Just returned from another fabulous week in Positano and have some updates to share.
The first night, we went back to Max, which we enjoyed very much last year. Thumbs down!! Even though it's still being recommended on this site, we found both food and service hugely diminished from the year before.
Instead of our usual trip to Buca di Baca, we went across the steps to La Cambusa and were absolutely thrilled. We had dinner with an Italian-American named Francesco Carpegna who lives in Positano and seems to know everyone including the entire staff at La Cambusa. At his suggestion we ordered off the menu -- a whole fish for five people prepared "aqua pazza" style which is cooked with tomatoes and herbs in a small amount of water/white wine. We were presented with the whole cooked fish which was then perfectly fileted into five servings and was absolutely delicious. (We did, however, continue our daily visits to the gelato stand under the Buca de Baca).
On our third day, we went on the most magnificent hike I've ever taken with the above mentioned Francesco. He does walking tours throughout the region and is a fabulous, knowledgeable guide who gets you places that are off limits to most tourists. (You can check out his website at www.walkingwiththegods.com.) We hiked three valleys with amazing primoridial vistas, some of which can only be accessed with a licensed guide. The hike was challenging, but doable even if you're not in great shape and is well worth it. After coming to Positano for years, I had no idea these places even existed. At the end of the day, we were too tired to travel far afield for dinner and Francesco suggested we try the Poseidon Hotel which was a flight of steps up from the apt. we rented. In all the times I've been to Positano, it never occurred to me to eat there and it was a lovely surprise. The restaurant is on the second floor terrace and has a wonderful, romantic view. Better yet, the food was glorious. We had a divine vegetable soup that was just pure fresh produce cooked al dente with herbs and broth. Fish in a lemon sauce was what the Amalfi coast is all about. Service was lovely too.
I wanted to try Don Alfonso since I've heard so much about it. Sure enough, Francesco was a friend of the owner's daughter-in-law, called ahead and got us special treatment. Even with the loss of a star, the food was great, but even better was the atmosphere. Don Alfonso's wife Livia, (elegant in leopard pants, leather jacket and sneakers!) trolls the dining room making sure everyone is happy, as she so clearly is. After dinner, she insisted we visit the wine cellar which was fashioned from an ancient Roman cistern which Don Alfonso discovered when he fell into a hole while walking on his property. Then, she plied us with gifts from their organic farm including olive oil, pasta, and jarred tomatoes. I'm sure we got some special treatment because of the connection, but anyone who showed an interest was equally rewarded with a tour and products. I was informed that there's a new 2 star restaurant in the area (I think it's called Il Capitano but I'm not sure) but the totality of our visit was so special, I'm glad we went to Don Alfonso and highly recommend it. They also run an inn and cooking classes connected to the restaurant, which had the cooks in my family salivating.
Although they've had plenty of mentions on CH, I'd never been to Bruno or Il Ritrovo so we tried those as well. The food was good at both places and the atmosphere fun, but not star quality. Although I did have a pear-ricotta cheese cake at Il Ritrovo that was to die for.
One last mention -- on our way back we stopped in Rome and walked by a pizza joint that had Italians standing in line around the block waiting for tables, so of course, we tried it the next night. It's called Da Baffetto and probably everyone who has been to Rome knows about it except me. Anyway, it was, indeed, the best pizza I've ever had in my life.
Can't wait to do it all again!