Nina Parker’s Gastronomic Guide to the Amalfi Coast and Capri

15th June 2016

Nina Parker is a professional chef who has trained and worked in commercial kitchens in St Tropez and in London at L’Anima, Locanda Locatelli and Bocca di Lupo. In 2012 Nina launched her catering company, Nina Food, catering at launches, gallery openings and weddings as ‘Nina Parties’ and at outdoor events with her specially equipped 1970s Citroen van branded ‘Nina Ice Cream and Cake’. This summer she has published her second book Nina Capri – a culinary tour around one of Italy's most magical coasts. Here she shares the details of some of her favourite haunts there.

I’m happy to be sharing my favourite places to visit on the Amalfi Coast, Capri and Ischia. I have travelled all over this stunning coastline, eating my way through as many restaurants as I could stomach and talking in my terrible Italian to the locals. Here are some of my ultimate culinary hotspots and all have helped inspire recipes in my new cookbook, NINA Capri. The truth is, you can eat like a king almost everywhere in this region of Italy but here is a selection that all have a history or are particularly special in creating dishes that continue to keep the bay of Naples a ‘feastival’. In the words of Sophia Loren “Everything you see I owe to pasta!” Buon Appetito!

 

Amalfi Coast

NAPLES

L’Antica Pizzaria Da Michele

If you’re interested in pizza the Neapolitan way, then this is the place to come. It has been going since 1870, and was made even more famous when Julia Roberts filmed here for ‘Eat Pray Love’. It serves up some of the most amazing pizza in a buzzing Naples atmosphere. Do not be put off by the massive queue outside – this all adds to the experience. It is totally worth the wait and incredibly good value at around €5 a pizza. Via Cesare Sersale, 1/3, 80139 Naples

Nennella

A real locals’ hangout. Simple Napoli food with a seasonal set menu of fried courgettes, aubergines and tomatoes with a delicious tomato rigatoni pasta which is the pasta shape of the region. Reasonably priced, again, and not too fancy, with wooden tables and red-and-white checked tablecloths. Vico Lungo Teatro Nuovo, 103/104/105, 80134, Naples (+39 081 414338)

NERANO

Maria Grazia

A truly inspirational restaurant – in my top 10 dreamiest lunches ever. The village of Nerano is a short drive from Sorrento, and is completely worth the trip for Maria Grazia’s famous courgette pasta. They were the first to create the dish before the rest of the coast begin making different versions. Go for lunch and enjoy the beach and make sure you get a glimpse of the pretty tiled kitchen where all the magic happens. The jug of white wine with chunky peach slices is also delicious and I thought it was a little like an ‘Amalfi Pimms’. The antipasti of stuffed peppers, parmigiana and tiny pink prawns were top-notch as well. Well priced! Via Marina del Cantone, 65, 80061, Massa Lubrense (+39 081 808 1011)

 

POSITANO

Da Adolfo

This place is legendary. To reach it you have to get a little boat from the port in Positano. The restaurant serves local fish in a stunning beach surrounding; it is worth making a day of it and going to spend some time on the beach. I love the way it is seriously low-key. For the boat – look out for the one with a flag of a red fish which picks people up from 10am till 1pm and brings you back around 4pm. It is worth booking at least two weeks ahead as it is so popular. Take a towel as you will want to stay on the pretty little beach afterwards and soak up the sun. Via Laurito, 40, 84017 Positano (+39 089 875022)

MONTEPERTUSO

Il Ritrovo

I love this little spot which also offers some great cooking lessons in a stunning kitchen at the back of the restaurant. When I was there I enjoyed a tasty lunch of antipasti where they used a large radicchio leaf as a bowl to hold a deep fried courgette flower, marinated capers, mini buffalo mozzarella and fried courgette. For the main I devoured Aqua Pazza which is a signature dish from this region featuring sea bass with chilli, anchovies, garlic, tomatoes, white wine and basil. The restaurant itself is in Montepertuse and it is nestled in the side of the hill overlooking the coast and the famous Positano below. It is well priced with a simple elegant interior with white tablecloths and wooden chairs. Warm, welcoming service. Via Montepertuso, 84017, Positano (+39 089 812005)

FURORE

Il Bacco Bacco

This restaurant and hotel has been around for over 50 years and it supports the “Slow Food” system that protects lots of local and small business farms. The restaurant is quite large with a sunny terrace overlooking the vegetable gardens below and the coast. The service was brilliant with the waiters telling stories from Bacco’s history of famous actresses who have eaten there. The menu is stunning with everything served on the signature Amalfi Coast ceramics in white and blue. I had their Nannarelle pasta and an unforgettable linguine made with anchovies, walnuts and chilli. They also do cooking classes. Via G.B. Lama, 9, 84010 Furore (+ 39 89 830 360)

