My Favorite Place: Danny DeVito
The L.A.–based actor loves to raise a glass on the Amalfi Coast. T+L gets the scoop on his Italian history.
“My family comes from San Fele, in southern Italy, and growing up in Asbury Park, New Jersey, my house was always filled with relatives from the old country—sleeping in chairs, eating, and drinking my uncle’s homemade red wine. My mother made regional Italian dishes with lots of vegetables—fennel, broccoli, dandelion greens. From the time my kids were born, I couldn’t wait to bring them to Italy and expose them to their ancestry and culture.
“In 1993, my wife, Rhea [Perlman], and I flew with them to Rome, then we took the train to Naples. We were scared to death of the winding roads of the Amalfi Coast, so we chartered a speedboat to take us to Positano. We blasted Pavarotti on the boom box and rode past Naples, Sorrento, Capri off in the distance—and oh, my God, it was exhilarating. That incredible blue sea, that coast, those islands. We ate the leftover salumi and cheeses we had packed for our picnic lunch on the train.
“We stayed at Le Sirenuse, on a cliff overlooking the water. The first night, Rhea and the kids and I went down to the beachfront restaurant Chez Black, and of course I wanted to eat every item on the menu. I ate like I was going to the chair. The next thing I know, a server brings out the limoncello. That got me, right there. I wasn’t a crème de menthe or crème de cacao kind of guy. Suddenly—in that tiny town, lemons growing on vines right up the walls—it was like I had discovered something. Ever since then, I’ve wanted all the limoncello I could drink. And now I make my own.”
Danny DeVito’s Premium Limoncello (dannyslimoncello.com) is bottled at a 670-acre lemon cooperative in Sorrento, Italy, and is available in stores throughout the U.S. The new season of DeVito’s television comedy It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia airs on FX in September.
Positano with a View
A Feast for the Senses
“Order the linguine alle vongole at Chez Black (Via del Brigantino; 39-089/875-036; dinner for two $114).”
Best Dessert in Little Italy
“The tiramisu at Cha Cha’s Café (113 Mulberry St., New York; 212/431-9755; dinner for two $60) is off the charts.”
“Michael Pollan makes American apples intriguing in The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World (Random House; $16).”
Cocktail of Choice
“Take a champagne flute. Fill it a third of the way with limoncello, and then add a good Prosecco. It’s the most delicious summer drink.”
Nothing beats Le Sirenuse for traditional, dignified luxury. In 1953, two years after it opened, John Steinbeck described it as “an old family house converted into a first-class hotel.” More than half a century of overexposure later, that impression remains at this storied hotel, now in its second generation of Sersale family management. Nearly all the rooms in the poppy-red, 18th-century villa, with museum-quality antiques and hand-painted ceramic-tile floors, have a private balcony or patio overlooking the bay. Diversions include an alfresco champagne-and-oyster bar, a pool and Aveda spa, and a vintage wooden boat for tooling up and down the coast in 1960s-starlet style. The Neapolitan menu at the restaurant, La Sponda, was devised by chef Matteo Temperini.
The beachfront restaurant serves up delicious linguine alle vongole.
Cha Cha’s Café
Located in the heart of Little Italy, Cha Cha’s Café authentic Old World cuisine has been sampled by stars such as Danny De Vito, Tommy Lasorda, Leonard DiCaprio, and Michael Douglas. The snug, redbrick restaurant, actually a century-old butcher shop, features intimate tables, and affable owner John "Cha Cha" Ciarcia frequently "makes the rounds" in the dining room to ensure patrons are happy and fed. The menu includes pizzas, calzones, panini on homemade bread, and Italian classics like lasagna and baked ziti. There’s also an assortment of homemade sweets tiramisu, sorbetto, cannolis, and éclairs, as well as espresso and cappuccino. Cha Cha's outdoor patio overlooks Mulberry and is a great spot for San Gennaro Feast.