FAMILY TRAVEL – VIAGGI
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.
Di Meglio is the author of Fun with the Family New Jersey (Globe Pequot Press, 2012). She also has written the Our Paesani column for ItaliansRus.com since 2003. You can follow the Italian Mamma on Facebook or Twitter @ItalianMamma10.