RAVELLO

Cumpa’Cosimo

I had heard about this place from quite a few people before I ate there. It did not disappoint! Cumpa’Cosimo is a family-run restaurant filled with many wonderful stories. The owner, Luca told me a particular tale of when Jackie Kennedy ate there on holiday in the wake of JFK’s assasination. Apparently she found peace in Amalfi and enjoyed a long trip here at the time. It is a true locals hangout and has a classic Italian feel with dark wooden furniture, white tablecloths and old paintings and photographs on the walls. It does not have an outside and is located just off the main piazza in the small town of Ravello. You must try their signature plate of 5 different types of homemade pasta which is on another level; tagliatelle ragu, cheese and ham filled crepe, tomato basil rigatoni, tomato gnocchi and troffe. Chestnuts were in season when I was there and so I finished the meal with a chestnut chocolate tart. Like most Amalfi Coast eateries they follow the seasons with their dishes. Well-priced and is totally worth it when in Ravello. Via Roma, 44, Ravello (+39 089 857156)

CAPRI

Da Paulino

I love this place for its food, atmosphere but also for its history. You eat your dinner in a stunning lemon grove so thick that the sun can hardly peep through past the bulky lemons and can listen to stories from the family of when the restaurant started. It began life as a place for family and friends to play skittles and eat sandwiches in the large garden and today it has now been running for more than 50 years. It serves a busy dinner service with a few signature dishes of lemon ravioli, lemon chicken and their famous deep fried mozzarella balls. Its now become an iconic restaurant on the island and it has inspired many recipes in my book. Ask for the shuttle service to pick you up when booking a table. Via Palazzo a Mare, 11 80073, Capri (+39 081 837 6102)

Il Riccio

It’s worth going here if only to see one of the most beautifully tiled restaurant and of course their popular dessert room. They have a Michelin star and create stunning dishes that were featured on Steve Coogan’s Trip To Italy (a-must-see if you haven’t).   Seafood pasta is one of their strong points and you can fill your blue ceramic plate full of cheeky desserts for 20 euros. After lunch you can enjoy their sun-beds on the rocky terrace and the views. Il Riccio, Via Grandola, 4, Anacapri (+39 081 837 1380)

Buonocore Gelateria

This is the place to go for an afternoon gelato. You can smell the homemade waffle cones being made as you wait in the queue. There is nothing like eating a warm freshly made waffle cone with their hazelnut ice cream. They also make some tempting looking pastries. Via Vittorio Emanuele, 35 Capri

La Fontelina beach club

You can access their beach from the boat down at Marina Piccola or if you want a memorable walk then wander down the Pizzolungo from Capri’s centre. You will need to book to use the rocky beach but it is completely stunning filled with navy blue and white deck chairs. This is where Dolce and Gabbana hosted their couture show a few years ago and continue to shoot their ad campaigns. The restaurant serves lots of seafood options and some particularly delicious antipasti. La Fontelina, Via Faraglioni, 80073 Capri Na (+39 081 837 0845). Please note you need to catch a boat from Marina Piccola to reach the restaurant.

ISCHIA

Ischia is the island next-door to Capri and it is more laid-back but has some beautiful hotspots. You can catch the ferry over from Capri or Naples port although it is weather dependent.   The way to see this rustic island has to be by scooter.

SANT’ANGLEO

Il Pescatore

This little restaurant has family ties with Da Paolino on Capri as it is a relation who runs it. This small harbour is gorgeous to visit for lunch and when I went with my brother we ate a special good luck dish with chickpeas and clams. The owner is a lovely lady called Assunta and she is famous for her desserts and cakes so this is also a must. I still dream of her warm pear, dark chocolate tart! Reasonably priced with a pretty view of the classic fishing boats. Piazzetta S Angelo, 5 80070 Sant’Angelo D’Ischia (+39 081 999206)

Il Focolare

This is situated a little further inland in the hills of the island and has an excellent chef creating wholesome Italian dishes. They are famous for their rabbit on Ischia so it should be tried but you must call a day before for them to prepare the dish. This is a 3 generation family-run restaurant and is dedicated to making their own wine and spicy cured pork. It is worth asking to see their cave which has now been turned into a wine cellar. I very happily rolled out of this place. Delicious and very reasonably priced. Via Cretajo al Crocefisso, 3 80074 Barano D’Ischia