Wherever you go in Orlando, you can’t escape the spectacle of the Magic Kingdom fireworks.
As you drive around the city on any given evening, you see bursts of colorful light shooting up into the air. Then, they quickly cascade as though electrified streamers are raining down on passers by. Finally, the sparks disappear into the darkness as if they were never there. Those flashes of hope bring me back to central Florida again and again.
Nostalgic for Wonder
Even if Disney is too expensive, too commercial, and too corporatist (and it is indeed all those things), it brings me back to my childhood. A visit to the theme parks or one of the resorts reminds me of my wonder. My father, an Italian immigrant, was a workaholic. He never missed a day’s work, not for illness, not for anything. But when the season turned to winter and his landscaping company was on leave, he would take us to Disney World. The first stop would be Peter Pan’s Flight. The second stop would be the fireworks. He considered them awe-inspiring. They reminded him of the elaborate fireworks he would see from Buceto, the woods in Ischia, Italy, where he regularly camped out as a kid for certain religious feast days.
So, we return to Disney. Today, we watch Happily Ever After from the top of California Grill in Disney’s Contemporary Resort. The flurry of images projected onto Cinderella’s Castle cast a spell on us. Hearing the rush to silence from the sea of onlookers is magnificent. That booming launch of fireworks dancing in the sky, in beat with the music, stays with a person.
Standing on that rooftop with fireworks shaped like hearts dissipating before us, I clutch my little boy. His jaw sits practically on the floor. “I never want it to stop, Mommy,” he says. And I respond, “I know. I know.” Truth is neither do I.
Bridge to the Generations
My own parents sit right inside the doors of the restaurant. They preferred to watch the show from our table. Certainly, they long ago held onto my siblings and me in the same way. They too wished upon a Disney firework that we would stay little just a little bit longer. Of course, they longed to make our innocence and sense of security and cherished moments endure as long as possible. Now, they are doing the same for their grandchildren. As the fireworks enlighten us, we must accept that these years vanish in an instant – and there’s no way to get them back once they’re gone.
As we gear up for the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve, I can’t help but think of the seafood I ate at ‘A Figlia d’o Marenaro in Naples, Italy. The shellfish could not have been more perfect. And my son’s pizza Margherita was one of the best I’ve had in Naples. While the food was sublime, the flashing cameras and line down the block was the most memorable part of the evening.
‘A Figlia d’o Marenaro Uses Social Media to Its Advantage
With 154,000 followers on Facebook, ‘A Figlia d’o Marenaro restaurant knows how to maximize its social media presence. In fact, its use of video is more than admirable. The restaurant’s name means “daughter of the fisherman.” Indeed, the face of the restaurant is a blond woman who presumably is a daughter of a fisherman. Whether that’s real or not, she plays the role perfectly. Her quintessentially Neapolitan dialect and accent only enhance the branding of the place.
Her presence in the videos that you can find on the site has made her somewhat of a celebrity. In one, she and others go fishing before dawn to get the ingredients that will appear on the dinner menu that same night. By the end of the introduction, they broke into Neapolitan song.
When we walked outside after our dinner at Marenaro, the “figlia” was taking photos with guests as they were coming in. She stood for a photo with us, too. My native Italian friends fawn over her and the photo quickly became a treasured souvenir.
Old-Fashioned Home Cooking
Still, the best part of the meal had to be the food. As promised on the website, the dishes are influenced by the home cooking of yesteryear. But they include modern twists. Even the simplest menu items were beautifully presented and a delight for the taste buds. For example, I ordered grilled calamari salad. The calamari was grilled to perfection. It melted in your mouth. A light dressing of olive oil and lemon left a refreshing taste in your mouth.
Mountain of Shellfish
This type of “shellfish soup” is typical of what you’ll find in and around Naples, Italy. What made this remarkable were the fresh ingredients, savory sauce, and crunchy taralle. Usually, restaurants serve this with grilled Italian bread. The idea is to have a toasted bread to soak in the sauce. Using taralle, a typical Neapolitan snack, was novel and welcome.
