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There are many reasons why Sorrento is so popular with tourists. One is the town’s location. Sorrento sits by the sea, gazing across the water at the island of Capri while being close to the city of Naples where the airport is, and within easy distance of Pompeii and Rome for day trips. It’s also the western gateway to the beautiful Amalfi coast. This ideal location makes Sorrento the perfect base for exploring Italy.
However, another big draw for tourists to Sorrento is the food. Any town by the sea offers a good choice of fresh seafood and fish dishes. In Sorrento, the beauty of the Italian architecture, cuisine, and the sheer theater of being in Italy, all add to the experience. I love Italian food, so for me, it’s hard to choose a restaurant. Here are my seven favorites in Sorrento.
O’Parrucchiano La Favorita calls itself “a museum restaurant.” But don’t get the wrong idea, there’s nothing stuffy or “old” about this incredible restaurant. Situated in the heart of Sorrento, this restaurant first began its life in 1868 when a Catholic student transformed two of the rooms here after the local archbishop taught him to cook. It’s said he invented cannelloni but called it “strascinati.” This makes this restaurant the birthplace of cannelloni. The dining room is one huge summer house and a beautiful place to dine.
However, outside in the lemon grove, it’s even more spectacular. This is the most beautiful terrace and is hard to beat as a location for a meal filled with lemon trees. You sit amongst the lemon trees while you eat. Along with the history of this place, it is a must while in Sorrento. They do take bookings here and, as a result, they are often full. They do allow walk-ins, but whether you’ll get a table just depends on how busy they are. It might look like there is plenty of seating, but there are also plenty of people who want to eat here.
The mixed starter of buffalo mozzarella, squid, and fried courgette flowers is visually beautiful and tastes amazing. For the main course, I recommend cannelloni, of course! You can’t dine at the birthplace of cannelloni and not eat cannelloni. Plus, they are so experienced at this signature dish, it’s truly delicious.
La Cantinaccia del Popolo is a small and very rustic-looking restaurant. On the inside, it seems to be a deli with tables, and that’s partly what it is. Cured meat hangs from the ceiling and there are glass display coolers with meats, salads, olives, and cakes that are available to order for dining in or take away. Tables and chairs are old and wooden, while the tables with benches have the odd cushion scattered here and there.
However, this is not somewhere you go for the décor and furnishings. Here, it’s all about the food. The food is so good, and the restaurant is so small, so there are always queues. The restaurant doesn’t take bookings, you simply turn up and wait for a table. Lines begin at 6:45 p.m. for a 7 p.m. opening. So if you want a table, prepare to stand and wait your turn. It really is worth the wait.
I recommend the anchovies with jersey butter, the seafood ravioli, and the potato salad. Each diner is offered complimentary limoncello at the end of their meal, and there is no cover charge for your table.
Perfectly positioned by the sea with a view of the marina, Trattoria da Emilia is a very popular restaurant, because of the amazing view and food. This is traditional Italian fare in a beautiful setting. If you want to sit out on the terrace, as many people do, you will most likely face a bit of a queue. You can nip into the bar, which is next to the restaurant, to wait until the line subsides, or you can wait in line.
You could also choose to dine inside the restaurant where there usually aren’t any queues. This is, again, due to the policy of no bookings. It’s strictly for walk-ins. Tables do turn quite quickly, as Trattoria da Emilia has this down to a fine art. You might be surprised by how quickly your food arrives, but it is all freshly prepared. They are just great at this.
The gnocchi is simply fabulous. I’m a convert to gnocchi after being previously unimpressed, and at this restaurant, it’s good enough to persuade anyone. I’d also recommend fried fish and aubergine. There is no cover charge for your table.
The tables on the terrace at O’Puledrone overlook the marina and the sea with speedboats and pleasure cruisers bobbing in the harbor right in front of you. However, you don’t have to simply gaze out at these boats, you can go out on one with a fisherman in partnership with the restaurant and catch your own dinner. This extra activity connected to the restaurant is unusual and a great experience for anyone interested in fishing or just wanting to try something different.
With the help of an experienced fisherman, you can catch the fish that will be cooked for your meal. Like most of the restaurants by the harbor, there are no bookings, you simply turn up and join the line. If there’s a bit of a wait, the bar staff will come out with complimentary glasses of white wine for you while you wait.
If you’re not eating your catch of the day, I recommend the seafood risotto. Unlike some seafood risottos, this one doesn’t use fish as a filler or pile on too much rice. The seafood is plentiful and does match the amount of rice in the dish.
Qui Sorrento is a modern-looking bistro. It’s a world away from the rustic old restaurants on the seafront and offers something a little different. The design of the restaurant inside is minimalist and super modern. The food is arranged on the plate beautifully. This is modern Italian cuisine, and though at its heart it is still authentic Italian food, it is cooked and prepared with a twist and through a modern lens. It’s five minutes walk from the main square in Sorrento but it’s well worth venturing out of the main tourist areas for this little gem of a restaurant.
There are some taster elements to the menu and the taster appetizers are a great way to start. The ravioli for the main course is very good. I love ravioli anyway, but this one is cooked to perfection and not the usual ravioli you’ll find in regular seafront restaurants. The tiramisu is a must for dessert and there’s an impressive wine and whisky menu here too.
The interior of Casa Tua is modern and clean, but with a definite nod to more ancient times. Whitewashed walls with alcoves displaying Roman-looking vases, mosaic tiles for decoration, and stripped-back wooden tables and chairs all bring this restaurant a classy atmosphere. Predominantly a seafood restaurant, every little detail of the experience you have here has been carefully thought through. There’s also a small outdoor terrace that overlooks the quiet street. In the evening, it feels “local” and authentic.
The taster menu gives you a small bite of all kinds of fish and seafood dishes, including shrimp with figs and a house special of raw fish — if you like sushi, you’ll love this. I recommend spaghetti with mussels and potatoes. It’s interesting to find a pasta dish that includes potatoes too, but it works.
Tucked away down a backstreet in central Sorrento, Piennolo Landfood is a quirky little restaurant with great food and a fun atmosphere. The host here likes to welcome guests and is generally the life and soul of the party. The design is modern with a plastic lemon tree standing in the middle of the restaurant and plastic grapes hanging from the ceiling. It almost feels like you’re in the middle of a modern art installation.
There’s usually music playing with an emphasis on having fun. However, when it comes down to it, it’s all about the food. The food here is incredibly good and reasonably priced too. Most people who come here go back again and again. Be aware that the restaurant gets busy on Wednesdays. Many restaurants in Sorrento close on Wednesdays, but this one doesn’t, so it fills up quickly.
I recommend the aubergine parmigiana with torta della nonna for dessert. But if you’re just stopping here for a quick bite or a light lunch, the mozzarella bruschetta is something special.
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Travel writer, author, and playwright, Samantha loves historic buildings, quirky hotels, woodland walks and literary trails, specializing in food and drink, luxury travel, retreats, spas, and anything arts based. Samantha is based in Yorkshire, the UK, where she lives with her artist partner. Learn more on her website.