Ristorante Lo Scoglio, on the Amalfi coast.
It was love at first sight when I walked into the restaurant Lo Scoglio in the beach village of Marina del Cantone, near Nerano on the cliff-lined Amalfi coast. The road to this seafood lover's destination is little wider than a driveway, a series of seemingly endless hairpin curves that thankfully don't overlook a steep drop to the sea. Meeting another vehicle is a challenge, but lunch at Lo Scoglio awaits those who have braved the trip. Park in the piazza, face the water, look for the sign, and walk down the road to the restaurant, built on a dock that juts out over the Gulf of Salerno.
Check out several varieties of clams in plastic baskets submerged in a rustic rock tank of seawater near the entrance. Half the dining space is glassed in. A plaster-cast marlin hanging from the ceiling and a central display of wine bottles constitute the room's decor. The connecting outdoor dining area has in its center a large fish tank-fountain built of stone. Curtains on either side of the open room can be closed to block the sea breeze. The ambience here is no-frills, with simply set tables and folding chairs with cushions. Service is friendly, if slow, but the raw ingredients are world-class - vegetables from chef-owner Antonietta's organic garden, seafood from nearby fishermen, local fruit and nuts.
Begin with the vegetable appetizer that comes in an oval copper pan, a medley of vegetables that seasonally may include broccoli rabe, fennel, sauteed eggplant, or escarole stuffed with olives, capers, anchovies, and raisins. Or start with (utterly sandless) sauteed mollusks flavored with garlic and parsley.
The pasta is quintessentially al dente, lightly sauced with a variety of clams, served with or (more expensively) without the shells. A friend suggested the octopus salad. Boiled just till tender, without a hint of rubber, tasting of the sea, simply dressed with extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and parsley, it's the best I have ever encountered. Save room, if you can, for fish - simply grilled or poached in a spicy broth enhanced with tomatoes (a style known as acqua pazza). Finish with fresh fruit or classic desserts like torta caprese (a chocolate almond cake).
The wine list of interesting selections from surrounding Campania and beyond is well priced; the house wines are sincere but lacking.
Expect to see yachts pulling up to Lo Scoglio when the weather is fine.
Lo Scoglio, piazza delle sirene 15, Marina del Cantone; tel. 39-081-8081026.
Open daily for lunch and dinner.
January 29, 1999