I will not be coy in revealing that I have just returned from my honeymoon in southern Italy.
As two chowhounds, hubby and I thought Naples and the Amalfi Coast would be an excellent place to trawl through ruins, visit museums, people watch, shop, walk and indulge in all edible delights on offer. Hummm...yes and no. We made the mistake of not only going on the 'off season' but after Sept. 11th. Virtually all of the restaurants we set out to eat at on the Amalfi Coast were, to our horror, closed. We drove from Sorrento to Positano to Amalfi to Atrani, Ravello and Scala, braving car sickness, trecherous roads and freezing cold. The places we found were usually of the mediocre variety. Speaking to hoteliers and restaurant owners where we went, we learned that Southern Italy has been hit enormously by the drop in tourism. Restaurants and hotels normally open until Jan. were all closed early - including Richard Branson's Palazzo Sasso in Ravello, which housed Rosselini's - supposed to be one of the best eating establishments in the Amalfi area.
Our biggest suprise, however, was in Pompei. I could not begin to heap enough praise on Il Principe, off the main square. We were the only two people in the elegant dining room last Wednesday night. The two owners waited on us personally. To start with we had a fantastic octopus carpaccico - so thin and tender - with the lightest of herb and olive oil sauces. I had turbot with porcini mushroom - a strange combination but one that worked wonders - brnging out that slightly gamey taste of the fish. I also sampled a sea bass risotto - delicious! Our dessert order had to be placed well in advance in order to prepare the fresh, warm merangue that sat on top of the lemon brulee. Our waiter chose the appropriate local wine to accompany our main course - a Sorrentine white - Lacyrimose di Christi (forgive spelling errors please).
Pompei had been described to us in no uncertain terms as 'a dump', but we found this to not at all be the case. It is a charming place (off season at least). OUr hotel - Hotel Forum offer fresh baked lemon cake as part of our breakfast in addition to freshly squeezed orange juice. Please do not be scared away by the bad press.
Il Principe also does special Roman meals based on the recipes of the ancient world. We did not get a chance to sample any but are looking forward to it in the future.