Ten Amalfi Coast Summer Foods
Ten Amalfi Coast Summer Dishes
1) Insalata di Riso
You may have noticed that Italian families bring unseemly quantities of food to the beach on even the simplest of maritime excursions. On more than one occasion when extended families have seen me dining alone (i.e. eating a stupid panino) at the beach, they have invited me to eat their food. I am ashamed to admit, that I almost always accept these invitation. A staple of these multi-course family picnics is rice salad. Served room temperature, it contains corn, green beans, fresh tomatoes, basil, tuna- AND weirdly, chopped up hot dog. Italians do weird things with hotdogs--- just roll with it. Enjoy with a Nastro Azurro beer.
Americans think of Sicilian eggplant caponata when they ponder this dish. In Naples and Amalfi, caponata is a slightly chilled tomato, basil, onion and olive salad served with freselle, a donut shaped twice baked whole grain bread that you rehydrate in water before eating. Similar to Tuscan panzanella, this salad is an undeniable king of the summer table.
3) Macedonia di Frutta
This is really just chopped up fruit salad but so much more fun to eat in beautiful glass cups with festive tooth picks to spear the fruit. I only order Macedonia in the summer and at the beach. And usually only after I have seen that it contains good fruit— i.e.not merely a bunch of soggy grapes and honeydew melon chunks. The key here is that the Macedonia must be colorful and slightly chilled! If you are at a fancy restaurant it might come drizzled in booze, and you know what, why the hell not?
4) Parmigiana di Melanzane
You cannot, should not, will not escape the month of August in Southern Italy with out eating eggplant Parmesan. The Neapolitan style does not generally include dredging the eggplant in eggs and flour as often seems to be the case in America. It is lighter and the eggplant revels in its own sweet glory. With San Marzano tomato sauce, sautéed eggplant and local fiori di latte cheese (oh and parmesan!) this dish is excellent served at room temperature on a terrace overlooking the Amalfi Coast as God and Nonna intended.
5) Melanzane e Cioccolato
Admittedly this is kind of a weird one—eggplant and chocolate! And yes, in the towns of Maori, Minori and Tramonti you will find a dessert consisting of eggplant and chocolate at the height of the summer eggplant harvest. Give the dish a chance- if chocolate can be used in savory Mexican mole than why not eggplant in a sweet dessert. Plus this is one of the few places in the world you can sample such an ingenious peasant dish.
6) Cuppetiello di Pesce
Nothing can be more fun and fulfilling to eat than a paper cone of freshly fried fish. Especially when spearing said fish with a prominent wood pick. The cupetiello is ubiquitous across all Southern Italian beach towns and while it can be customized, the best includes a mix of shrimp, calamari and anchovies. Drizzle some lemon over the golden fried fish and if you were not already experiencing Amalfi heaven you will be soon!
7) Spaghetti alle Vongole
You can eat this plate year round on the Amalfi Coast – but some how it just tastes better in the summer, while sipping a glass of Marissa Cuomo Gran Furor wine and embracing the Amalfi dolce vita. My favorite spot on the Amalfi Coast to eat is at Il Pirata in Praiano. Traditionally the plate features vongole verace clams but alternatives may feature baby lupini mollusks or even smaller still telline. All are excellent but the vongole verace are par excellence!
8) Gamberoni & Calamari Grigliate
Fat prawns and whole squid grilled on an open fire and sprinkled with sea salt. There is nothing more primal and sensual than this dish. Eat on the beach, preferably with no shoes on- possibly with no pants on either.
9) Sorbetto di Limone
Head straight to Bar Royale in Amalfi and order an Amalfi lemon stuffed with house made lemon sorbetto. The perfume alone is mildly narcotic and that is not to mention the ambrosial taste of this lemon sorbetto.
10) Insalata Caprese
A plump Sorrento tomato accompanied by buffalo mozzarella, basil and olive oil. Simplicity at its finest which also means the ingredients must exist in perfect harmony. Unfortunately this salad is often bastardized to the point of oblivion outside of Italy. Insalata Caprese is best enjoyed in your own kitchen after a long day at the beach when you have neither time nor desire to slave over a hot flame.