A Sweet Ending
This giant profiterole was the dessert for the table. The four of us dug into it with verve. And we were not disappointed. Now, I’m not a huge chocolate dessert fan. But I will make an exception for this one. It was a yummy ending to both our delightful meal in Naples but also my annual trip to Italy. Certainly, this meal perfectly fit into my dolce vita.
Visit Italy, and you will be mesmerized. Regardless of the time of year, you will see its beauty and history. And you will taste its delicious food and wine. Still, each season provides a different perspective and therefore a unique experience. Deciding when is the best time for your visit depends on a number of factors. For instance, if you are planning to travel to Italian islands, the winter is pretty much dead. But if Florence or Venice is calling your name, any time would work.
Discover what each season offers to tourists:
In general, fall is my favorite time of year to head to Italy. Airfare is cheaper than it is at the height of summer. The crowds have all returned to school and work. And the weather remains delightful, especially down south. In fact, I’ve been to the beach in Ischia, an island off the coast of Naples, well into September and even October. In addition, all the thermal pools are open through November. The rest of the country is usually cooling off, at least compared to the hot temperatures of July and August. The most popular sites, such as the museums or the Colosseum in Rome, have fewer visitors. People traffic is no longer an issue in the big cities and hot spots. To visit Italy in fall, is to take a real vacation. It allows you the time to truly relax.
Colder weather is a deal breaker for some visitors. But others long for the snow in the north. In fact, many come to cities, such as Torino, just for the skiing and other snow sports. There’s no question that you can avoid crowds during this season in Italy. Also, the prices for airfare and hotels is usually the lowest in January and February after the holiday season.
While I’ve been in Ischia and Naples during the winter months, I wouldn’t advise people to go there during the dead season. Few natives are on the islands, and many of the hotels, restaurants, and other sites are either closed or open only sporadically during winter. The holidays are an exception; hotels and even some restaurants will open for the Christmas season, even on the islands. The hiking and swimming in the oceans are pretty much impossible because of the temperatures. Still, if you have family there as I do, it might be a nice time to go to spend uninterrupted time with them.
One warning, however, is about the heating available. I find myself cold to the bone whenever I’m in Ischia in the winter. Much of the south is similar. Though the temperatures never drop as much as they do in my hometown in New Jersey, the homes are made of cement. And no one uses heat 24 hours per day. There’s high humidity, which makes it a wet cold instead of a dry one. Babies and older people and those susceptible to ailments, such as bronchitis, might not want to be even in the warmer south during the winter.
Europe, in general, is a popular destination come springtime. Spring break and Easter are popular dates for travel during this period. Because demand is up, the airfare and hotels tend to charge more. This is a lovely time of year to visit Italy. But you have to be prepared for a range of weather. In the north and central parts of the country, you may still experience snow or low temperatures. In the south, don’t be surprised if you get lots of rain. The dampness has gotten to me at this time of year more than once.
Still, this can be a nice time to visit. First, you get to see some of the spring rituals – beginning the gardening, preparing for holidays, such as Easter, and seeing the buds come to life. Second, you also don’t have to deal with the heavy crowds you’ll find in the summer. In late spring, on the islands and coast in the south, you might even get a few beach days. For instance, the thermal spas and pools in Ischia are usually open by late spring, weather permitting.
Hiking is optimal because the weather is usually not too cold or too hot. While the sites, such as museums, might be packed during the week of Easter and the week after (especially in Rome and Vatican City), the rest of the spring is usually less crowded. What I always love about being in Italy during this spring is that the whole nation is coming back to life.
Summer is the most popular season for travelers for a reason. Obviously, in many places, schools are out, so families prefer this time of year. Also, the warmer temperatures mean less uncertainty about the weather. This is appealing whether you’re heading south for the beaches or looking to discover beautiful cities and historic sites. The downside is that sometimes Italy experiences major heat waves. Because electricity is so costly and the people believe too much air conditioning can make you sick, you don’t always have easy access to AC. It is, however, becoming more available, especially in major cities.
