Destination: Italy: Amalfi Coast
Don Alfonso 1890
The Campania region’s most famous restaurant and Michelin two-star, Don Alfonso is a gourmet temple that draws foodies to the Sorrento peninsula every year. Chef Alfonso Iaccarino and his wife, Livia, opened the restaurant in 1973 and show no signs of slowing down when it comes to adding creative new ways of sharing their culinary philosophy with their guests: a program of cooking classes (which started in July, 2008), and the recently completed Relais, a boutique property with eight suites and an apartment for travelers who want to turn a dining experience here into a culinary vacation. 37 miles from Naples, the restaurant makes a great spot for lunch before you continue on to the Amalfi Coast, another 45-minute drive away. Closed Monday (and Tuesday from October–May).
Il San Pietro
The dining room of the San Pietro is begging to be updated (it has an old-world feeling in the literal sense), but for pure romantic atmosphere, a table for two at the edge of the terrace can’t be beat. Diners are seated at intimate tables that seem to hover over the sea, and if you’re lucky you’ll time the beginning of your meal with the sunset. Belgian chef Alois Vanlangenaeker (it’s easy to see why everyone calls him by his first name) has a Michelin star and oversees a lengthy menu of dishes that includes local specialties as well as international fare. Some details were surprising for a gourmet dining experience: during a recent dinner, instead of an amuse-bouche, the kitchen sent out a generous slice of thin-crust pizza, an odd, much-too-filling start to a three-course meal that also included deliciously prepared John Dory and a perfect raspberry soufflé for dessert. Most memorable, however, is the electrifying sunset, the smooth sea hundreds of feet below and the views of Positano illuminated by hundreds of lights. Reservations are recommended.
Every evening around dusk, one of the white-suited waiters at Le Sirenuse climbs on a small ladder to light the countless votives that are suspended from wrought-iron chandeliers shaped like branches. The candles illuminate the space—already lovely with potted lemon trees, a vaulted ceiling covered in green vines, and huge windows offering panoramic views of the bay—transforming it into the kind of magical backdrop that inspires impassioned declarations of amore. There may not be an open terrace like at the San Pietro, but diners can have an aperitif at the Sirenuse’s Champagne & Oyster Bar first, and the candlelit wonderland of the dining room is truly one of the coast’s most unique settings. Be sure to ask for a table by the window. (If you fall in love with the wrought-iron chandeliers and centerpieces, you are in good company: the hotel received so many requests for them that they’re now sold at Emporio Sirenuse across the street.) Reservations are recommended.
Named after the famous Italian film director, who stayed at the old Palazzo Sasso in the 1950s, the fine-dining restaurant of the hotel is grand, refined and serious. Since chef Pino Lavarra arrived in 2001 (after a stint at the renowned Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons), he’s received two well-deserved Michelin stars for a lengthy and complex Mediterranean menu. The ambiance in the dining room is hushed and a bit too formal for a resort setting—purses get their own teeny chaises, a touch that works in a Ducasse establishment in Paris but seems gimmicky in casual Ravello—but the friendly staff makes sure things don’t get stuffy, and the innovative dishes are truly a diner’s delight. A recent meal here included shaved slivers of local tuna served on top of zucchini; crispy pork in a rich reduction sauce; and, for dessert, a perfect lemon soufflé with raspberry coulis. Also delicious were the six kinds of homemade bread, including squid-ink-infused rolls and mini-baguettes that would easily pass muster in Paris. The wine list is extensive, but sommelier Daniele di Palma is happy to recommend vintages, especially local Campania ones. Dinner only; closed November–March.
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