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Restaurants by the sea in Italy: 10 to try

What could be better than enjoying great food and wine by the sea in Italy? Åsa Johansson lists her 10 top picks of seaside gourmet hotspots.

The Italian coastline is 7,600 km long and consists of long sandy beaches, high cliffs, gulfs, picturesque fishing villages, and lively ports. The extreme variation of its coasts makes it perfect for a holiday full of nature, fun and relaxation. During the summer, the seaside is a must, not only for cooling sea breezes but also for great food and wine experiences. The choices are many, from simple meals to high-end Michelin star dining. As always in Italy, each region has its own culture and tradition which shows on the menus. Eat red tuna in Sardinia, rich fish soup ‘cacciucco’ in Tuscany or ‘moscioli’, the wild mussels found only in Le Marche.

Many of the settings are spectacular – for example, the untouched natural reserve outside Cagliari in Sardinia, where you will find Fradis Minoris. This is a small restaurant that recently gained its first Michelin star and where the fresh seafood seems to have jumped directly from the surrounding sea right onto your plate. Opt for a more straightforward meal in a trabucco, the large wooden constructions used in the past for fishing along the Adriatic Sea, today home to a variety of restaurant types. Sometimes the best meal is simply a ready-to-go ‘frittura mista’, mixed fried fish, from a small kiosk on the beach.

10 seaside restaurants in Italy to visit

Il Clandestino (Le Marche)

Il Clandestino

Portonovo bay in the Monte Conero Regional Park in Le Marche is a spectacle of rare beauty. Below the high coastal cliffs, the Adriatic Sea glistens between shades of turquoise and intense blue. Together with the long stone and white gravel beaches, it is a scene that leaves you breathless. Amid this setting, Moreno Cedroni’s Il Clandestino rises, a stilt house inside the bay, bearing the colours of the sea and sky.

Cedroni’s restaurant La Madonnina del Pescatore in Senigallia has two Michelin stars. Its spin-off, Il Clandestino, only opens during summer and is named after a song by Manu Chao. Every year the menu is created around a particular theme. This year it is cinema, and Cedroni has chosen eight titles as the inspiration for his dishes. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, by Pedro Almodóvar, features gazpacho with amberjack, melon, horseradish and fish roe. The Fried Green Tomatoes creation includes scallops, fig broth and burrata. A favourite could be the dish dedicated to the unforgettable scene in When Harry Met Sally, including bluefin tuna pastrami, sweet and sour cucumbers and mustard leaves. A wide range of local craft beer is served. Menus start from €100.

Phone +39 071 801422

Capofaro Locanda & Malvasia (Salina)

Capofaro-Locanda-&-Malvasia-matteo-carassale

The renowned Sicilian wine producer Tasca d’Almerita has created Capofaro Locanda & Malvasia, a wine resort on the volcanic Aeolian island of Salina. It consists of small white villas spread out in an oasis of beauty with bright pink bougainvillaea flowers. You will also find 4.5ha of vineyards planted with the local grape variety Malvasia delle Lipari and a never-ending view of the Mediterranean making it almost impossible to say where the sky begins and the sea ends.

The restaurant at the centre of the resort serves heartwarming, elegant dishes created by the young chef Gabriele Camiolo. The menu combines the lessons of the ‘monsù’ (cooks of the Sicilian and Neapolitan aristocratic houses) and the knowledge of Sicilian farmers passed from one generation to the next. The ancient grains used for bread and pasta come from the Regaleali estate, outside Palermo. The wine list is impressive and won an award in last year’s Milano Wine Week wine list competition. It includes the wines from Tasca d’Almerita’s five Sicilian estates, a wide selection of Etna wines and older vintages of some of the most renowned Italian and international wines.

Phone +39 090 9844330

Signum (Salina)

Hotel-Signum

Chef Martina Caruso was just 26 years old when Signum received a Michelin star in 2016. She grew up inside her family’s boutique hotel on the Aeolian Island of Salina: ‘I used to help my father in the kitchen as a child. He was not a professional cook but just enjoyed good food.’ When they entered the family business, Martina and her brother Luca brought new ideas and a lot of creativity. This small hotel in the picturesque village of Malfa on Salina serves stylish and tasty dishes. ‘The tradition is Sicilian but we put great effort into highlighting the local ingredients from Salina, like capers,’ Martina said, while serving the most exquisite caper gelato.