While I go to Italy just about every year in the summer, I can’t recommend it for everyone. It is super crowded. Estimates have shown that the population on the small island of Ischia, where I stay, triples in August. Indeed, most Italians have either the entire month or a significant portion of it off from work, which means they are all on vacation, too. Often, they visit parts of their own country. I have referred to it as the siesta on steroids.
But the summer is full of fun, especially if you’re heading to any of Italy’s incredible beaches. You can experience the pagan holiday of Ferragosto that is uniquely Italian. The sun and sand are essential for serenity. So, if you’re willing to deal with human traffic jams while walking down the street or bathing in the ocean, then you might pick summer for your journey.
Bagno Corrado is where my husband, son, and I go to the beach in Ischia, Italy. We rent chairs and umbrellas from the owner, and then we have lunch or dinner at the quaint beach eatery. The place is simple – a small kitchen with a deck for diners to eat and take in a view of open umbrellas as far as the eye can see. During the summer, you can actually have dinner there, too, on some nights.
It’s one of my son’s favorite places because he loves the chicken cutlet and fries. We kind of can’t go to the beach anymore without taking him there. But today we’re going to show you the showstoppers of the kitchen. Sample the dishes that make this unlike any beach grub you’ve ever eaten. Promise.
From Your Table
The deliciousness begins with the natural wonder all around you. There’s the perfume of the sea, the beautiful people lounging on the beach, and the air of relaxation.
Earth and Sea
One of my favorite dishes from this latest trip to Ischia was this long pasta with porcini mushrooms and clams. The combination of the earthy mushrooms with the sweet seafood was unexpected and delicious. It also brings together two of Ischia’s culinary treasures. My people have been foraging for porcini in the hills of Ischia for generations. And the clams of the sea are the freshest you’ll ever taste.
In the heat of August in Ischia, you don’t really want to eat a heavy meal of pasta. In those moments, a dish like this seafood salad is a welcome respite. With a touch of olive oil and lemon, these mussels, clams, octopus, and more are refreshing and light. I can’t stress enough how friggin’ good the seafood is here.
A Little Mussel
Mussels and toasted Italian bread in this slightly spicy tomato broth is a little piece of heaven on Earth. A good friend of mine once visited Ischia and ate these shellfish in these soupy sauces. Her reaction was that she’d like to bathe in it and drink all the bath water. Indeed, I can’t argue with her. It would be divine.
Pot of Gold
The beauty of eating octopus in Ischia is that almost all the professionals know how to cook it properly. You never chew on rubber here. The octopus is soft and delicious. This one was no exception. Mixed in with the mussels, the octopus was extra special. You felt like you stumbled upon treasure with every bite of it.
Seeing Red, Tasting Red
Tomatoes in the summer in Ischia are the ultimate in juiciness and taste. Team them up with baby octopus and squid and al dente pasta and you have a winner.
A Real Pick Me Up
Tiramisu – the original with espresso – is on just about every dessert menu and mamma’s repertoire in Ischia. This is a unique take that replaces espresso with a pistachio-based cream. It’s addictive and delightful. Made by the owner’s wife, this tiramisu also has heaps of love in it. And it’s adorable presentation never goes unnoticed.
Get Over Here
Pull up a lounge chair on the beach before, after, or even during your meal. (That’s right, Bagno Corrado serves small bites and drinks right on the beach.) What are you waiting for?
Zi Nannina a Mare in Ischia Italy offers guests a sophisticated menu and incredible island views. I’ve taken you to this restaurant before in this blog. But it’s always a new and memorable experience. It is uniquely Ischitano. The culture there epitomizes the sweet life, spending time with friends and family amid lovely ambiance and over delicious food.
The restaurant is small. There is room for a just a couple of tables inside. You eat outside on the terrace with an overhang or right on the lawn as you see in the photo above. This meal was in mid August, the height of the tourist season. There were many guests on hand. Everyone seemed relaxed. Indeed, that’s the emotion this place brings to you.
