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OK, I know that you know that I am a truffle pig when it comes to finding the best eats. I will root them out anywhere I go and my job became a lot easier when we arrived in Calabria.
Calabrian food is a wonderful mix of amazingly good and fresh seafood, pork dishes, Chicken dishes, home made pastas, and so much more.
Everything is fresh. The vegetables are right out of someone’s garden. Some of the people in our village, like our friends Rosaria and Peppino raise EVERYTHING themselves including their mushrooms. Rosaria is an amazing chef and an invitation to lunch starts your mouth watering even if the lunch date is days away.
So you can imagine how incredibly difficult it is to choose only 5 things that you HAVE to eat. By no means limit yourself to these 5 but definitely don’t leave without tasting them.
Pizza at The Bella Vista, Santa Domenica Talao, Calabria
This is the Italian snack staple. Pizzas are everywhere and they are all good. I have only once had a bad pizza but it was in Rome and really everything in that place was bad. The restaurant owners and staff were not even Italian.
So you can love them all but the best pizza I have had was Michelle’s pizza at the Bella Vista. I know I harp on and on about Michelle’s cooking but it really is that good.
Pacchieri Ala Gitana at La Perla Del Terreno, Scalea, Calabria
I initially ordered this dish because LOVE pacchieri. they are wide, fat noodles that soak up the sauce and spread it all over your tongue. Then you bite and there is a little resistance and then it gives. You can’t help it! Suddenly you start singing hymns to the Almighty!
This pasta Is coated in a fine tomato based seafood sauce with lots of assorted shellfish and white fish.
It comes with a bag of freshly baked Calabrian bread that you can use to sop up everything on your plate. It is serious, good eating. Pair this with a lovely white wine on a Summer day while you watch the sea birds play in the surf and listen to the waves lap the shore. It is one of the most pleasant things to do on a Summer day in Calabria. Then you have to go and nap.
Zucchini Fritters at The Bella Vista, Santa Domenica Talao, Calabria
OK here is Michelle again. Let me describe the Bella Vista to you. It is a cafe at the corner of our village and is the first thing you see when you arrive. The owners have created a huge roof terrace on top where you can enjoy your dinner while watching the sun set over the Mediterranean and while the village behind you starts to glow gold in the evening light. It is a magical place far from anything that worries you and the best part is that you know a spectacular meal is coming.
Michelle or one of her staff greet you and take your order. Shortly after that a little plate arrives with your zucchini fritter and a perfect bruschetta featuring sweet tomatoes, garlic and a drizzle of beautiful Calabrian olive oil. Honestly some day I will show up and Michelle’s and just asks for two or three plates of appetizers instead of dinner.
Cannoli at Vulare Siciliane, Scalea, Calabria
I know I also talk a lot about Ilenia but her food is unbelievable. Everything there is delicious but if you want something sooooo incredibly delicious that you actually go weak in the knees, you want one of her cannoli. She and her husband make the little pastry shells themselves and fill them with the lightest sweetest, milkiest, ricotta filling I have ever come across. I have had a LOT of cannoli and hers are seriously the best.
Pasta Al Cinghiale at Al Caminetto, Tortora, Calabria
One rainy June afternoon we met our great friend Giacomo in Tortora which is a stunning little hill town just north of us. Giacomo’s cousin and his wife Roseangela run a restaurant there Called Al Caminetto. Since it was our first time there, Giacomo ordered a sampling of many different Calabrian dishes including fried appetizers such as arancini. This is a ball or cone of rice stuffed with a meat and vegetable mixture and rolled in bread crumbs and fried. I know! That is about as good as it gets!
Everything was amazing but her Pasta Al Cinghiale was special. It is a truly gifted chef who knows instinctively how much of everything to put in to ensure that the balance between the flavors is perfect. Roseangela is such a chef. Don’t miss this dish! (Cinghiale is wild boar by the way.)
Now I could go on and on for days and I would love to do that because these are just the things you need to eat when you arrive. Hopefully you intend to stay awhile and sample all of the amazing restaurants in the area. The Riviera Dei Cedri seems to have attracted the most talented chefs in Italy and you can hop from one great meal to the next easily and happily.
Enjoy your trip to our beautiful area and Buon Appetito!