s lovely.

Earlier in the day I had snagged the table with the best view.

Although I do like a vista, I suffer slightly from acrophobia so when gazing out through the open window I had to avoid looking straight down the sheer cliff face and peer instead at the sun going down behind Santuaria Santa Maria dell’Isola.

I didn’t grade this meal as I was too busy chatting with the friendly young waiter (probably lost my notes) but I remember that seafood is the thing here. I kicked off with the Crudo de Pesce, raw fish, tuna I think, which I thought was more of a Puglian thing but maybe they like it here too.

Spigola (sea bass) were the catch of the day and they were brought to my table so I could choose.

The Spaghetti alla Spigola looks wonderful and I’m sure it was very good.

I remember being happy with the Contessa Emburgo white wine from Lento, a Malvasia Chardonnay combo from Lamezia Terme.

I did have a second fish course but the photo is to blurry to show, a bit like me at this point!

Cocktail Bar Tropea (Intermediate B), 1 Largo Migliarese

After eating I wanted to watch the Champion’s League final which fortunately was being shown here on a big screen in the square right next to Pimm’s.

They had a new amaro that I hadn’t tried before, Petrus Boonekamp. A great name, but it didn’t impress me that much (B).

I saw Real Madrid beat Juventus 4-1 in the company of a friendly Swedish couple. Madrid deserved to win but I did feel for the Italians, some of whom were over optimistically expecting a win. Still, they went home with flags flying high.

Not all my evenings out were good though…

Pinturicchio (Intermediate C) 2 Via Dardano

Pinturicchio is a modern restaurant located in a bright white cellar but they also have candlelit tables on the street which is where I sat. There’s no view to be had as it’s down an alley but it’s still a very atmospheric spot.

When I do my research, I do look at every resource available, so I know Lonely Planet, Conde Naste and CNT all like Pinturicchio. When using Tripadvisor, I’m more interested in the number of reviews a place gets rather than its ranking. So as Pinturicchio was the most reviewed place in May 2017, and had a #7 ranking (#28 now in 2019), I thought I had the odds on my side when I rolled the dice on this one, but sadly I lost badly.

There were two problems, the food and the service. The usual array of Antipasti was fine (B), but I had to send back the Fileja alla Tropeana con Cipolla Rossa, the town’s signature dish (more of which in the next post). The combination of insipid pasta and thick slimy slices of onion was actually inedible for me (D) which in Italy is highly unusual. I’d lost my appetite and couldn’t manage anything else except a semi-freddo and a limoncello for dessert (both B) which went a little way to cheering me up.

The second problem was the waiting staff who were very young and completely untrained. I got brusque service from the start from one young woman and finally exploded and asked her what her problem was when she literally threw a knife onto my table as she was rushing past. To her credit she came back to apologise and shake my hand but then I got very similar treatment from a different young guy and so my angry mood just continued and I left feeling very discontented. The contrast with the older professionals down at the beach was striking! I suppose approaching peak season there must be a local waiter shortage and all the best ones choose the nicer places to work.

Anyway, enough moaning, despite the odd restaurant blip, I love Tropea! I suppose any touristy place is going to have some restaurants that are all hype and no substance.

To avoid paying over the odds in slightly pricey Tropea I stayed in the next town instead…

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