While the views are lovely – both during the day when you can take in the scene and at night when the setting becomes more romantic – the food is still the star. Without further ado, here’s a look at the meal we enjoyed.
Flavorful, Unique Combinations
This salad of arugula and calamari in olive oil and balsamic vinegar and topped with shaved Parmigiano cheese is the reason my husband loves this restaurant. So, when he didn’t see it on the menu in August, he asked if the chef could make it, and he obliged. The peppery arugula and sweet balsamic drenched calamari are a wonderful contrast. And the Parmigiano is the cherry on top.
Spice and Tradition
A refreshing and light appetizer, octopus and potato salad is a typical dish. This one was lightly dressed in olive oil and lemon, and the octopus was perfectly cooked. It was soft and delicate, not at all rubbery or chewy.
My husband, son, and I went to Zi Nannina’s days before our departure. That’s why we felt compelled to order some of the more traditional dishes on the menu. It’s always as though it’s the last chance to eat them. When I’m away from Ischia, I dream of mussels and clams on a bed of long pasta just like this.
Saute of mussels or clams is my absolute favorite dish in Ischia. One of my foodie friends, who has visited me on the island a few times, put it best; she says she would like to drown herself in the simple soup under the shellfish. Usually, it consists of olive oil, garlic, some Italian spices and white wine. When you order the zuppa instead of the saute, you’re going to get a a similar sauce with tomatoes. This one was a zuppa and it was spicy with some some hot pepper to give it kick. There’s nothing like dipping grilled Italian bread into this feast and chowing down.
This tiramisu, an ever-popular Italian dessert, was beautifully presented in a martini glass with some coffee to pour on top. I’m not a fan of coffee (not even espresso). I know it’s sacrilege to admit this. Sorry! But my husband thoroughly enjoyed it.
Fruit and gelato are easy ways to make my belly happy. The heat in Ischia throughout the summer was tremendous, worse than I’ve ever experienced. As a result, a refreshing dish of juicy fruit was the perfect ending to this meal. It was coated in a creamy, sweet sauce that reminded me of zabaglione. It was paired with homemade gelato, my drug of choice. Indeed, the ending was perfect.
Scalinatella a Mare is a restaurant in Ischia, a small island off the coast of Naples in Italy, which sits on the beach. Its name, which translates to Stairs to the Sea, describes its location. Indeed, there are stairs that take you down to the beach in Ischia Porto, the island’s capital, and right into the restaurant. While the dining area is nothing fancy, the food and the view out to the ocean more than makes up for it. Before you go down the stairs, you should take a look at the beach and the glorious sun. This was our view when we went there in early August 2017:
We sat outside on the porch of the restaurant. A lovely sea breeze passed through, which made the meal all the more pleasurable. A family runs this place. The children wait on you, and their parents cook and serve. It really felt like we were guests in their home. This is a great place for tourists to go for a taste of Ischia’s home cooking. Couples will be swept away by the naturally romantic setting, even if their kid is with them.
It’s All about the Food at Scalinatella a Mare
The view is nice. The digs are humble. But the food elevates this restaurant from anything you’d expect to eat down the shore. Beach food in Ischia is way different from beach food in the United States. While this restaurant was not gourmet, it delivered in style and taste, and it matches the food Nonna would have made for you.
To go to Ischia is to answer the call of the seafood gods. If you don’t like shellfish, there’s plenty of other stuff for you. But you’re missing out. At Scalinatella a Mare, we ordered seafood for the entire meal. Neither of us was disappointed. Of course, our son had his usual chicken cutlet and hand-cut french fries. The calamari salad in the photo above was refreshing and whet our appetite for what was to come.
We also sampled this other seafood salad, which included octopus, shrimp, and calamari. Topped with olive oil and a touch of lemon, the salad had pretty tomato florets as edible decorations. This was another refreshing antipasto, perfect for the hot day we had been experiencing.
