Thursday, 29 October 2015

Being vegetarian in Italy

When I wrote the 'Being vegetarian in India' post, I said I had considered leaving the entry blank, as its so easy to be vegetarian in the sub-continent. 

Italy is similar. 

The Italians love good ingredients and good food and make delicious meals regardless of whether they include meat or not. 
And the staples of Italian food-  pizza and pasta - have often been a good fall back option for me in countries that aren't so understanding of vegetarianism (yes Argentina, I am looking at you!)

So needless to say, my taste buds had a very happy time on our recent trip to Naples, Capri and the Amalfi coast. Here's some of what they got to try.

1) Pizza in Naples
We weren't in Naples very long, but we did our best to try seek out the best pizza in the city where it was invented. On our first night, we headed out to Pizzeria Fresco on the advice of the owner of our hotel. She told us that the chef had won an award for his pizza making and if the Italians were awarding someone on their pizza, then it must be good.

We were a little sceptical as we sat down. It didn't look any different to all of the other touristy restaurants along the seafront next to Castel dell Ovo. Nor was there was anything to indicate that the chef had won anything on the menu or elsewhere. 

However, when our pizza came, we are very pleased to report they were really very tasty. My pizza marinara was delicious. How can something so simple taste so good? A double thumbs up for Pizzeria Fresco!

The low key pizza places along Via Tribunali were recommended to us before we left for Naples, so we headed there on our second night. We had some very generous sized pizzas at Di Matteo. The place is something of an institution in Naples, still living off the back of Bill Clinton's visit in 1994, when the G7 summit was being held in the city. Its a very simple no frills affair and very good value. The pizza there was good too, although I have to say that Fresco was tastier.

Since returning, I have found this blog post about the best pizzerias in Naples and so we now have more places to try when we go back!

2) Caprese salad 
As we were visiting Capri during our trip, we had to try a Caprese salad in situ! 

Mostly, we consumed the combination of mozzarella, basil and tomato in sandwich form. I was particularly intrigued by the Caprese sandwich we had in Ravello, which included black mozzarella. 

I still don't know why it was black, but it was a very good sandwich! Do seek out the black mozzarella if you can, and if you find out do let us know in the comments below, what makes it black.

3) Delicious pasta and gnocchi
Sticking with the theme of mozzarella, basil and tomato, one of Capri's specialities is caprese ravioli - pasta filled with mozzarella, basil and tomato and covered with a delicate tomato sauce. It was quite simple, but very yummy (especially served with a crisp white wine!).

Similarly, gnocchi alla sorrentina, is potato gnocchi with a mozzarella and tomato sauce - another local tasty option.

4) The 'best food ever' on Capri
If you're on Capri, you want some variation from tomato and cheese and possibly taste the best food you have ever tasted, get to Da Tonino. We went as it scored so highly on trip advisor and found that it was well worth its high rating.

On opening the menu, I was delighted to see that there was a vegetarian set meal. It started with a delicious pumpkin and lentil soup, delicately and perfectly seasoned (and without a tomato in sight). This was followed by an onion spaghetti, which was divine and then an aubergine parmigiana, served in a jar.

I cannot describe just how delicious this whole meal was. I honestly think that this may be the best meal I have ever had. The staff at Da Tonino were also lovely, helping us pick a great wine from their vast encyclopaedic sized wine list. 

If you are in Capri, just go here!

5) Other restaurant recommendations and addresses
Naples: In Naples, as well as seeking out the best pizza, we were also highly recommended going to Trattoria La Chitara, a small cosy restaurant on Rampe San Giovanni, next to the Basilica San Giovanni. It didn't have a great range of vegetarian options (although as anywhere in Italy there were options), but it was worth a visit for the warm welcome, the quaint interior and the limoncello torta.

The two pizza places in Naples mentioned above can be found here:
  • Pizzeria Fresco, Partenope 8. (Close to the Castel dell Ovo)
  • Pizzeria di Matteo, Via dei Tribunali 94 (in the old town)

Positano: There are a lot of overpriced, pretty average restaurants in Positano. Here's two places we particularly liked (mostly for the location and atmosphere, although the mushroom spaghetti at Caffe Positano was particularly flavoursome):
  • Ristorante Lo GuarrancinoVia Positanesi D'America, 12 (on the way to Fornillo beach)
  • Ristorante Caffe Positano, Viale Pasitea 168-170
Capri: Go to Da Tonino. That is all.

Have you been to Naples, Capri or the Amalfi coast? Do you have any favourite pizzerias? Or favourite local dishes? How did you find Italy for vegetarians?

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