For a few nights, we stayed in the small town of Nerano in Sorrento, but more specifically the harbour village of Nerano called Marina del Cantone. Your first reaction when you hear harbour might not be one of a splendid view, but believe me, this harbour was more like a paradise.
During our lovely, short stay we came across a beautiful restaurant called Taverna del Capitano. We were immediately attracted to it not only because of its location, but also because of the sign that was proudly displayed in the window – Michelin Star Winner.
Our apartment was cosy and overlooking a piece of the magnificent Gulf of Salerno. It was so gorgeous. On our first night, we had an antipasto platter, fresh bread, loads of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and of course some red wine. It was a fun evening that ended in a lot of laughter and singing Buona Sera by Louis Prima, all the while hearing the waves in the background. That was how we spent most of our evenings in Italy, happily cooking or just assembling our own simple food and drinking a bottle of Italian red wine out of water glasses (wine glasses were nowhere to be seen at our AirBnB apartments). It was totally worth it and we enjoyed every minute of it.
As one might expect, dinner at a Michelin Star restaurant comes with a price. Even more so if you do the conversion back to South African Rand. Being a responsible person, I was trying to persuade my mom that there were many other restaurants that would make fantastic food at a fraction of the price this specific restaurant would charge. Secretly, I though it would be GREAT to dine at a Michelin star restaurant in Italy! My mom payed no attention to my not-so-persuasive reasoning and decided that she really wanted to dine there. She said it would be a once in a lifetime experience that we simply could not skip.
On our second evening my mother surprised us with a reservation at Taverna del Capitano. We got all dressed up and walked to the restaurant that was about 250 meter from our apartment. We were thrilled and felt like royalty for the evening.
Our lovely waitress, Manuela, was born in Belgium and spoke to us in Flemish when she heard that we spoke Afrikaans. We found this very amusing and intriguing and we could understand about 90% of what she said. She came to Sorrento with her mother for a holiday when she was in her twenties. She loved it so much she did not ever go back home. She stayed right there and started her own life in Sorrento. She explained to us that the restaurant is family owned and operated. The restaurant has been in trade for 50 years and currently has three generations of Caputos that have been in management. The sommelier, Mariella, is chef Alfonso’s sister and she is married to the restaurant host and fellow-sommelier, Claudio.
They believe in keeping it local and using locally and sustainably sourced ingredients for their dishes. They rely on farms in Sorrento for their fresh produce.
It was Chef Alfonso’s grandfather who established Taverna del Capitano and his son, Salvatore, who expanded the establishment to include a sea-front hotel. Salvatore’s daughter, Mariella, became a sommelier and his son, Alfonso, a chef to eventually take over the business and keep it in the family.
Alfonso Caputo received his first Michelin Star at the age of only 26, back in 1996. In 2006, he received his second star.
If you’ve watched MasterChef a few times, you would probably have heard the term Michelin Star a few times. To be a Michelin Star restaurant is a big honour and only the best of the best restaurants get awarded with these stars. This is what the Michelin rating is all about. You can read more about the history of Michelin Stars here.
This was our menu for the evening:
Chef Alfonso Caputo’s Cuisine
SHRIMPS AND SARAGO FISH
Capers of the Galli islands, pepper sauce and sea lettuce
RED FLYING SQUID
Wrapped in fried-potato spaghetti, basil cream and roe “palamito” tuna
MY VERSION OF MADE DRIED PASTA
With murex (sea snails) and zucchini in scarfano sauce
IMPERIAL DENTICE (a local white fish)
With provola smoked cheese and raisins, vegetable and lemon leaf
RAW BEEF (quility white Marchigiana) COOKED OVER SEA STONE
Caramelized onion and lemon
FANCY SWEET FRUIT
Pineapple, mint and peach covered with white and dark chocolate, red plum sauce
For dessert each of us were served a different dessert. We all shared. The names of the desserts were not mentioned on the menu. Afterward I read that the one of the desserts were called I profumi della costiera, which translates to the perfumes of the coast.
In my opinion, the dessert was a bit too much. I would have preferred a smaller, simple dessert. It was very confusing to receive four different desserts, But who I am to judge… 😉
The wine list was about 50 pages long, filled with the best wine from all over the world. Unfortunately, none of the wines were from South Africa, but of course we commented on it and promoted the phenomenal wine our South African vineyards produce. The wine we initially chose simply would not suffice, according to the sommelier, and immediately directed us to a few (increasingly expensive) pages on.
At the end of the evening, being the spontaneous woman she is, my mother insisted that we take a look at the kitchen and meet chef Alfonso. Chef Alfonso and his team were very accommodating and absolutely loved having us and listening to us vocally applauding them for a fine meal. And of course, if you’ve met my mother, you would know that there was a photograph of us all taken 😀
Most of you may be wondering if it was worth it. I believe we have exceptional restaurants and chefs in South Africa and we should be thankful that they don’t charge an arm and a leg, but still serve world-class quality food. If I had to judge Taverna del Capitano on food only, then no. I have eaten tastier food in South Africa at a fraction of a price. If I take into consideration that my mom and her daughters are sitting in an ocean-view restaurant in Sorrento, walking-distance from their ocean-view apartment, having dinner and wine at a Michelin Star restaurant where family is everything and food is made with and service is done with passion, then maybe.
It was a once in a lifetime experience and I am thankful to have experience it with my loved ones who share the same passion for food (and wine).