A Heavy Fork
Italy is all into toast nowadays, too. This version, which is similar to bruschetta, featured warm octopus in a tomato sauce. There was just a hint of spice, presumably from fresh hot pepper. This was quite filling and delicious, which is why we canceled our pasta order. Even with the “heavy fork” my husband and I have when we go out to eat, we had filled up too much in the heat. Honestly, my stomach could have stopped here. But who can resist the mussels that were to come?
These babies get me every time. I can’t resist saute di cozze (mussels) or vongole (clams). Most restaurants on the island offer up a version of this classic. Chefs steam mussels or clams in olive oil, garlic, and white wine. Then, they top the dish with parsley and serve it all with grilled bread. It never disappoints and this was no exception. “Yum,” is all I can say at this vision of beauty.
Golden fried calamari and shrimp were so tempting that we almost did not take a photo at all. Luckily, I remembered in the nick of time. What’s interesting about the shrimp is they are fried without being cleaned first. In other words, the head and shell are still intact and the batter is around it. The belief is that cooking the shrimp without cleaning it gives it more flavor, even if you don’t end up eating any of the fried batter. While it’s more work to clean the shrimp at the table, they are delicate and delicious.
Overall, Scalinatella a Mare in Ischia Porto offers lovely ambiance and home cooking worthy of your attention. Be sure to take a walk in the sand with your beloved to work off the meal.
The Ischia Italy earthquake struck Aug. 21 and registered a magnitude of 4.0. Many of the residents of the island (which is the home of my ancestors and husband and where I live during the summer) describe a loud noise that sounded like a bomb. Seismologists on various Italian news programs explained that this is common when an earthquake hits a volcanic territory. Indeed, Ischia is a volcano.
Damage Was Limited to One Town
After the loud noise, the earth shook and the electricity went out briefly. Many of the people in Barano say they didn’t even realize anything – let alone an earthquake – had just happened. However, the town of Casamicciola faced more serious damage. The natives say that Casamicciola, which is a port town where tourists often arrive, is more vulnerable to earthquakes than the rest of the island.
Some homes collapsed in Casamicciola. Others experienced damage that rendered them inhabitable for the time being. Lacco Ameno and Forio, two other towns, also experienced some damage but it was minor in comparison to Casamicciola. In the aftermath, 2,600 people were left without homes in Ischia. Still, outside of Casamicciola there is little evidence an earthquake ever hit. Life carries on as usual.
A Miraculous Rescue
News that three brothers, ages 11, 7, and 7 months, were stuck under the rubble of their home devastated everyone. The oldest boy had put them under a mattress, and they were able to communicate with the rescue workers the entire time, which lasted through the night and into the next day.
Rescue workers successfully pulled out 7-month-old Pasquale first. Next, came 7-year-old Mattia and 11-year-old Ciro, who was hailed a hero by news outlets for quick thinking that saved his brothers and him. You can view the emotional rescue of the baby on YouTube.
Two Women Lost Their Lives
Tragically, the earthquake did result in the deaths of two people. One woman was outside the church, where she had just worshipped. The quake hit and the church bell fell and killed her. Another succumbed to the rubble in Casamicciola.
Authorities are investigating to determine if the houses in Casamicciola collapsed because they were not properly built. In other words, they want to make sure builders obtained the proper permits and completed construction up to code for protection against earthquakes. Because the 4.0 magnitude was not as big as other quakes, authorities are raising suspicion. The people of Ischia are railing against these accusations.
Asking for Support
Anyone who wants to help the people of Ischia with the rebuilding efforts in Casamicciola can donate to this gofundme page. (I personally can vouch for Dario Pinto, the person who started this fund. He is a family friend and native of Ischia.) In addition, you can visit the beautiful island of Ischia. Many tourists fled in the wake of the earthquake. Others canceled upcoming reservations.
