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Good Eats in Ischia
MAY 8, 2005 - I just returned from another spring jaunt in Ischia, the small island off the coast of Napoli and neighboring Capri from which my family originates. I always come back with wonderful memories of my relatives, my boyfriend and his wonderful family and the natural beauty of the island. But it's the food that leaves the best taste. Ischia is after all the island, where "si mangia, si beve, e si fischia." ("one eats, drinks, and whistles"). If you ever get the chance to go to Ischia, here are some restaurants that will have you whistling, too:
Il Focollare (Via Cretaio al Crocifisso) - This family-run restaurant is downright charming with its large kitchen visible to the public and bookshelves with various cookbooks at the center of the dining room. If you're lucky enough to know the chef or one of the family members, he or she might take you into the old wine cellar in the back for some vino and prosciutto that is cured on the premises (and comes from pigs that are raised by the restaurant owners) with crunchy homemade bread sticks. This prosciutto literally melts in your mouth.
After this treat, you'll head back to the dining room for antipasto - from pies made with ricotta and asparagus, garlic pesto crostini and tiny, delicious croquets. Fresh vegetable pasta with creamy sauces or a dish similar to beef stroganoff but made with boar are possible entrees depending on the day's menu. I suggest leaving room for dessert like the white chocolate and coconut filled cake.
Baia del Clipper (Via Porto 44) - Right on the water, this is a great place for a romantic dinner for two. The antipasto zeppoli are divine and make a great side to the dish of seafood appetizers that include sardines, fresh salmon, and shrimp. The pizza with arugula, Parmigiano cheese and tomato sauce is a great choice for dinner.
Pirozzi (Via Seminario 51) - Steps away from Castello Aragonese, this restaurant is a convenient stop for tourists. Here, you'll also find great pizza options; consider the quattro stagione or four seasons variety. The ravioli stuffed with clams and muscles and covered in a creamy pink sauce is mind blowing. And your mind will just explode when you eat the sweet treats offered for dessert like rum pastry with strawberries and cream.
La Vigna di Alberto (Barano) - This restaurant was once a wine cellar and is practically hidden from the street but that's part of its appeal. The cozy vibe continues as you enter the dining area. Some guests can sit in their own little grotto for the ultimate in privacy. Dry sausage, steamed muscles and clams and eggplant are highlights of the antipasto. Risotto with fresh salmon in white sauce is a great starter dish. For seconds, consider the octopus and potatoes or the steak in a light brown sauce. The cheesecake isn't from New York but it gets kudos from all the natives.
La Fonte (Piazza 4 Novembre) -- Everyone feels at home at this quaint restaurant. From the dining room, you'll get a lovely view of the island, and lucky diners hear the songs of I Menestrelli, a local performer that sings about Ischia. (You can pick up a CD there, too.) You'll get standard antipasto with cold cuts and cheese, and you’ll be delighted by the mixed salad, which stays true to its name by including a bit of everything - from radish to fresh mozzarella - amid delicious greens. The steak with a dash of lemon and served with fresh fried potatoes makes for a simple but delicious lunch. Instead of dessert, opt for the fresh pineapple.
Minicucci (Via Alf. De Luca 97) - For a lighter meal, pick up a panini and soda at this cute family-run Italian bar. It's also a great place for gelato - from hazelnut to strawberry. After taking a walk at the nearby San Pietro beach, treat yourself to one of the to-die-for pastries. The mini cream puffs and the babà are especially good. For the kids, you can forego the rum and have them sprinkle powdered sugar on the mini babà. Minicucci is certainly a sweet find!
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