Views to die for

Kudos go to the bus drivers who ply their trade on the Amalfi Coast. The twists and turns of this engineering marvel are not for the faint-hearted. And then, imagine the skill that very advanced drivers demonstrate by steering with one hand and operating a manual transmission, all the while talking on the phone. Yes, it is a wonder to behold – if you have the intestinal fortitude to endure the ride.

Don prefers the window seat in the first row, facing the water. I am to be found further in the back, admiring the oncoming traffic going south and the rock cliffs going north. Don compares his rides to the Tower of Terror, but it’s a thrill that lasts an awful lot longer. When I say oncoming traffic, I mean those trucks, buses and cars that we managed not to crash into, thanks only to the patron saint of the driver’s mother. At any rate, today we had two more rides along the coast to enjoy. We visited Amalfi itself briefly, hopped on a bus for Ravello, where we had lunch, and then returned to Amalfi for another brief visit before our trip back to Sorrento. We are now fully conversant with the ways of the bus system, which – despite it all – is amazingly efficient.

Now, on to the scenery.

My parents honeymooned along the Amalfi Coast not long after the war. They weren’t coming from their home states of Ohio and Nebraska respectively, but from Caserta, north of Naples, where they were both stationed with the US Army. It was a major high point in their lives, and it’s easy to see how their experience made such an impression.

Amalfi seems to already be in high tourist season, with crowds and cars lining the same main street. The town is not quite as picturesquely sited as Positano, but it is full of life and color.

Ravello is more quiet, and its piazza seems like an empty stage set, just waiting for the cast to arrive. We had a lovely lunch and a stroll around. The city is famous for its music festival and gardens, neither of which we saw. Many writers spent time there. We picked out the grandest villa we could see and appointed it Gore Vidal’s home. Wonder where he went for a quart of milk.

All in all, a nice day completing the trio of towns we had to see. Lovely places to visit, but thank goodness we aren’t here later in the summer.

Don’s Food Corner

Today’s lunch was at a rather elegant restaurant in Ravello with a dynamite view.  This was NOT mama’s cooking.  We knew we were in for something completely different when an amuse bouche arrived featuring peppered foam.  The foam was atop a slice of lamb that was prepared like proscuitto.  Next to that was a soft bun with a puttinesca filling.  Almost like a pork bun you would get in Chinatown.  It worked.

Our first course featured a beautifully poached artichoke with a deep-fried soft egg on the side.  The egg appeared to have been soft-boiled — the yolk was runny and the white was firm.  It retained its egg shape as if the egg had just come out of its shell intact. But it was definitely breaded with semolina (with a bit of lemon peel) and deep fried.  How did they do it?  I immediately looked up the process on the internet.  The egg is first gently poached in water, slightly underdone.  Then, it’s chilled in ice water, reshaped into a perfect egg shape.  Later it’s breaded and deep-fried for only a few seconds to get that light crust and to heat up the egg.  It was a pretty showy and delicious starter  But it turns out to be a make-ahead dish that can be assembled at the last minute. (I’ll have to remember that one.)

For the second course, Jo had crespelle Salvatore, crepes done as a house speciality.  Several were layered with bechamel sauce, ricotta and mozzarella.  There was a soft-boiled egg on the side along with what was described as Parmesan “fondue.”  Seemingly light, it was rich, rich, rich.

I had a pasta dish that was a mix of various shapes of small pastas tossed in a sauce of potatoes and bits of calamari.  On top was a whole squid stuffed with smoked mozzarella.  It was hearty with a sauce that was tomato-free and very thick — from the potatoes, no doubt.  The fresh herb in the sauce was, I believe, marjoram.  I think we’re getting a lot of marjoram, but I’m not that familiar with the flavor of fresh marjoram.  I’ll have to ask next time.  The whole (seamless) squid was perfectly prepared.

Great lunch, spectacular view.

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