While I understand the tourist’s concerns, I also feel for the people of Ischia. This is their busy season; if no one comes now, they lose serious income. An island reliant on tourism, many of the natives only have six months of secure work. Those who really want to support Ischia amid this tragedy should spend their vacation money there.
In addition, the overwhelming majority of the island is functioning as usual. The damage was limited to one small hamlet of the island. There have been no aftershocks. Natives are making swift, energetic campaigns on social media to demonstrate the sun is still shining. The beach is still welcoming. And you should join in the fun.
A walk in Ischia, Italy, a small island off the coast of Naples, is often remarkable. The cobblestone streets you still find in many places stands as a stark juxtaposition to the yachts in the port and the designer clothes on display in the stores. Whenever I’m walking around, I find myself wondering what this world must have been like for my ancestors, even my father who spent his childhood here. They lived without the luxuries the natives of today know. Yet, they still have much in common with their modern counterparts.
For one, the “bella figura” lives on. I’ve tried many times to explain “bella figura” to non-Italians. And I’m not sure I have the right words. But here I go again. First, it literally translates to beautiful figure. People say they want to “fa bella figura” or “make a beautiful figure.” What they are really saying is that they want to make a good impression. They want others to perceive them in a good light.
They Judge the Book by Its Cover
Sometimes, they are referring to avoiding embarrassment, such as a slip of the tongue or falling in front of everyone. Other times, however, they are simply referring to looking good while walking around. Every hair needs to be in place. Their shirts must be crisply ironed. And they would never walk around in sweats. Flip flops are only permissible if they are walking that one block to the beach here in Ischia. Breaking these rules could mean failing to make the “bella figura.”
So, when you take a walk in Ischia, you have to be perfectly coiffed and wearing your best clothes. You don’t always have to be dressed for a formal wedding. But even your relaxed look should be planned out and designer if possible. This is the reason I am often recognized as an American. I used to wear flip flops everywhere. And I still don’t mind going outside the door in a comfortable T-shirt and lounging pants.
Still, when in Ischia, I try to conform. I’m more aware of what I’m wearing, what I look like. In addition, I’m careful about what I say and to whom I say it. Sometimes, I fail at the bella figura. I chalk it up to my Americanness. I always feel relief at returning home to America, where few care this much about this stuff.
Castello Aragonese is connected to the island of Ischia, off the coast of Naples, by bridge. In fact, the town around this medieval castle is called Ischia Ponte, which translates to Ischia Bridge. It is a stunner. You simply can’t take your eyes off the place. From afar, some will mistake it for a mere cliff. But it’s an actual castle carved into a cliff, and it’s full of history and stories to tell, if you just listen closely.
You can still visit the castle and walk through it to see what life inside may have been like for its various inhabitants. When you step inside, you’re entering another world. The hard rock facade, the ancient walls that whisper of the past, set the stage for the island outside its gates. Mainly built between the 14th and 17th century, the castle has ghosts as far as I am concerned. And every so often I get the urge to visit them. They are deliciously haunting.
The castle had served as fort, love shack, church, and prison. Historical figures, such as Vittoria Colonna, resided there. So did monks and nuns. In fact, you can still see the catacombs, frescoes, and altars of another time. And there’a Torture Museum featuring all sorts of devices that had been used to wear down humanity; I call it the dungeon. You can see ancient winemaking tools lying around. You can only imagine what went on here.
History swallows the island. And the juxtaposition of a monastery next to the Torture Museum next to a love shack is fitting for Ischia. After all, Ischia is everything and nothing at once. Most are swept away by the headiness of this place. The scent of the flowers growing in every nook of the castle is intoxicating. Then, there is the vision of tomatoes growing in one of the gardens. But the view of Ischia Ponte and the sea is enough to move you into a fantasy.
Of course, there’s no denying the beauty all around you. Pastel homes dot the lush hills nearby. Waves crash on the rocks agains the bridge. Often, you’ll find sunbathers perched on the rocks. Boats rock feet from the castle. A coffee bar at the feet of the bridge buzzes with tourists and natives alike; some say it’s the best espresso on the island. Every so often, newlyweds come to take their wedding photos out front. (My husband and I did.) You will feel invisible when the sun sets and sinks into the ocean, and you’re standing toward the top of the castle.
