The food was merely icing on the cake, as I believe you could be happy there even if you ate nothing but ham and swiss on rye. We were in Positano, on the Amalfi Coast, where the towns are either perched on mountaintops or gripping the sides of the cliffs that run into the Tyrrhenian Sea. Everpresent views of the crystal clear water – in blues that range from pale turquoise to teal to a deep sapphire – are mesmerizing, and just offshore, the Li Galli islands, where the Sirens of Homer’s time lured sailors to their death, serve as constant reminders that these hills and waters have been witness to thousands of years of human history.
As in many of the coastal towns, houses in Positano are built one on top of the other, as if scrambling to keep from sliding into the sea, and most are painted white or some pastel shade, with arched entrances and wrought iron railings enhancing the old world atmosphere. The streets are often too narrow for cars, so restaurants take every opportunity to offer al fresco dining.
Every restaurant features the fish of the day, and in that part of the world, the fish of the day was caught this morning. Sea bass, amberjack, flounder, John Dory, rock fish. And miniature mussels, blue lobster from Li Galli, cuttlefish, squid, and those tiny clams I mentioned. We had fish every which way: poached in a light tomato and garlic broth and served with pasta, or grilled in a medley with shrimp and sardines and squid, or lightly sautéed and served in Amalfi lemon sauce with sliced potatoes.
So while I’m working on my own versions of a couple of these dishes, let me digress and tell you about the wines.
Naturally, with so much fish, we drank mostly white wine, concentrating on the many labels of Fiano di Avellino, which is one of the principal white wines of Campania, the region that includes Naples and the Amalfi Coast. Here at home, my husband and I have been moving away from Chardonnay, which is too heavy and oaky for my taste, and concentrating on New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. By and large, I’d say the Fiano is slightly softer than the perky Sauvignon Blanc, with a good bouquet that makes it a bit more elegant and flavorful. The wine itself has notes of honey (though it’s not a sweet wine), nuts, and fruitiness that’s more apricot and pear versus the grapefruit flavors of the NZ Sauvignon Blanc. And while it’s hard to do a side-by-side comparison of the New Zealand versus the Italian – since we have so far not been able to find Fiano di Avellino in Texas – it’s well worth looking for and goes really well with seafood/pasta dishes. The retail prices in Italy were 12-15 euros, so I would expect a good bottle can be had for less than $20.
Here are three we particularly liked, that may be available in the States:
Fiano di Avellino from Guido Marsella
Béchar Fiano di Avellino from Cantine Antonio Caggiano
Fiano di Avellino from Fuedi di San Gregorio
In addition to the Fiano di Avellino, other whites worth trying from the region are Greco di Tufo and Falanghina.
With my next post, I’ll let you know how successful the Kitchen Goddess was at reproducing some of the dishes.