Slow and relaxed pace, crystal waters brimming with fish, volcanoes, vineyards, stunning panoramas… there are plenty of dining options off the mainland. Italy is studded with varying sized islands in a Mediterranean paradise. But where to dine?
Small rocks emerging from the sea, both verdant or bare, sunny and gorgeous volcanic lands: from north to south, Italy is rich with many small islands. Here is our gastronomic map for off the mainland dining.
The residence of the Bisol family is a gem of charm and elegance. This is an extraordinary structure that benefits from a magical setting, with lagoon waters in season virtually flooding the vegetable gardens and vineyards. Venissa is a resort, vineyard, osteria and restaurant where four talented chefs work in perfect unison: Sabina Joksimovic, Alba Rizzo, Michelangelo D’Oria and Serena Baiano. Each focus on a different dish, and each committed to carrying out the Venissa manifesto, based on knowledge, respect, employment of prime ingredients, value of location and territory, including of everyone’s workspace. The team work in and of itself is already an interesting project and outlook, the results are equally exciting.
Venissa | Marzobbo (VE) | fondamenta Santa Caterina, 3 | tel. 041 5272281 | www.venissa.it
The name Pomata has been, for the past 40 years, connected with fine Sardinian cuisine. This restaurant in Carloforte is open only during tuna fishing season, and boasts stunning panoramic views, at a stone’s throw from the wharf. The ambiance and service are impeccable, with many years of experience. The cuisine draws from local and traditional dishes, relying mainly on seafood but also pleasantly influenced by Ligurian prompts. Tuna obviously plays the starring role in the menu which changes according to market availability and which also includes a few masterfully executed meat dishes. The linguine with tuna, capers, pecorino and lemon zest have graced the menu since the early ‘70s, but there are other equally tempting dishes: tuna belly with caviar, eggplant and tomato; or the spiced royale tucked in a bread crust. Sweet endings may include the delightful myrtle liqueur sorbet. The lunch offer features a small price degustation menu. On the wine list the best labels the island has to offer, in addition to a selection of mainland and French bottles. Ask about their lodging options.
Da Nicolo | Carloforte (CI) | corso Cavour, 32 | tel. 0781 854048 | http://www.danicolo.net/ www.luigipomata.com
The gorgeous view overlooking the Carloforte fisherman’s wharf is already grounds for sitting at the outdoor tables while sipping a drink. Yet the added value of Niko Caffè is the variety and quality of the food served throughout the day. Mornings begin with fluffy brioches served alongside foamy cappuccino and potent espressos. The lunch menu features complete meal dishes, crisp salads and sandwiches with assorted fillings. In the late afternoon, go for the artisan gelato and semifreddo. In the evening the location becomes particularly evocative and the perfect setting for a relaxed moment with a nice glass of wine or a cocktail.
Niko Caffè | Carloforte (CI) | piazza V. Emanuele III, 9 | tel. 0781 857132 |
Osteria del Noce
Climb the steps to reach the upland of Marciana Marina to enjoy the breathtaking views. Here restaurant Osteria del Noce has been serving satisfied customers for years. The fare is simple and traditional, the ingredients are top notch (and locally sourced), the fish is caught daily and there’s also the occasional meat dish. The character is family style with hand-stretched pastas and homemade bread. The view is stellar and the cooking wholesome. Far from the touristic dynamics, and given the owners’ origins, Noce offers island-inspired dishes with Ligurian accents. On the chalkboard the menu lists daily specials, yet some dishes never change, like for example the octopus salad with beans and potatoes, the acciugata (an anchovy sauce used in a variety of applications as a condiment) plus corzetti pasta served with a walnut sauce, spaghetti with bottarga (mullet roe) and lemon, or a wild-caught fried fish medley. Meals may end with homestyle puddings. Local island lables on the wine list. Prices are honest, service is efficient and informal, trained for big parties.
