The Best Restaurants in Sorrento
I get asked all of the time for restaurant suggestions in Sorrento. It seems like at least once a week a relative, a friend of a friend or a client is headed to the center of Sorrento and each of them wants the unvarnished truth.
“Where do you eat when in Sorrento?” They all ask. And the truth is usually nowhere. I find the more pastoral restaurants in the hinterlands of Massa Lubrense more charming and the food less fussy. Here is one reason why—too many restaurants in Sorrento do this thing I hate with Balsamic glaze. They drizzle it Jackson Pollock style all over every dish (usually plated on square plates that might have been cool circa 1994 at Arzak). I don’t do gratuitous garnishes and balsamic and parsley (especially curly) are top on my shit list.
Maybe it’s working in the food industry that causes me to be so particular about where I eat. I like my food like I like my people- honest! I don’t like cinema. I don’t like pizzazz. Give me a plate of pasta and beans and I am happy. Give me a plate of pasta and freshly harvested borlotti beans that nonna shucked herself and I am ecstatic. The truth is that not many such restaurants exist in Sorrento. But I have managed to ferret a few out and here are my top five. Heed my warning—these are not fancy restaurants but what they lack in Michelin stars and ecru tablecloths, they more than make up for with spirited service and honest menus. One last word of advice. NEVER order pizza in Sorrento—Got to Napoli.
1) Da Filippo
Not quite an agriturismo but definitely a little petting zoo cum farm, Da Filippo is a sprawling restaurant just outside the center of Sorrento on an old country estate. They provide a shuttle bus from Piazza Tasso for those who do not wish to drive or walk. I am a sucker for the lamb and Florentine steak here. When on the menu, I always order seafood risotto as well. In the summer they serve a lovely antipasto of local caponata (not the Sicilian eggplant version but the Sorrentine version which more closely resembles Tuscan panzanella bread salad) and white wine with percoche peaches.
When I am stuck in the center of Sorrento and want a local meal that does not feature 20 Euro carbonara (carbonara is from Rome not Southern Italy and 20 Euro is way too expensive for this simple bacon and egg dish), I come to Chantecler. Their menu is simple. Antipasti average 5 Euro, primi 8 Euro and secondi also 8 Euro. Fried anchovies are delightful here. As is the polpettone (meat loaf) and house made cannelloni. I often come here alone between work assignments and enjoy a pasta of the day and a glass of house Falanghina. No nonsense local food with daily specials that are always compelling.
3) Da Emilia
Tucked away on the charming Marina Grande, Da Emilia is something of a Sorrento institution, which in this case does not distract from the genuinely good food they have on offer. It is a seafood trattoria and you had better order seafood here. If you want a classic Sorrento lunch, order the spaghetti and clams and a glass of Falaghina.
4) Master Hosts
The name sucks and the picture blazoned menus out front do not inspire confidence. But this is a standby stomping ground for all of the police officers at the nearby station and let me tell you, the food is good here. They make an excellent Gnocchi alla Sorrentina in earthenware casserole dish baked with San Marzano tomato sauce and provolone cheese.
I had one of the best chicken cacciatore of my life here one glorious September afternoon a few years ago. The owner’s mother swears to me she killed the country chicken herself. And I can get down with a restaurant the features an eighty-year-old granny nanny as chef who slaughters her own poultry on the reg. Ragù and bracciole are also great here. Just simple fare you would enjoy at a Sunday meal if you had the fortune to be invited and nonna was making meatballs that day.