I have eaten many bowls of tagliatelle carbonara in my long life. But the best was on the island of Capri, in the restaurant of an elegant hotel based upon a grand villa built in the early years of the Twentieth Century. This pasta was so good that, every time I think back upon the occasion of its consumption, I smile the smile of pure gastronomic contentment. For the manifold benediction of this great dish I have to thank the hotel, the restaurant and the chef. They are, in that order, the Villa Marina, the Restaurant Ziqù (pronounced ‘zee-coo’) and Chef Manuele Cattaruzza. And this was but one of many admirable features I found during my stay.
“Never settle for less than your dreams.” This vigorous injunction is the motto of the Hotel Caesar Augustus. The suggestion, of course, is that one of your dreams might be to stay at the hotel on the island of Capri which enjoys the most ravishing views. And that hotel, without doubt, is the wonderful Caesar Augustus. Certainly, many of the world’s most sophisticated travellers dream this dream, for they consistently mention the Caesar Augustus when they are asked about their favourite hotels by the travel magazines. Not long ago, for example, readers of Condé Nast Traveller voted the Caesar Augustus the top resort hotel in Europe, and the 14th best hotel in the world. The owner, Paolo Signorini, and his son Francesco (pictured, with your correspondent) – who are both very much in evidence at the property – are rightly proud of these many accolades.
The idea of going to Sorrento without dining at L’Antica Trattoria is something I hardly dare contemplate. This dining room is so bound up for me with the pleasures offered by this lovely city on the Amalfi Coast: it is the embodiment of the town’s genius. Some restaurants are like that. I suppose it is a combination of history, memorable food, fine wine, a comfortable environment and attentive service. But there is something more, too. Let us call it the moral dimension. It is the sense that there is something thoroughly good about the whole establishment. It is there on the faces of the staff and of the other customers. There is an unspoken feeling that we are all involved in something which is so worthwhile that our lives are going to be a tiny bit better as a result. Perhaps, dear Reader, you think that I am indulging in hyperbole. If so, you have probably not been to L’Antica Trattoria.
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