Osteria del Noce | Elba | via della Madonna, 14 | tel. 0565 901284 | www.osteriadelnoce.it
Tamata in Polinesian means ‘to tempt’. With courage and enthusiasm this restaurant dared to make that happen. Starting from the actual venue which is in itself not really a dining room, rather a artfully furnished patio located in a quaint piazza in Porto Azzurro. The place is tiny yet brimming with life, and dining is by candle light. The menu is seasonal and local, original and modern. The gourmet attitude betrays training in famed kitchens: chef Fabio Molinari’s dishes may feature shrimp with stracciatella, soft pistachio cookie and Campari foam, or spaghetti with sea urchin mousse. There’s meat dishes too: cappellacci pasta filled with wild boar served with smoky broth, goat cheese and cacao beans; or charcoal grilled Chianina beef served on a savory sesame seed sponge cake, ratta potato and bearnaise sauce. The wine list pairs the food offer with local labels and other domestic bottles. The service is attentive, thanks to the careful touch of Barbara di Prospero.
Tamata | Elba (LI) | via C. Battisti, 3 | tel. 0565 940048 | www.tamataristorante.it
Isola del Giglio
Just outside of the small village of Giglio Castello, located in a stone cottage perched against the hillside and steps away from the pine tree forest, is a sensational location graced by stunning views overlooking the Campese bay and the historic centre enjoyed from the terrace. The seafood cuisine relies on the day’s catch, and on simple recipes of grilled local fish “occhiate”, scabbardfish, “boccadoro” or capon fish, in addition to dishes of scampi and mussels. The skate with lemon and parsley, the fish-filled ravioli, the octopus salad and other menu classics like the assorted fried fish will never disappoint.
Da Santi | Giglio (GR) | Via Santa Maria, 3 | tel. 0564 806188
Located in the historic center of Giglio Castello, Arcobalena has been managed by the same family for the past 30 years. This guarantees continuity and wholesomeness, polite service, fresh, local ingredients both from the sea and the garden, and express cooking. The cuisine is homestyle, genuine and well-executed, with lots of freshly caught fish cooked with simplicity. The tables in the snaking alleys complete the setting.
Arcobalena |Giglio (GR) | via Vittorio Emanuele, 48 | tel. 0564 806106 | http://www.arcobalena.net/ristorante_arcobalena.htm
Gino and Patrizia Pesce are always a guarantee of quality. They’re skilled and experienced, yet keenly aware of the risks of their privileged position in a densely touristic environment like the island of Ponza. Despite this the couple manages to maintain continued quality over the years and by the same token periodically refresh their offer. Their cuisine is aimed at and enjoyed by all palates yet never copies itself. It’s all owed to the best locally sourced fresh fish and seafood, paired with perfumy herbs and vegetables. Take the mint-infused octopus with vegetables, or the grilled squid with artichokes, for example. Mediterranean flavors play the starring role in both the pasta dishes, like the tagliolini with raw and cooked red prawns, tomato and basil, or the steamed scampi and giant prawns served with potatoes, tomatoes, basil, olives and Tropea onions. The wine list is well designed and structured, The service is caring and impeccable.
Acqua Pazza | Ponza (LT) | piazza C. Pisacane, 10 | tel. 0771 80643 | www.acquapazza.com
This is the “younger brother” of Orestorante, a historical Ponza restaurant. This is an informal eatery, cozy and colorful with marine theme decor and which serves tasty seafood in addition to the “pop” menu created by chef Oreste Romagnoli. The seafood sings, and proof of this incredible quality is in the assorted antipasto platter: a must-eat assortment of tasty specials, like a sampler of three types of marinated cod, or fish meatballs with tomato sauce, plus octopus salad. There are also more robust dishes like the spaghetti with calamari ragù or the tiny seafood gnocchi cacciatora. Again the winning move is betting on simple fare, for example the local palamita fish served “alla siciliana” that is with capers, olives and cherry tomatoes. The wine list is ample and presented with professional flair.
