I won’t even pretend to be an objective critic or journalist today. Antonio and I have been going to Focolare, a family-run restaurant in Ischia, since we started dating about five years ago. We have always loved it and ever since Agostino D’Ambra, one of the owners and a chef at the restaurant visited us in the United States, we’ve grown to love the family who runs the place even more. The food is delicious and the atmosphere is distinctly Ischitano.
To get to Focolare, you must drive on narrow, curvy roads in the dark hills of Ischia, but it’s worth it. Surprisingly, a bus does make it up there, so you don’t have to have a car to get there. Once you arrive, you get to feast on traditional dishes with a twist — always with a twist. (To view some of the dishes we recently ate there, visit the “Dinner at Focolare” photo album.) For those guests, who know the family, the cantina (wine cellar) in the back is the perfect way to begin the food experience that is Focolare. There, much like Ischitani would offer to friends and family at home, the owners serve wine, homemade prosciutto, and bread sticks to the guests they know. We recently headed to the cantina with Americans Pasquale, who is originally from Naples but now works as a chef in the States and recently appeared on the Food Network’s Chopped, and his wife Jaime, an American who is a Rockette in New York. Even if the family doesn’t know you, in the main dining hall, they will treat you like family — and serve you an unforgettable meal. Buon appetito!