How the Amalfi Coast Keeps Drawing Us In
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How the Amalfi Coast Keeps Drawing Us In

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© Simon Watson

The very best of Italy's wildly picturesque, inimitably stylish, occasionally raffish, but still surprisingly relaxed coastline.

Throwing back some sea urchin

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Take away Campania and Italy would be a sad, sorry place, not least at the table. Some of the finest iterations of essential Italian ingredients hail from the region around Amalfi: olives, figs, eggplants, peaches, carciofi, lemons, tomatoes. You will eat extremely well here if you resist the siren song of gussied-up northern Italian and stick to simple, fresh, Campanian cuisine.

You will taste face-smackingly sharp wild arugula, the peppery O.G. stuff that makes lesser arugula seem like a chopped-up photocopy. You will discover the revelation of pezzogna, a moist and flaky spotted bream unique to these waters, which needs only a coaxing of flame, olive oil, and lemon to make it leap from the plate.

You will also be tempted to sample the local sea urchin, known as ricci di mare. Do not—repeat—do not embark on this lightly. The sea urchin here will spoil you on all shellfish for life. Sample one and you may wind up ditching your job and family, renting a seaside hut in Nerano, and learning to free-dive, subsisting on ricci alone. Eaten raw, they’ll knock your socks off (if you’re wearing socks, which you shouldn’t be). Even better: sea urchin with spaghetti, olive oil, and often slow-roasted tomato, the uni folded gently into the pasta to form a creamy, briny emulsion. (A pinch of peperoncino makes it sing.) Spaghetti con ricci di mare is Amalfi in a bowl and, thankfully, it’s near-ubiquitous here: try it at Lo Scoglio in Marina del Cantone, Il Pirata in Praiano, and Acqua Pazza in Cetara.

How the Amalfi Coast Keeps Drawing Us In

Throwing back some sea urchin

Take away Campania and Italy would be a sad, sorry place, not least at the table. Some of the finest iterations of essential Italian ingredients hail from the region around Amalfi: olives, figs, eggplants, peaches, carciofi, lemons, tomatoes. You will eat extremely well here if you resist the siren song of gussied-up northern Italian and stick to simple, fresh, Campanian cuisine.

You will taste face-smackingly sharp wild arugula, the peppery O.G. stuff that makes lesser arugula seem like a chopped-up photocopy. You will discover the revelation of pezzogna, a moist and flaky spotted bream unique to these waters, which needs only a coaxing of flame, olive oil, and lemon to make it leap from the plate.

You will also be tempted to sample the local sea urchin, known as ricci di mare. Do not—repeat—do not embark on this lightly. The sea urchin here will spoil you on all shellfish for life. Sample one and you may wind up ditching your job and family, renting a seaside hut in Nerano, and learning to free-dive, subsisting on ricci alone. Eaten raw, they’ll knock your socks off (if you’re wearing socks, which you shouldn’t be). Even better: sea urchin with spaghetti, olive oil, and often slow-roasted tomato, the uni folded gently into the pasta to form a creamy, briny emulsion. (A pinch of peperoncino makes it sing.) Spaghetti con ricci di mare is Amalfi in a bowl and, thankfully, it’s near-ubiquitous here: try it at Lo Scoglio in Marina del Cantone, Il Pirata in Praiano, and Acqua Pazza in Cetara.

© Simon Watson
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