Five Epic Lunches in Italy
If you read the Lois Avery Journal often, you know I frequently shout about my love of the long lunch. Some of the happiest memories of my life involve long hot days eating outside surrounded by those I care about most. I love the conversation, the hatching of plans, the excitement of opening the menu, the moment the wine is first tasted, the laughter and the anecdotes. Those are the days I wish I could just suspend time and soak up every little detail. Several of my favourite lunches you’ve actually read about - like this one in Sicily. Oh, and I can’t forget this one in Ponza. Now it is time for me to share some more gems…
The common denominator in all of these very memorable lunches is the setting. You will rarely find me in a formal restaurant, it’s just not my thing. I adore great food and service, but I am so much more comfortable in casual elegance than a stuffy environment. I can cope with a white table cloth if my feet are in the sand, however, I get most excited by a simple, yet beautiful table setting filled with coloured glasses.
Looking back at some of my favourite memories, I can see there are quite a few key elements. It goes without saying that the food and wine must be spot on and the service kind and welcoming. But I’m demanding, and a view is incredibly important to me. Ideally a view of the sea, but I’ll settle for a pretty piazza. Oh, and I need to be able to dine alfresco. This is a must. There’s just one more thing... the restaurant really should be in Italy.
It might sound like a tall order, but I swear this formula creates the most special of afternoons. Today, I want to share a few of my special afternoons with all of you. Here are my memories of some of the most epic lunches in - you guessed it - Italy.
Taverna La Cialoma
The Occasion: A special lunch with my father who was over from Australia
My Father lives in Australia, and we often travel to Italy together when he is visiting. We both love a great lunch and Italian wine, so a long lunch is an essential part of every itinerary.
I have such fond memories of eating lunch at La Cialoma in the square of the beautiful fishing village of Marzamemi in Sicily. The tables are incredibly elegant with a wonderful selection of coloured glasses, and the watercolour painting on the front of the menu is so dreamy. Even the embroidered linen lining the bread basket was stylish. You actually have a choice, you can eat the piazza side (which we did, although we moved inside when it got too hot!) or on the shabby chic terrace at the back overlooking the sea. Next time, I’m opting for the terrace.
The food was wonderful and a post-lunch walk through the pretty village was perfection.
Conca del Sogno
The Occasion: My husband’s 40th birthday. Just the two of us celebrating in a very romantic way
Conca del Sogno is the kind of place where you arrive by boat then eat a magnificent lunch barefoot in a swimsuit and kaftan. It’s insanely elegant and the wine list is perfection. We were staying in Positano and arranged a water taxi. I think it was about 30 or 40 minutes along the coast from Positano. But it’s such a spectacular (if a little bumpy) ride, and once you turn the corner into the bay, any turbulence you encountered en route is absolutely worth it!
We dined on the open terrace and enjoyed our favourite white wine “… Dreams …” from the Jermann vineyard. We ate vongole and deep fried courgette flowers.
This was one of those perfect lunches that last around 4 or 5 hours and ends with limoncello.
Locanda dell'Isola Comacina
The Occasion: A romantic escape to Italy
I’ll tell you a secret - Locanda dell'Isola Comacina is not the place to find the best food on Lake Como, and the set menu hasn’t changed since 1947. But this place is an institution. Lunch among the pine trees on this sweet little island is theatre and so much fun. And the waiter’s traditional dress is absolutely charming. I really can’t think of a comparable experience.
If you’ve dined here, then you will know that lunch is concluded with the sound of the bell and the burning of the brandy in the "pot". Someone is plucked from the restaurant to taste the brandy coffee, and yes, the day we dined here that person was me! Such an unforgettable experience.
Ristorante La Marina
The Occasion: May sunshine with my love
I’ve already written an entire blog post on lunch at Ristorante La Marina in Cala Feola, which you can read here. But when sharing my favourite lunches of all time, I simply couldn’t leave this incredible restaurant out! A winding road, a long walk down and a fun and rowdy beach restaurant with insanely good seafood. Not to mention, some of the best house wine I have ever tasted. Needless to say, it definitely deserves a mention.
The Occasion: 16 people celebrating one of my dearest’s friend’s 40th birthdays in Sicily
Sometimes the old adage “the more the merrier” is true. It certainly was for us when we spent a day partying high above Cefalu in the village of Sant’Ambrogio. We were celebrating one of my special friend’s birthdays, and we were a multigenerational party with lots of kids (and my son’s class mascot Mr Fox who we were ‘lucky’ enough to be sent away with that week).
We began our visit with a cooking lesson. The children made pizzas, whilst the adults sipped prosecco and made pasta. This place is all about the view, though. High above the beach, with endless blue sea, this is a gorgeous setting for a very memorable lunch.
That’s all for now, but I have a feeling a part two post will be coming soon!