Friday, April 9, 2010

So Many Restaurants, So Little Time

Any discussion of what we are eating here has to include local restaurants as we eat out often. There are many restaurants in our area and they are all good – we have only run into one place here to which we would never return--good food is just what people make around here--they can't avoid a certain level of excellence at the start.  The food is almost all organically grown or caught, local, and in season.  Some chefs are a little better than others and some make you welcome in ways that draw you back--these are the finds that make going to new places interesting.  We enjoy finding those places that are more adventurous, serve unique meals, AND give the illusion (if not the reality) of having fun feeding us--the unfoodies from the American outback.

Just last Friday we were out doing a little shopping and sight seeing.  We decided to check out the village of Cirella (which has some old and picturesque ruins and is the furthest south we can see from our terrace).  We often just drive till we see a restaurant sign and turn in to see if they’re open.

Just a block off the beach Life Risto Pub seemed funky enough.  Long story short, Di had a great plate of deep fried but lightly battered shrimp and calamari, and I just had to try one of the hamburgers they listed on the menu.

It too was really good – veal burger on Italian bread with pancetta, lettuce and cheese.   I asked what the melted, still-gooey cheese was and heard simply it was tedesco (German).  As we left the owner bade us a buon vacanze and when I told him we lived in SDT (not on vacation), he wagged his finger and said we must come back and do more seafood.  We will!!  We’re finding that the fresh calamari here is not rubbery like the inner tube I tried in the US that turned me off, so I’ll keep trying.  Our lunch with drinks was €25 for both ($34).

Many pizzerias around here use a forno legno (wood oven).  Da Antonia, the largest local restaurant within walking distance, has great seafood and pizza.  Here’s a shot of our dinner being cooked one evening:

Di always gets a basic pizza margherita and I usually get a Calabrese version with some sausage and peppers.  I remember one of our language teachers in Tropea saying that “American pizza is just too thick and covered in compost”.  Last night we enjoyed grilled shrimp there.

Our off-season lunch favorite in Scalea is now Ristorante Vigris which is on the beach.  We will avoid the Scalean beaches in August given the crowds, but we love this little place now.   They and one other place this time of year offer €10 “work lunches” to attract locals to the reasonably priced good food.   Here is chef Vincenzo (his uncle lives in SDT) and staff:
Below is the secondo or second plate.  The first is pasta. You get your choice of two primi and secondi and either water or wine. They have a regular menu for summer season, or even now, but the special lunches that vary daily are fabulous and at a good price.

We’ve seen priests there (the holy men need good deals too).  Our last time just before easter, 13 priests went inside while we were on the patio.  Prosecco corks were popping and the laughter was loud as the men had fun.  We wondered if it was a “last supper” before the increased workloads of Easter.

We also visited the Vecchio Frantoio (old olive press) restaurant with friends recently.

Located near the city of Praia a Mare, it has reopened under new management.   The owner is personable and speaks some English.

This place offers just one meal each day that is built on what is seasonal.  They also boast home grown beef.   We gorged ourselves with the full-meal-deal of antipasti, primi, secondi and dessert. The secondi  included an actual 1” thick t-bone steak.  Such beef steaks, cooked medium, are rare in here where the norm is a thin veal bistecco. FYI, we are both starting to ask for half portions at restaurants with our pasta so we have room for the fish or meat dish. We enjoyed this meal and will return to see what meals are featured later in the season.

On Easter Monday (Pasquetta), we had a great meal on the terrace of D’Aprile  in Belvedere with friends from England and Ireland (photo is by Lesley Eastwell).  There were people swimming and trying to surf the larger than normal waves behind us.  Our first Pasqua here, we found that everyone heads for somewhere to eat with friends on Monday.  Many go to picnic in the mountains or along the local river, and all the good restaurants are booked in advance by large groups of families and friends.

It’s true.  Eating in Italy is great. Calabrian food is different from Roma, from Toscana, from Veneto, Bologna, etc. We’ll continue to explore (steal some recipes) and enjoy it all.  It’s getting used to mealtimes (long big lunches, light dinner at 8:00 or later) that is more of a challenge.  Prices here are 10-20% cheaper than we were used to in the resort community of Hood River, Oregon.  So MaryEllen, that concludes our answer to you about stores, eating and dining in our little part of Calabria.

Cooking as always (when not in a restaurant), Guido


  1. Swimming on Easter Monday ?
    We had a big lunch with many people (friends of friends) at Vibo Marina and while strolling through the boats at the little yacht haven my son was wearing a hat because of the fresh wind!
    I did not see anybody swimming during my stay in Calabria and Sicily. Maybe your part of Calabria is warmer?
    Now I am back in Germany with 4 degrees and rain...
    buon appetito

  2. No, I don't think it's warmer here. It was about 20 or so in the sun that day. I wouldn't have gone in. I was told the surfers had on wetsuits.

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