Ristorante Maria Grazia
Via Marina del Cantone 65
+39 081 8081011
I am if anything, traditional – that is regarding the restaurants that Antonio and I fortunately have discovered through friends or family and visit every chance we get. These guarantee us a specific atmosphere, consistency in the food (the whole nine yards: presentation, aroma, taste, textures and our eventual and guaranteed oohs and aahs) and where we are welcomed in a way that assures us we matter as much as the many hundreds and thousands who have eaten there since our last visit.
Along the Amalfi Coast, dotted with little seaside towns, inlets, and hidden hill towns visitors are almost guaranteed an incredible feeding experience, there is one place that we return to – Maria Grazia. This we understood to be the restaurant that created the famous spaghetti with zucchini (1952) that I can assure you is out of this world. Imitations can be found in the same town, along the coast as well as Capri and within the Gulf of Naples. Don’t bother. Just go straight to Maria Grazia where you will be greeted by the great granddaughter of the famed, but no longer with us creator Donna Rosa, and other family members. You can’t miss them as they all look alike, have beautiful smiles, happy dispositions and golden tans. If you arrive by boat, perhaps one of the brothers will pick you up in his small boat and take you back and forth to yours. Through the years, other restaurants have cropped up and they too have little boats arriving like bees to the flower, but if you are in the know you will have already made a reservation and will brush them away like flies. We have been taken to other restaurants, but they won’t give you the Maria Grazia expertise and charm. We are not there for the glamor nor for the restaurant experience found in New York or Rome or Paris or London. We are in a small fishing village on the beach with little children scampering about, women in bikinis, young people playing beach volleyball and older men strolling along the shore. I will not fail to mention the brilliance of the sun’s rays sparkling on the clear blue waters, and the little fishing boats speeding from yacht to yacht. It is absolutely picturesque, especially after the meal, a few bottles of beautifully chilled local wine with just the right tone for a lazy afternoon (Falanghina for example), and beach chairs are available in which you can throw your absolutely satisfied body, face the sea and enjoy a rhythm of life we can only envy.
In New York I prepare what I call an homage to this restaurant - zucchini four-cheese spaghetti dish. They have one cheese we can only dream of obtaining, fresh basil and zucchini from land that has been blessed by the sun god – this is the area of the famous cherry tomatoes (Campania Felix as the Romans called it). The recipe is only handed down in the family. I who am gluten intolerant feel justified to have at least a few bites. However, for those of you who are celiac, please do not hesitate to let them know. Be prepared for the appetizers that are huge flavors of goodness. Share, share, share and eat slowly. Out come huge platters of treccia (plaited fior di latte mozzarella), stuffed eggplant with melted cheese and lots of delicious exquisitely fresh basil leaves totally alive with flavor, lightly fried baby shrimp and squid, deep-fried breaded cheese chunks, rice balls (arancini), potato croquettes, stuffed zucchini flowers, cod fish and many other incredibly delicious traditional dishes like sautéed zucchini, bell peppers, eggplant and the delightfully huge tomatoes bursting with flavor that this land produces. These are all in the traditional local cuisine, but oh my, the flavors are filled with sunshine, love and life. The pasta is followed by huge bowls of bountifully joyous seasonal fruit immersed in ice – peaches, nectarines, cherries, also huge slices of watermelon and melon, and if you are lucky there might be early figs called fico fiorone. Did I mention that they also have incredible pastries (just look at the pictures) followed by a cold glass of limoncello or grappa and deliciously brewed espresso.
Don’t think it stops there. In all the years I have eaten at Maria Grazia, I truly do not remember ever seeing a menu. Rosa - the great granddaughter - comes forth and we ask what there is and so it all starts like a whirl. Platters just keep coming out. It is a banquet, a feast to be shared. However, there are other incredible seafood pastas and there is freshly caught local fish and seafood of every type that are baked, grilled or fried spectacularly and as you desire. These we only attempt if we are able to return a second or third time within the same summer. Antonio, however, never budges in regard to the pasta with zucchini, even foregoing his mozzarella. However, here by this beautiful sea it would be strange if the seafood was not freshly caught. Happiness in a situation like this is inevitable. I assure you that once you try Maria Grazia your return is inevitable, and always joyous.