Luca takes care of the impressive wine cellar with over 3,500 different labels, focusing on small and artisanal producers from around the world. He and his wife have also started to make a small production of Malvasia delle Lipari called Eolia, a fresh and salty wine perfect for drinking by the infinity pool before dinner on the terrace overlooking the sea. Tasting menus range from €120-170.

Phone +39 090 9844222

Il Bucaniere (Tuscany)

Il Bucaniere

Tuscany is famous for being a meat region, but along the coast, things are different. One favourite spot for great seafood is the beach restaurant Il Bucaniere, in San Vincenzo, a popular holiday village. Il Bucaniere is managed by chef Fulvietto Pierangelini, the son of the founder of the Italian wine and food guide Gambero Rosso.

The restaurant is situated in a stilt house designed by architect Massimiliano Fuksas. At dinner, music is provided by waves hitting the high poles that disappear into the water below. Dishes from the sea and land follow the seasonality of the Val di Cornia region and the chef aims to transform less valuable seafood into tasty dishes. He succeeds. For example, the traditional dish ‘cacio e pepe’ (pasta with cheese and black pepper) is served with red shrimp and you can also sample linguine with cherry tomatoes, mussels and sea asparagus. The diverse wine list includes local Vermentino, whites from Friuli and an oak-aged Chardonnay by Isole and Olena. For enthusiasts or the curious, it is also possible to participate in fishing trips on the open sea with the chef. Dinner costs approximately €60 per person.

Phone +39 335 8001695

Lido 84 (Lombardy)

Lido-84

Where the mountains meet the water, you’ll find Lido84: not technically by the sea but on the western side of Lake Garda, in the town of Gardone Riviera. Gardone is situated at the start of the stunning ‘Lemon Riviera’, surrounded by camphor trees, oleanders and olive trees. The two brothers, chef Riccardo and maître d’ Giancarlo Camanini, serve creative dishes right by Lake Garda’s blue water. The restaurant has one Michelin star (even though most of the culinary world in Italy believes they should have at least two) and the setting is elegant but relaxed. The menu includes Riccardo’s most famous dish, ‘cacio e pepe en vessie’ (served in a pig’s bladder), which may not sound delicious but is truly mouthwatering. Another must-try is the spaghetti, butter and yeast crumble – a dish that has been displayed at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. You would be well advised to choose one of the tasting menus at €110 or €130 for 7 or 9 dishes respectively. The wine list is long and the highly-informative sommelier will lead the way to the best pairings.

Phone +39 036 520019

Fradis Minoris (Sardinia)

Fradis-Minoris Sardinia

There is a place in the municipality of Pula (southwest Sardinia) that deserves to be visited at least once. You reach the small restaurant Fradis Minoris by walking 400 metres down a small strip of land separating the sea from the lagoon. This is a protected natural reserve due to the many rare species of animals and activities like sea turtle rescue.

The area was already known by the local civilization of the Nuragic people, who settled these areas from around 1,300 BC, and later by Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Romans. Sardinian chef Francesco Stara returned home after years of working in high-end restaurants around the world. In his small open kitchen he creates extraordinary dishes with local seafood such as mullet, skipjack and barracuda as well as local aromatic herbs. He aims to create a cuisine that reflects the environment and promotes the lagoon’s marine biodiversity. The wine list includes Sardinian gems, many made with local varieties like Monica, Cannonau and the rare Vernaccia di Oristano. Tasting menus range from €75-105.

Phone +39 333 3495001

Venissa (Veneto)

Venissa

It is hard to believe that someone would come up with the idea to make wine on the Venetian Lagoon. A city built on water and constantly at risk from flooding may not be the best place for a vineyard, you may think. But Gianluca Bisol, part of the well-known Bisol family making sparkling wine in Veneto since 1542, is a believer. And just like Venice itself – he persists. He brought to life an ancient white variety called Dorona di Venezia, a variety that resists the high salinity of Venetian soil. It produces a well-structured golden wine due to skin maceration during vinification.

