All in Dining Guides

Breakfast in Italy

Italians don’t do savory breakfasts.  Yet they do seem to think that all Americans eat bacon, eggs and biscuits every morning as if the US were a country full of farm hands. Obviously, they don’t know about avocado toast!  Breakfast in Italy is fairly no nonsense and of the overwhelming sweet variety.  It is also the only time when milk in coffee is acceptable!  

What is DOC?

Italy protects its food and wine with a variety of control designations. Learn about these designations with the helpful Sauced & Found guide to IGP, DOP, DOC and DOCG. Become and educated consumer and have fun tasting the foods of Italy in the process.

The Best Restaurants in Sorrento

 

Maybe it’s working in the food industry that causes me to be so particular about where I eat when I eat out.  I like honest peasant food that is of the moment and the place.  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.  

A Guide to Campania White Wines

 

I enjoy both the pleasure and responsibility of introducing foreign guests to the wines of Campania.  While it is true that many just want to get blotto on vacation (and who can blame them for coming to us—we call ourselves Sauced & Found after all)—it is equally the case that many of you want a fully immersive Campania wine experience.  This is where the fun begins.  Campania, thanks to its wildly varied topography and volcanic soil is the most biodiverse region in Italy.  The same soil that gives the world the spectacular San Marzano tomato and squeaky buffalo mozzarella, also produces some of our most stimulating wines.  

The Courses of an Italian Meal

The Italian meal is more marathon than sprint. Actually, more accurately, the Italian meal is a languorous amble down a country road with ample comfort breaks and conversation. I fondly recall my first real Italian meal at a country inn somewhere on a hilltop in Val d’Orcia.  On break from my real job in Rome working as a contractor for the British Government, I was eager to burn through my generous per diem- the same per diem that my more prudent colleagues would use to pay off their student loans. 

How To Make Traditional Ragu

One of the cool things I was able to witness was a professional chef make a traditional Italian dish for a wedding. Now, the way people prepare a meal here seems to be different from the States. Here, you will add different ingredients until you decide it’s enough. Where in the States, you follow a recipe to the exact measurements. Don’t get confused, these recipes do have some measurements, but they are more like a suggestion and you decide what you would like to do instead.

Positano defies gravity. Pastel buildings hang like tendrils dipping over the sea. Mosaic church domes are wedged between cliffs. Old ladies with in matching house dresses and droopy nylons trudge up countless stairs.  The town is vertical, funneling from a long, winding strip of coast into the hills.  The highest neighborhood of Positano is Montepertuso, meaning Mount Hole in local dialect.  As the legend goes, villagers attempting to escape marauders scampered into the hills above town only to become blocked by an imposing rock formation.  They prayed to the Virgin Mary and so she ventured down from the heavens and parted the rocks, allowing the early Positanese to pass through safely.  The hole in this rock formation is said to resemble the Madonna (I think it looks like an rather beaky eagle) and would give Montepertuso its name. 

Top Ten Trattorias of Naples

Trattoria, osteria, ristorante….. where to start?  And more importantly what is the difference?  A trattoria, like an osteria, serves simple, rustic food.  Unlike a ristorante, a trattoria features a limited menu, often scrawled on a chalkboard or haphazardly scribbled on A4 paper and photocopied. But thoughtless, trattorias are not.  These are establishments of cucina povera and if you hope to eat like a local while in Italy and do not happen to have an Italian nonna, then this where you want to spend you feeding time.  Naples particularly has some of the best trattorias of Italy.  Waves of tourism that have radically changed the restaurant industry in the rest of Italy (and not in a good way), have left Naples relatively untouched (for now).  It is still possible to sit at a communal table, eat a hearty plate of pasta and enjoy a carafe of local wine for 10 euros.  Below are Sauced & Found’s favorite trattorias in Bella Napoli. Some of these places have weird hours so always check hours first!

The Foods of Ferrante

The international press has been obsessed with Elena Ferrante in ways the local Neapolitan press never have been. Some people think they have unveiled her true identity.  Some people think she is a man.  Many people love the books.  Most Neapolitans have either never read them or vehemently despise them.  The reason for this is varied- just as the town of Naples is varied- something that gets lost in the books themselves.  Neapolitans almost unanimously agree that Ferrante writes like someone who has left Naples- particularly the brutal post-war periphery of Naples that was as chauvinist as it was bleak.  There is no subtlety or dimension to this portrait of Naples.  It is simply a place of violence that one must silently endure or boldly escape.

Top Five Gelaterias in Napoli

 

While the sfogliatella pastry and pastiera pie may be the undisputed kings of Neapolitan dolce, gelato will always remaining an admirable favorite.  With warm weather still going strong as we launch into fall, the gelato shops of Napoli remain humming with activity.  And what better way to spend a Neapolitan Sunday afternoon than with a constitutional stroll with a constitutional cone in hand.  Below are Sauced & Found’s selections for the top five gelaterias in Napoli. 

