Chef Paul Reilly’s Guide to Campania
Where to eat and drink in and around Salerno, Italy.
Paul and Aileen Reilly, the brother-sister team behind Denver's Beast & Bottle, traveled to Campania in search of inspiration for their upcoming restaurant Coperta. Here are their best finds in and around Salerno, Italy.
When we went to Campania to research our new restaurant, we used Salerno as a base at the suggestion of a few Italians we met. Day trips to the Amalfi Coast were really easy by ferry, and Salerno offered the opportunity to stay in a city where Italians actually live. It’s a bustling city, and like many Italian towns, there is an ancient section with a Duomo. It’s also a university town, which gave it a really cool feeling of youth and vibrancy.
Stellar Smoked Mozzarella with Anchovies: La Botte Pazza
This is a local-favorite restaurant helmed by chef Marco. He speaks a tiny bit of English and helped guide us through the menu. It was here that we had the chance to try spuzzulia—lots of little dishes. Our favorites? Smoked mozzarella stuffed with anchovies and wrapped in lemon leaves, and he made a really terrific tagliatelle pasta with tomato and lardo. This is a serve-yourself-wine restaurant: You fill up your pitcher from two barrels containing a white and a red. After a few trips refilling our glasses, it wasn’t hard to see where the name (which translates to "the crazy bottle") came from. La Botte Pazza, Vicolo Giovanni Ruggi d'Aragona 3
Fantastic Salumi: Pane e Prosciutto
This charcuterie and wine bar has cured pork, turkey and wild boar hanging from the ceiling, which would never fly in the U.S. You order what you want by the gram or on focaccia, and there are all kinds of regional Italian wines. Two young, sassy college girls take care of slicing the meats behind the counter, and they are not shy about telling you how you should order the meats. For example, "you can only get lardo on focaccia toast!" They talked; we listened, and left very happy and satiated. Pane e Prosciutto, Via Roma, 14
Delicious Dried Pasta: Pastificio Vicidomini
Down the street from Pane, this shop sells dozens of regional dried pastas. They offer more pasta shapes than you could possibly imagine, from traditional fusilli or penne rigate to pasta more appropriate for a bachelorette party than a dinner party. We bought the gnocchi sardi, tiny dumpling shaped pasta, and a larger shape I had never heard of before, gigli, which had something to do with chicken gizzards. Pastificio Vicidomini, Trav. Luigi Guerrasio, 63
Perfect Nightcap: Macondo
Every night after dinner, we would end up at Macondo, a really lively late-night bar where we sipped amaros we had never heard of, including one that was served with lemon shaved ice—awesomely refreshing. Macondo is as perfect for a nightcap as it is for the university students to get their night started. The bar blasts cheesy ’80s funk, like the SOS Band and the Jets. Lungomare Trieste, 78,
Minerally White Wines: Feudi di san Gregorio Winery
This Avellino winery’s tasting room is housed in a very modern building and the doors in the cellar open up to the sounds of Gregorian chants. They make exquisite wines from regional grapes including Aglianico, Greco di Tufo and Falanghina. Feudi di san Gregorio, Contrada Cerza Grossa
Rustic Roast Rabbit: Valleverde
Nearby, in the small village of Atripalda, we ate at a great restaurant, Valleverde. There was a half roasted rabbit (and its offal) with tomatoes and olives, and a really delicious and hearty escarole and bean stew. The menu was super-rustic comfort food at its best! Via Pianodardine, 112