By Murray Schulman
Last month, I began to introduce you to my perspectives on Positano. As promised, I will continue this series with more imagery of the sights, sounds and flavors of this amazing region. Books, media and the internet are filled with photos of the “vertical city” of Positano.
The most popular photos are of the night view looking up into the mountain.
I will never forget standing out on the terrace feeling the cooling breezes carrying the smells of the sea while soft music played and gently awakened my senses. Below, the lights of small and large boats twinkled against the gently rolling Mediterranean. Already seduced by the legendary Sirens of Li Galli, I slowly turned my back on the sea to looked up into the mountain. No photo could capture the colors, the lights or the powerful beauty of those cliffs.
The views seemed to calm and excite me at the same time. Yes, I only had five days in this region. But, a lifetime of sensory impact will remain with me for all of my days.
My absorption in that moment came to an end as my better half was ready to explore the possibilities of dinner that night. The thought of new culinary adventures is always a welcome distraction.
During the first part of that week, we delved into the culinary gifts of the sea as well as the bright spark of the Positano lemon delights. This night we were about to experience a different perspective on the local Positano dining culture. At this point in our stay, I had developed a warm and easy friendship with the hotel staff as well as some of our fellow travelers. The hotel staff revealed local secrets that the average tourist will never see. Like-minded travelers shared their unique experiences with us that are not on any tour. It was our goal to avoid the typical tourist haunts and experience each region as seen through a local’s eyes. At the suggestion of the overnight manager of Le Agave Hotel who I had befriended and who after providing me with an iron, checked my creases to make sure I was using it, we were off on a very unique dinner adventure.
In Italy, dinner is a late-evening event. It was around 8:30 p.m. when the restaurant- provided minivan picked us up on the street above our hotel. The driver greeted us in Italian and briefly told us that he was taking us to La Tagliata (The Cut). Our conversation came to an abrupt end as the driver made a sharp left turn off of the Amalfi road onto a narrow drive that zigged and zagged straight up the mountain. While we were holding on for dear life as the occasional oncoming vehicle passed us where no vehicle should have fit. Finally, our driver stopped on a very steep section of the drive near a simple small arbor. Only a small light lit the entry. We entered the arbor area to find multiple rough stairs which looked anything but secure or supportive. My wife noticed a small phone box attached to the wooden entry among the vines that were growing there. I opened the box and after several beeps and buzzes, a voice responded “Ciao.” Thankfully, this voice could communicate in English as well as in Italian. He told me to stay where I was as he would come and get us. In minutes, we were warmly greeted and escorted to a tiny elevator that descended into the mountain. The doors opened, much to our relief, and we stepped into a miasma of amazing aromas. Our friendly rescuer hustled us along past the kitchen and into a delightfully rustic dining room that was open to the air and vistas on one side. We were seated at our table and were immediately offered a choice of simply red wine or white wine. The restaurant name gave me a hint that there would be meat involved. So, I chose the red wine. It was at this point that the culinary concert began. No menu was offered. No server came to read a list of house specials for the night. Instead, the several restaurant staff (all family as we later discovered) began to bring small exquisite ceramic plates of bean salads, pickled vegetables, roasted vegetables, hot and cold flavors from the garden picked and prepared that day. This is the truly unique identifying feature of this restaurant. While some of the family operate the restaurant. The family as a whole is tied
to the rough land of the region. These people are agricoltori. Their farm produces grapes, olives, vegetables, cheese and all ingredients used in the food preparation.
Editor’s note: To be continued next month with a meal like no other.
Marinade for Grilled Meats
- ½ teaspoon of course salt (kosher salt or sea salt)
- ¼ teaspoon or 4 to 5 turns of the cracked black pepper mill
- 2 cloves of garlic (not chopped or sliced)
- ½ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
- ½ teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
- ¼ teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
- Juice of ½ fresh lemon
- Zest of ½ lemon
- ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
- Mix the herbs and seasonings together.
- Add the lemon juice. Whisk to combine.
- Gradually whisk in the olive oil while you whisk to blend well.
- Add the lemon zest. Fold to incorporate.
Use to marinate any meat for grilling or broiling. Marinate meats for a minimum of one hour up to 24 hours prior to grilling.