The Amalfi Coast of Italy is famous for its picturesque seaside towns and stunning beaches. But in any vacation destination, you gotta eat! And fortunately, the Amalfi Coast has a range of options for most tastes and budgets. Given the region's close relationship with the sea, it's no surprise that fish and seafood feature prominently on menus here, especially in coastal towns. Farther from the coast, in the Amalfi's rugged interior, land-based dishes are more popular.
Whatever you choose to eat, follow a few basic rules for scoring a good meal:
- Avoid touristy places that have picture menus or advertise a "tourist menu."
- Go where you see lots of Italians eating—they always know the good places.
- Remember that if you choose to sit on a charming piazza or seaside table, you'll pay for that view, which may be superior to the food.
- In high season, and anytime you need to go out of your way to get to a venue, call ahead—either for a reservation or to confirm they're open.
Best for a Special Occasion: Ristorante Al Mare
For a splurge at lunch or an extra-romantic dinner, head to this seasonal open-air restaurant at the posh Hotel Santa Catarina, just outside Amalfi town. All seating is outdoors (under a roof), and almost all tables are seaside—perched halfway between the Amalfi Coast road above and the stunning sea and cliffs below. Excellent seafood dishes, some notable land-based ones, and even a few classed-up pizzas are on the menu and the service is impeccable.
Best for Lunch in Your Swimsuit: Da Adolfo
If you're staying in or near Positano, lunch at Da Adolfo is nearly a rite of passage—and getting there is half the fun. While it's technically possible to walk to this seaside restaurant under the cliffs of a hidden cove, it's much more thrilling to arrive via Da Adolfo's small motor boat that ferries guests from Positano's port. Once you've arrived, you'll join other lucky, uber-casual diners to feast on fresh seafood—grilled fresh fish is a specialty. After a few hours of eating and playing on the beach out front, catch the boat back to Positano and thank your lucky stars for the day you just had. The restaurant is only open in summer, and reservations are essential.
Best for a Non-Seafood Meal: La Tagliata
The unofficial rule along the Amalfi Coast is that the further you head inland, the more the menu shifts from seafood to land-based products. It certainly holds true at La Tagliata, set in Monterpertuso, a small hamlet in the rugged terrain above Positano. There's no set menu, just a changing, daily menu of antipasto, fresh homemade pasta, grilled meat, and the dessert of the day. Much of the food on your (many) plates is grown right on-site and if not, it's sourced close-by. And don't worry, you won't sacrifice sea views to dine here—from La Tagliata's terraces, views extend all the way to Capri. Reservations are a must!
Best for Modern Cuisine: Next2
You'll have to head uphill to get to Next2, set in the upper reaches of Positano, but the reward will be worth the climb. The emphasis here is on modern revamps of traditional regional foods—even standbys like ricotta-stuffed, fried zucchini blossoms are given a new spin with the addition of pumpkin. Sure, maybe you've had linguine, but have you ever had it with cauliflower sauce, cuttlefish, broccoli, and lemon? This is a good place to order outside your Italian food comfort zone. Or better yet, splurge on a multi-course tasting menu with wine pairings. Next2 is open for dinner only.
Best for a Slow Lunch or Dinner: Ristorante Acquapazza
Despite the upscale appearance of the dishes served here, Ristorante Acquapazza reflects the humble roots of Cetara—a traditional fishing village where most residents' livelihoods are related to the daily hunt for tuna, anchovies, and sardines. Acquapazza is the place to go for a long, slow lunch. Pick an outside table and watch the world go by, Cetara-style, as plate after well-presented plate of fresh seafood arrives before you. Ask your waiter for a recommendation—or two—from the well-priced wine list.
Best for a Homey Meal in a Country Village: Lo Stuzzichino
If you're taking some time to explore Punta Campanella nature reserve and the small towns of the Sorrentine Peninsula, then Lo Stuzzichino should definitely be one of your pitstops. This family-run osteria—a cozy, modestly priced eatery—is in Sant’Agata sui Due Golfi, a rustic inland village. The emphasis here is on home-cooking in an equally homey atmosphere. You'll find a mix of seafood and land-based items, including a great selection of antipasti (starters). A lot of love goes into the cooking here, and it shows in the staff and on the plate.
