Quick Guide: How to Choose the Best Restaurants in Sorrento
So this isn’t an article on fishing. But really, in an oversaturated restaurant market in a popular tourist spot, it’s just as important. While Italy is known for her unparalleled foods, not every restaurant serves to such a high standard. By the time you finish reading this article, I hope you cast your net to catch only the finest Italian cuisine in Sorrento.
Here are the top three quickest ways to identify a tourist trap when dining in Sorrento:
I simply must make this point the number one red flag because I feel that strongly about it. When I was discussing this article with my boss and describing this phenomenon, she lovingly referred to these boys as “Buonasera Boys.” If you have ever been to Italy, you know exactly who we’re talking about here. These are the boys-- young, good-looking, suave (and often not Italian)-- standing in front of the restaurant, with a menu in hand and you on their mind. To all my single ladies especially, don’t fall trap! Not even when he greets you and your friends as “belle ragazze,” or asks you for your snapchat (wow, yes, this really happened to me).
It’s not that I have a problem with the boys-- actually it’s quite flattering in my humble opinion. The problem is what they represent, namely: subpar food, tourist traps and low-quality service. Of course, as with anything, there are exceptions to this rule. Not all restaurants that enlist their servers as marketing tools have repulsive dishes aimed at exhausted and impatient tourists willing to settle. This is just to say be wary of the buonasera boys, especially in combination with one of the next two occurrences.
I will say, in comparison to other places in Italy, Sorrento does not see this as much. Then, Sorrento is largely a tourist destination so you have to work a little harder to find authentic restaurants anyway.
A rule adopted from my mother, this is perhaps the quickest, most obvious indication of a less-than-ideal dining experience. Unless you’re eating at an odd time, a restaurant with mostly open tables probably has that many open tables for a reason. If it’s not good enough for anyone else, it’s definitely not good enough for you.
Due to the sheer number of tourists and convenience of some places in Sorrento, this logic may be defied but, again, follow the other two guidelines for best results.
Pictures on the Menu. Or the Windows. I mean, seriously?
This one speaks for itself. Faded, yellow-tinted, stock images of spaghetti carbonara plastered on windows or fit to the menu in Southern Italy are wrong for so many reasons. Please, please, please, even when you think you need to eat immediately, keep walking past this one.
I would loosely tie in avoiding English on the menu here, but I haven’t found this as an indicator of quality in any particular instance. Naturally, yes, the truly local spots will have only Italian on the menu. However, with multiple meals per day in Italy, chances are you won’t be eating only at local restaurants and shouldn’t rely too heavily on avoiding a menu with English on it. A lot of Italians know English as well, and a menu with English descriptions can still have divine food.
A final word to the wise: ask a local. Ask your host, your driver, your friend who visited last year. I’m a sucker for in person recommendations. Although it’s important to note they might get kick-backs from local eateries. But then, if all else fails, watch out for these red flags when choosing a restaurant. And don’t order spaghetti bolognese at the beach!
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