A Guide to Limoncello !

It’s a calm summer night on a terrace overlooking the Gulf of Sorrento.  You have eaten a lot—too much really.  Bruschetta, smoked provolone, oregano studded olives, bubbling eggplant parmesan, Gragnano pasta shells stuffed with salted cod and wild parsley and baked to a crisp gratin. Those were only the first two courses.  The main course of Branzino stewed acqua pazza style in Vesuvian tomatoes and garlic puts you over the edge.  Then dessert arrives- a crostata of plump boozy apricots and vibrant mint leaves.  You are stuffed, finished, finito- but somehow your stomach defies its limits and the laws of gravity.  You eat that sublime slice of tart. Just as you are wishing you wore those stretchy pants, out of the corner of your eye you spot a tray approaching. Chilled ceramic glasses and a bottle of electric yellow nectar materialize. Dinner is not over yet.  The digestive has arrived. And it is limoncello. 

Top Ten Pizzerias in Naples

Let’s get one thing straight ragazzi- pizza is just one of the MANY iconic dishes that Naples offers. Still no trip to Bella Napoli is complete without it.  The original Neapolitan pizzas are the simple Marinara of San Marzano tomato sauce, oregano and garlic or the Margherita of tomato sauce, mozzarella or fiori di latte cheese and basil.  The secret to enjoying a good pizza is to keep it simple.  And for the love of God, don’t drive the pizzaioli of Naples crazy by trying to customize your f*cking order.  Order what is one the menu and basta!

Top Ten Cafés in Naples

You have to try hard not to drink good coffee in Naples.  Every neighborhood bar is a window into the vivacity of that sliver of Neapolitan territory.  The first thing I do every morning after rolling out of bed and making myself look generally presentable (locals might argue that lululemon pants and crocs do not qualify as presentable Napoli- and who am I to quibble) is head to the bar across the street from my house.  I go for the company. The invasive inquiries into my personal life. The exchange of hyper local recipes and even more hyper local gossip.  This is the bar where I start my day.  Twelve hours later, I will also end my day here with a spritz or a gingerino and a complex discussion of what was for lunch and what will be for dinner and how I will spend my Easter and whether I will make or buy my pastiera. It may only be February, and yet this is the idle chatter heard in Neapolitan bars everyday across the city.  To know Napoli is to know her bars.  Below are the most iconic. 

How to Order Coffee in Italy

There is a generous degree of debate regarding who has the best coffee in Italy.  Neapolitans will unfailingly boast that ours is the best coffee in the world.  I agree with that assessment.  But I am also biased.  As a rule, the coffee of the South is earthier and more full bodied.  As you move up the boot, coffee brands change.  In Naples Kimbo is King.  In Rome you find a lot of Lavazza.  Trieste is home to Illy.  The brand you use at home says a lot about your allegiances so never give a Neapolitan a gift of Illy coffee.  This will be unapologetically offensive.  I did this once so I should know.  After learning that I was supposed to take coffee and sugar to a dead relative’s family to commemorate a death-o-versary, I took Illy, thinking it posh.  Let’s just say I made them all forget the somber occasion of the day.

In Defense of ITALIAN Food: Ten Commandments

When I lived in America, I always secretly harbored this idea that dried pasta was intrinsically inferior to fresh pasta.  Maybe it was the Calvinist in me that maintained anything that requires more work is naturally better.  I also perhaps romantically believed that all Italians made all things by hand- and by extension that all Italian food was the same.  In the 1990s, regional Italian food was largely non-existent in the United States.  Even New York, bastion of Italian-American cookery was largely void of regional Italian cuisine.  Fine dining chefs served exotic dishes like vitello tonnato (which I never really liked or understood) on the same menus that offered ribollita.  The former is from the Piedmont and has some suspicious origins in French Savoy; the latter is a fine example of Tuscan Cucina Povera.  Call me a zealot, but those two dishes should never be on the same menu together.  It is offensively blasphemous.  Unless maybe you are Massimo Bottura and are doing something whimsically ironic.

Top Ten Foods of the Amalfi Coast (Actually 11!)

Let’s get one thing straight.  This list is by no means exhaustive.  You could eat for years on the Amalfi Coast and still have not tried every plate the region has to offer.  Many of the same dishes are found in the the Gulf of Sorrento, Capri and the Phlegrean Islands. I have tried to limit this top ten list to foods that are strictly native to this wondrous stretch of coast and have stories linked to specific towns.  Sfogliatella, for example, was invented in the Amalfi Coast town of Conca dei Marini.  Parmigiana di Melanzane (Eggplant Parmesan), on the other hand is ubiquitous throughout all of Southern Italy and is a true staple of the Southern Mediterranean summer diet. To understand the foods typical to the Amalfi Coast, one must observe the region’s topography.