I've just returned from a 15-day driving trip beginning in Amantea and ending in Praiano. This is the first installment, which covers Amantea, where we spent one night before moving north along the coast to Castrovillari, and then Maratea.
AMANTEA…LOCANDA DI MARE
We arrived in picturesque Amantea tired after two flights from New York and a 30-minute drive from the airport at Lamezia Terme, so wanted only a small snack before having a swim and bit of a rest. This SlowFood osteria was just two blocks from our hotel (Mediterraneo Palace) on the main “state road.” (As we discovered, no one along it is considerable length refers to this road as the SS18, but rather the “Strada Statale.”)
While we did not consume much, I mention this osteria here because it was the subject of a long CH thread prior to my trip.
My two companions and I shared only a large lettuce salad (3 euro; not my own choice) and a plate of hefty roasted gamberoni (11 euro). Both were quite tasty. The restaurant itself it cheerful and homespun, clad in a rainbow of bright colors and accented with hand-painted murals and ceramics and a large fish tank. As our first meal in Calabria, it certainly whetted our appetite for more and while I might not drive out of my way to eat here, Locanda di Mare is certainly an option if you find yourself in this endearing seaside town.
AMANTEA…RESTAURANTE LE CLARISSE
Located in an imposing 17th-Century former convent crowning the historic center of Amantea, Le Clarisse is probably the fanciest restaurant in this unassuming seaside town. Although “event restaurants” in historic buildings with great views often offer less than stellar food, this was an exception and we dined very well on our first night after arrival in Italy.
When I booked the reservation by e-mail, the owner offered us a spot in the garden, where there was to be an evening of “Calabrian cuisine, with cigars.” My friends, not being smokers, nixed this idea and so we were seated at a prime table on the terrace, with the lights of the town spread before us.
We saw no other diners on that Friday evening but suspect this was because we dined early by local standards, arriving about 8pm.
The printed menu offers limited choice of only about three dishes per course and while the descriptions sounded a tad fussy, the execution was very good. Three of us (there were three of us at all dinners described in this thread, unless otherwise noted), began with two shared appetizers, both excellent:
Involtini di Spigola e Coda di Gambero su Verdurine all’Agretto, sea bass stuffed with prawns and served with citrus scented vegetables. Feel free to correct mistakes in translation. (Interesting note: This region of Calabria produces bergamot and citron, among other citrus fruits).
Millefoglie di Polpo e Patate con olio al Basilico (thin sliced of octopus and potato, carpaccio style, accented with basil oil).
Knowing that nearby Bagnara is a swordfish center (thank you, Lidia!), each of us opted for the Filetto di Pesce Spada, crusted with almonds served with a fabulous marmelade made from the vaunted Tropea red onion, strings of which we saw for sale along the main road.
We drank a bottle of Calabrian Grayasusi Ceraudo rose (17 euro). With this wine, and water, the bill totalled a reasonable 88 euro for three of us.
Service was welcoming and enthusiastic. Little English is spoken here, or anywhere else in Amantea.
AMANTEA..BAR GELATERIA SICOLI
We passed on the restaurant’s desserts in order to partake of the swoooningly good gelato and pastries at this atmospheric bar which has been in the family for several generations and has just won acclaim for its gelato in the national Corriere della Sera:
Many complimentary tastes were offered and many were consumed before settling on the orange cream. A helpful patron offered this tip: when choosing gelato flavors, always choose one from a tub that is full, which signifies that is has been freshly made. However, all the samples here tasted divine to me. An essential stop and a popular local gathering place. Good selection of locally produced liqueurs in unusual flavors, including citron, bergamot, liquorice, prickly pear (fichi d'India, in season during our visit) and food items.
Corso Umberto 1, 35, in Upper Amantea, a few blocks from Le Clarisse.
COLAVOLPE….large and lovely main store on the state road in Belmonte Calabro; branch in Amantea.
Most renowned for dried, baked and candied figs in myriad incarnations, this more-than-a-century-old family business is a wonderland for gastronomic tourists, as well as a popular source of gift items among locals. The vast showroom offers products from all areas of Calabria, from Nduja, pancetta and lardi to Marmelades of Tropea Onions and Bergamot, to name but two local specialties to liqueurs to an endless variety of sweet delights. A must stop if you are in the area. They are enormously pleased that the holiday season will find their products in both Coluccio in Brooklyn, and at Eataly. Lovely people, scrumptious confections. Do not miss at least one type of their baked figs enrobed in chocolate. I bought several boxes to bring home; I returned home with but one lone box.