Oresteria | Ponza (LT) | corso C. Pisacane, 50 | tel. 347 3011376
Salvatore La Ragione has the merit of making this place stand out with a clear identity, instead of remaining a supporting cast member to Torre del Saracino in Vico Equense, with whom it divides paternity along with star chef Gennaro Esposito. Mammà instead has a consolidated character, obtained thanks to measured and well-executed interpretations of classic Neapolitan cuisine. The breathtaking view enjoyed from the large windows that flood light into the room, help too. Examples? A soy sauce-marinated amberjack pancetta served with leek, violet potato and celeriac vichyssoise soup, or a scabbardfish parmigiana layered with eggplant and gorgonzola sauce are two examples of how sea cuisine can find vigour and novel accents. The wine selection in the cellar boasts excellent labels from all over Italy and a few French bottles. Service is courteous and professional.
Mammà | Capri (NA) | via Madre Serafina, 6 | tel. 081 8377472 | www.ristorantemamma.com
This is an enchanting place, suspended between sea, land and sea. The view is unique, with grading levels of blue that are also present in the indoor decor, seating and ceramic tiles included. The view from the windows also reminds us why Capri is one of the most sought-after destinations in the world, heavy with charm and legendary history of the celebrities that in time, like today, choose to frequent it. Meals are served here all day long, relying on fresh, locally sourced ingredients which are elaborated with refined technique and exalted supremely. Salvatore Elefante’s menu counts heavily on simple and elegant transformations, yet does not ignore original intuition. The sea bass tartare with burrata and Granny Smith apple, for example. Or the tuna served with lime and chives. Also the broken hollow “candele” noodles dressed with baccalà belly. Desserts are served in a separate room where a grand buffet features all manner of crostata open face tarts, bite sized pastries and puddings. The choice in the cellar is ample, and caters to both Campania wine lovers as well as those seeking other regional wines. The service is rapid while constantly courteous and professional.
Il Riccio | Capri (NA) | Anacapri via Gradola, 4 | tel. 081 8371380 | www.capripalace.com
Indaco at Hotel Regina Isabella
There’s no shortage of views from the terrace overlooking the sea. Yet it’s what’s in the plate that makes the true difference. In the kitchen is Pasquale Palamaro, with experience matured with important mentors as Antonino Cannavacciuolo. Now Palamaro has a well defined gastronomic identity that reaches admirable levels in his sea and meat dishes alike. Imagine tuna tataki served with sprouts and ricotta, or the squash consommé with tortellini filled with prized Provolone del Monaco cheese and black truffle perlage. Or the sconcigli (sea snail) soup served with celery root, fennel and rosemary. The slow cooked beef boasts delightful texture, and is flavored with licorice and beets, while desserts shine in the sweet/non-sweet creations made with porcini, salt and hazelnuts and the RoccoCocco. The wine list is extensive, service proper – given the cuisine – but with some room for improvement.
Indaco at Hotel Regina Isabella | Ischia (NA) | piazza Santa Restituta, 1 | tel. 081 994322 | www.reginaisabella.it
The name implies this is the home of chef Nì, i.e. Nino Di Costanzo, and not just a way of saying. This is actually his home which has been transformed into a restaurant, complete with garden and vegetable patch. Seating approximately 20 guests in a relaxed and beautiful ambiance, the cuisine is whimsical and extremely refined, including the extraordinary presentation. Courses are executed with only the best quality ingredients, perfect technique and millimetric timing. The chef defines his cuisine as traditional with contemporary interpretations. Flavors and quality become sublime dishes, like the famous house pasta and potatoes. Among signature dishes and new recipes, customers enjoy Ischia delights like rabbit and smoked mozzarella di bufala ravioli, or in the Neapolitan risotto stuffed in bell peppers.
Danì Maison | Ischia porto (NA) | prima traversa Montetignuso, 28 | tel. 081 993190 | www.danimaison.it
The Tremiti islands are not a destination for the socialite. That’s their charm. For those looking for a fine meal here, the reliable and pleasant fish restaurant Gabbiano is the way. The hotel restaurant features a fine location in a charming and unique natural context. The wine list is adequate and the service is courteous and professional.
Gabbiano | Tremiti (FG) | Villaggio San Domino | piazza Belvedere | tel. 0822 463410 | www.hotel-gabbiano.com
by Antonella De Santis
translated by Eleonora Baldwin