Best for Lunch in a Dramatic Setting: Da Armandino
If you've ever seen photos of Marina di Praia beach, in a tiny cove tucked beneath dramatic cliffs and set between Conca di Marini and Praiano, then you've probably seen Da Armandino. The relaxed trattoria is so close to the water that you practically get hit with seaspray while you dine. A fritto misto—a mixed portion of fried seafood—is the way to go here, but whatever you order, rest assured that it's based on whatever the fishermen hauled in that morning. The pebbly beach, known simply as La Praia to locals, is a good place to spend a few hours before or after lunch, either catching some rays (in the morning, before the sun goes behind the cliffs) or exploring the coastal footpath that departs from the beach. Da Armandino is open April to October.
Best for Lunch Right on the Water: Lo Scoglio
Lo Scoglio means "the rock," and that's where this popular restaurant is built—on a giant rock sitting just offshore from Marina del Cantone beach. The atmosphere at this long-standing, family-run eatery is laid-back and rustic, and the fish on your plate was likely caught that morning. Bruce Springsteen is among the A-listers who have dined here, though we don't know if he had the freshly-cracked sea urchins—one of the house specialties. They're open from morning until night, but we like Lo Scoglio best for lunch, followed by a dip in the sea.
Best for a Romantic Dinner: Ristorante Marina Grande
The terrace dining room of Marina Grande Restaurant hangs over Amalfi town's Marina Grande beach. It's a perfectly pleasant setting for al fresco lunch but at night, it's impossibly romantic, with the town above, hotels and villas along the coast, and boats moored in the harbor all aglow. Come here for well-prepared and beautifully plated seafood that's surprisingly modern. In a town like Amalfi, it would be easy for Marina Grande to rest on the laurels of its splendid location. Fortunately, the cooking is as fine as the view.
Best for a Seafood Feast: A'Paranza
When the setting is the Amalfi Coast, the temptation is to eat outdoors so as not to miss a minute of the beautiful views and fresh sea air. But A'Paranza is a place to make an exception to that rule. Tucked into the center of tiny Atrani, this indoor-only eatery is known for its abundant antipasti plates. We like to order several of these and make a meal that way, but A'Paranza also has plenty of pasta and secondi (main courses) from which to choose. The setting might be a little bland by Amalfi Coast standards, the food more than makes up for the lack of scenery.
Best for Hearty Family Fare: Trattoria da Cumpa'Cosimo
Beloved for its unpretentious ambiance and huge portions of home-cooked seafood and meat, Cumpa'Cosimo really couldn't get more down-to-earth unless it started digging—and that's what people love about it. Owner and chef Netta Bottone turns out a menu of whatever's fresh and interesting to her that day, and she makes a point of visiting every table to greet diners. Though it has a decidedly non-celebrity vibe, John Legend and Chrissy Teigen have dined here—so hurry before the secret gets out and the paparazzi start to arrive.
Best for Lunch After a Walk in the Woods: Agricola Fore Porta
It's so worth the climb to get to this restuarnt. Agricola Fore Porta, sits in the woods above Amalfi town and is accessible only on foot—the nearest road for automobiles is a kilometer (0.62 miles) away. The steady uphill walk winds past a river and a waterfall, and the ruined mills that once drove Amalfi's paper industry. The reward at the end of the road is an idyllically rustic, family-run restaurant serving the fruits of the land around it, including meats and produce raised and grown on-site. They're open for lunch only, and you'll definitely want to make a reservation before you start walking up from town.
Things have always been pretty chic at Chez Black, a Positano institution that opened during the post-WWII boom when Positano became famous as a playground for the rich and famous. They still dine here, and their photos line the restaurant walls. Grab a table overlooking Marina Grande Beach and you might just be seated next to a pro-soccer player or an Italian TV star. You'll pay extra for cache and pedigree here, but Chez Black's seafood dishes are reliably good. Reservations are a must in high season.