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Tasting the Amalfi Coast

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For an authentic taste of Italy, get outside the major cities and into the coastal villages. Foodie contributor Jason Kessler shares his experience at home of limoncello on the Amalfi Coast.

While lemons may grow all over Italy, the undisputed maestro di limoni is the beautiful Amalfi Coast where native sfusato lemons grow to the size of small footballs and find their way into almost every course at every meal. On a trip to learn about all things limoncello, I had the good fortune to spend a few days along the coast with Micaela Pallini (of Pallini Limoncello fame) and discovered that la dolce vita extends far beyond Rome.

We first stopped in Positano where the steep streets ensure that you’ll get a great workout with your shopping as you head down the hill to the coast. When we finally got to the bottom, we sat outside at a little restaurant called Incanto overlooking the Mediterranean. With a wood-plank floor, bamboo roof, and Italian marble tables, it felt like the world’s first Italian pirate tiki bar. I ordered the “Panache,” an Amalfi play on the classic shandy that combined beer with lemon soda and it was so good that I hereby vote for this to be the official drink of the Amalfi Coast.

While narrowly avoiding daredevil motorbikes and Fiats racing by like half-empty clown cars, we headed to Minori where you can find the pasticceria famed pastry chef Salvatore de Riso. His lemon-almond Dolce d’Amalfi cake is a dreamy dome dusted with powdered sugar. Pair it with some limoncello – from Pallini, if you’re traveling with Micaela – and you can lull yourself to sleep right on the shop’s patio.

In the morning, fishermen were already out on the Mediterranean hauling in ricciolla (amberjack) but we headed over to the town of Scala where I got to see the lemon harvest up close. All the lemons picked are carefully inspected and peeled in a high-tech peeler before being sent off to the Pallini factory in Rome to get infused into their premium limoncello. Since the giant lemons grow up and down the hillside and there’s no easy way to transport them, men are hired to carry extremely heavy baskets up the hill on their backs. It became abundantly clear how some Italians can eat pasta every day and not worry about obesity.

After the tour, we sat down to an extravagant lunch at Antica Cartierain Ravello.  This former paper mill overlooks the sea and every course we ate included lemons picked that day.  While each dish deserved praise, one truly stood out: scamorza affumicato, beautiful smoked mozzarella, grilled between two lemon leaves. So simple, yet so good. It was the essence of Amalfi.

For more information on Italy and the Amalfi Coast, check out:

Text and Photos by Jason Kessler for