Calabrian Cuisine, 5 Things You HAVE To Eat When You Arrive

Home Made Ravioli at Al Caminetto

Ciao Belli!

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Perfect coffee and cakes
Perfect coffee and cakes

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 Talao
Pizza Talao
  1. 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
  2. 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
    Zucchini Fritters

    The Bella Vista in Santa Domenica Talao
  3. 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
    Cannoli at Vulare Siciliane
  4. 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 with Wild Boar at Al Caminetto in Tortora, Italy
    Pasta with Wild Boar at Al Caminetto in Tortora, Italy
  5. 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!

    Roseangela giving us a pasta making demonstration

    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.)

    Lunch!
    Lunch!

    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.

    Antipasti
    Antipasti

    Enjoy your trip to our beautiful area and Buon Appetito!

Foodie Heaven: 3 Calabrian Restaurants You Can’t Miss

Santa Domenica Talao, our beatiful home.
Pasta with Wild Boar at Al Caminetto in Tortora, Italy
Pasta with Wild Boar at Al Caminetto in Tortora, Italy

Ciao Gourmands!

If you are reading this then you are likely a foodie, not just any foodie but a real true believer, a foodie who would move heaven and earth for a great meal. You plan your trips around the meals you foresee. In Winter you pore over glossy food porn magazines anticipating your Summer trips because you, like every Italian, know that life affords you a certain set number of meals before you die and that to waste even one of them would be a sin.

You have come to the right place. Pete and I love to eat. We love great food and understand it as an art form. We don’t eat to plug ourselves up or to keep going. We eat because it is a religious experience.

This is one of the reasons we chose Calabria as our second home. The food here is unrivaled anywhere even, dare I say it, in the North.

Calabrian food is strong. The flavors meld perfectly and it is the last word in comfort food.

I could wax lyrical all day about it but it is best to show you. And what better way than over lunch?

Fried zucchini flowers at Alicia
Stuffed zucchini flowers lightly floured and fried with vegetable “polpette”

Il Ristorante Di Aligia, Maiera, Calabria, Italy

Pete and I are starting the renovation process for our ruin in Santa Domenica Talao. When we purchased the house here, we bought the ruin next door and are finally ready to fix it up.

After an exhausting morning of trying to translate plumbers, electricians, general contractors and tile vendors, we took off up the hill from the main drag along the coast and headed to Maiera.

Round sculpture
Sculpture garden at Restaurante Di Aligia, named for the sculptor Aligia who hails from Maiera.

Il Ristorante Di Aligia is a bit of a trek but once you get there, you know you have entered paradise.

The restaurant is set mid a beautiful sculpture garden with flowers and plants everywhere.

Garden Aligia
Garden at Restaurants Di Aligia

The Summer heat can be oppressive in Calabria but up on the hill, on a verandah shaded by trees and plants, the breeze is gorgeous.

Grilled chicken at Restaurants Di Aligia

I ordered grilled chicken. The waiter told me that it would take awhile so he started us out with zucchini flowers stuffed with cheese, fish and some other heavenly substance all lightly floured and fried. These were accompanied by magical little loaves of vegetable “polpetti” which, God knows how they are cooked but they are magnificent.

Toasts with tomatoes and wicked N'Duja
Toasts with tomatoes and wicked N’Duja

Since no one wanted us to go hungry even for a little bit, slices of home made toasts covered with tomatoes came to keep us company along with their best friends, spicy Nduja which also my new best friend.

Shortly thereafter Pete’s plate of fusilli with goat arrived along with my grilled chicken, fries and grilled vegetables.

Goat Fusilli
Goat Fusilli at Restaurante Di Aligia

And the fun began!

Restaurante Di Aligia is a true find. It rivals top notch restaurants anywhere in the world and the bill including everything we had, home made cedrocello and my espresso was all of 29 Euros.

cedro liqueur
Home made cedro liqueur at Restaurants Di Aligia

 

 

Al Caminetto Ravioli
Home Made Ravioli at Al Caminetto

Al Caminetto, Tortora, Calabria

I have to admit that I am biased. The restaurant is owned by the cousin of our great friend Giacomo and I have fallen in love with Roseangela and her family. She is an angel in a white apron who cooks like one imbued with divine grace.

Our first visit there, Giacomo ordered traditional Calabrian dishes for us to sample.

Traditional Antipasti at Al Caminetto
Traditional Calabrian Antipasti at Al Caminetto

This was the first time I had tasted Baccala, the dried cod that is magically rehydrated into the most amazing dish anyone could ever experience. The dish consists of the baccala, capers, olives, something magic, something else magic and something else magic.

This is also where I fell in love with Arancini, seasoned red rice, stuffed with meat, formed into a ball or a pear shape (oddly “arancini” means “oranges” in Italian and they look like pears) and (get this!) rolled in seasoned bread crumbs and fried.

When these little monsters are made correctly they transport you immediately to heaven where angels sing and play on their harps. Crispy, crunchy, soft, aromatic and filled with magic.

Additionally Roseangela creates her own pasta and for a fun filled video of Chris making a mess with a fusilli, check out the video below:

Al Caminetto is also a bit of a climb but if you could climb to Heaven why would you not?

The Bella Vista, Santa Domencia Talao, Calabria, Italy

Again, I write about this place a lot because I go there a lot.

Calabrian Antipasti
Calabrian Antipasti At the Bella Vista Restaurant, Santa Domenica Talao

From Scalea on the coast, you have to climb the hill to Santa Domenica Talao which is where we hang out. On the corner of the village is the Bella Vista. You can’t miss it because there is always a table out front and several people congregating there.

The Bella Vista fare is simple but fabulous. The pizzas are authentic Southern Italian pizzas, the pasta is home made and if you want something light you can get panini and appetizers.

Pizza Bella Vista
Pizza at the Bella Vista

The magic of the Bella Vista is in the location. Perched as it is on top of the hill and in front of the village, you get a 360 degree view of the most magnificent mountains ever created by any deity, the impossibly blue Mediterranean and the village behind you. As the sun goes down, the gold lights in the village come up bathing it in a golden glow and imparting a fairy tale magic that will stay with you forever.

Santa Domenica Talao
Sunset in Santa Domenica Talao

The last time I was there, I asked the owner where she bought the house wine. It was so fresh and light. I wanted to see if I could get it in the states. She told me they make it themselves. There is nothing artificial in it, just the ingredients God gifted to this area. It is seriously good and no snobby half glasses here like you may get in Rome. They fill a juice glass to the brim.

So, Foodies! What are you waiting for? A true foodie goes to the ends of the earth to find the best food. I think this is the best so come here and decide for yourselves.

Call me and let’s plan your trip.