Today, you can stay at the castle as a hotel guest. If an overnight stay isn’t in the cards, you can also visit the museum. I’ve done both, and it’s always a true journey. But you don’t even have to enter the gate to take in the “bellezza.” It’s a must stop for tourists because few photo backdrops compare.
Ristorante Bar Dai Tu’ is a small eatery perched over the sea on the island of Ischia, off the coast of Naples in Italy. Located in Ischia Porto, the island’s capital, the restaurant offers delicious seafood in an ultra romantic setting. I would love to inform you about price. But this is southern Italy, where the prices are never set in stone. If you know the owner, you pay one price. If you don’t, you pay another. That’s just the truth. Still, from what I’ve gathered no one has ever been gouged here. So, we can call it affordable. Whatever you call it, you’ll be calling the food delicious.
Essence of Romance
See those lights in the photo? That is the restaurant. It looks like a tiny shack, but it’s absolutely charming. The inside features an arched doorway to the kitchen and long farm tables. But the luckiest diners score a table on the terrace outside. The lovely breeze and the view of the sea make Ischia all the more alluring. I was there with my husband, his entire family, and our son. But my sister-in-law had been there with her husband for their anniversary and raved about the pumped up romance level, especially when seated outside. The nice part is that some “romantic” restaurants are elitist. Or they’re so fancy that you feel uncomfortable. This is not like that at all. The restaurant is casual and beachy, so it does not come off as stuffy at all.
See the Seafood
Of course, the best part of the restaurant is the food you are served. Seafood in Ischia is hard to beat. It’s super fresh since this is an island. It never has that fishy smell or taste like you sometimes experience in the United States. At this restaurant, you can experience the sea’s treasures and a touch of sweetness to boot. You won’t be disappointed. Discover the plates my group sampled:
Shellfish is my absolute favorite whenever I’m visiting Ischia. The best way to eat it, in my opinion, is in “saute.” This is when the juice from the shellfish, white wine, olive oil, and some seasoning, including garlic come together to form a broth. The mussels and/or clams sit atop a shallow pool of this broth. And there are always pieces of grilled, crusty bread adjoining them. I’ve shared with friends visiting the island; they always tell me they want to drink vats of the stuff. It’s seriously addicting. When I’m not in Ischia, I dream about it. This version at Dai Tu’ was one of the best I’ve had.
Served still warm, the octopus are boiled to make them soft for this salad. I’ve had this kind of salad cold, too, which is just as delicious. This warm version was doused with olive oil and lemon. The ruchetta (known to Americans as arugula) was particularly spicy, which was a nice contrast to the mild octopus.
This plate of fried fish was the very reason we headed to this restaurant. One of the people with us was having a craving. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of fried fish with “spina,” bones. And I don’t really know how to clean these fish well. So, I mostly steered clear of this dish. But it included a few types of fish, including merluzzo, a mild white fish popular on the island. My husband enjoyed this dish and gave me a few bites of his. It was truly delicious, especially with a spurt of lemon. It made the flavor pop.
Normally, these kinds of eateries disappoint when it comes to dessert. After all, the emphasis is on the fish. The sweets are an afterthought. But this place has it all. For starters, the presentation is gorgeous. The light, fluffy cheesecake is served in a bowl made of cookie crust. Then it is topped with homemade sorbet and sauce. I believe it was a wild berry sorbet and topping. Everyone at the table was envious of those of us who ordered this.
It was divine. The sorbet was refreshing and cut into the sweetness of the creamy cake. That bit of crunch from the crust was just perfect. Others at the table ordered tiramisu (in a cup) and panna cotta. They were all satisfied with their dessert, but I focused on the cheesecake. I didn’t even feel the need to taste the others. It was the cherry – err, wild berry – on top of a delicious night.