The vineyard is included in a luxurious but down-to-earth wine resort, Venissa, with elegant rooms, a Michelin star restaurant and contemporary Osteria. The aim is to give an authentic feel, something not always easy in a city invaded by tourists. Chefs Chiara Pavan and Francesco Brutto describe their philosophy as ‘cucina ambientale’, meaning they are research driven with a focus on connecting their food and environment. They also put great effort into waste reduction, self-sufficiency, local sourcing, seasonality and recycling. The menu in the main restaurant changes daily based on available ingredients and tasting menus range from 7 to 9 courses starting from €145.

Phone +39 041 5272281

Al Trabucco da Mimì (Puglia)

Al Trabucco da Mimi

In the wild and green natural park in Gargano, in Puglia, you’ll find Al Trabucco da Mimì. A trabucco is a massive wooden construction consisting of a platform anchored to the rock by large logs of pine jutting out into the sea. In the past they served as fishing machines in the past along the Adriatic Coast. Today most of them have been turned into restaurants. Lifelong memories can be made sitting in the middle of the sea surrounded by all the old wood and the dramatic nature of Gargano in the background.

The menu consists of the freshest seafood you can ever imagine that is prepared by an experienced hand and served without fuss. The young chef, Domenico Ottaviano, born in 1990, has worked in Japan and Australia. Try the fried rice with roasted mullet, fig syrup and fig leaves or the deep-fried octopus, sour peach and red wine. The wine list is not extensive but includes wines from Puglia and an exciting selection of local craft beer. The tasting menus consist of five or seven dishes, costing €60 and €75 respectively.

Phone +39 088 4962556

Al Convento (Campania)

Al Convento Cetara

‘Cetara is for real,’ said Pasquale Torrente, firmly. ‘Nothing is done here specifically for tourists,’ he added, laughing and waving to his son, who was looking out the window from the apartment on the other side of the square.

Cetara is one of the smallest and less touristy villages on the breathtakingly beautiful Amalfi coast, south of Naples. Torrente’s small family restaurant is in Cetara’s main square, just a few steps from the sea and a little beach with fishing boats. The village is famous for the ancient tradition of producing anchovy extract, ‘colatura di alici’ DOP (PDO).

‘I have kept the same prices as always. We do not want to charge higher prices just because tourists are willing to pay more,’ he said, confidently. Torrente is a real wine lover, something you will understand if you get a glimpse of his well-equipped Champagne fridge. The wine list has a great selection of wines from Campania, like the beautiful Fiano from Pietracupa, but also an impressive Italian, Burgundian, and natural selection.

At Al Convento the fried fish, the perfect spaghetti with ‘colatura di alici’ and the grilled bread with butter and anchovies are so good that it is hard to stop eating. ‘I use my mother’s old recipes, even though I made them easier to digest. After a Sunday lunch at my mother’s, you must sleep for three hours,’ said Torrente, laughing again. Main courses range from €12-20.

Phone +39 089 261039

Ristorante da Ercole (Calabria)

da-ercole-ristorante

Ristorante da Ercole is a restaurant in Crotone, Calabria, one of Italy’s lesser-known southern regions between the Ionian and the Tyrrhenian Sea. The region is separated from Sicily by the Strait of Messina and the south Apennine peaks mark its northern border with Basilicata.

Da Ercole’s self-made chef Ercole Villirillo creates elegant and creative dishes based on tradition with ingredients from the nearby sea and Apennine mountains. The restaurant is by the seaside and the main dining room is dressed in colourful and decorative mosaics. Try the calamari with oregano, crostini with ‘sardella’ (young sardines salted then blended with spicy or sweet red pepper and wild fennel), marinated anchovies, ‘Pythagorean’ spaghetti carbonara and much more. The wine list includes local white wines made with Malvasia Bianca, Ansonica and Greco Bianco. For the reds, Gaglioppo, Greco Nero, Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio are most common. Da Ercole is a place for those seeking a place off the beaten track in Italy – and you will not be disappointed.

Phone +39 0962 901425


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