Towards the end of this month, at the start of another season, the strains of guitar and mandolin will again float through the dining room of perhaps the world’s most romantic restaurant, a room lit only by the flicker of 400 candles.
La Sponda is the restaurant at Le Sirenuse, the idyllic Positano hotel owned and run by the Sersale family since 1951. Its windows overlook the majolica-tiled dome of Santa Maria Assunta and the harbour; beyond, boats hug the rugged Amalfi coast.
There is, of course, a terrace for balmy evenings, but it is the dining room, foliage straggling up its white pillars and vaulted ceiling, that really impresses. As does the food: chef Matteo Temperini gained a Michelin star last year for his light, elegant cuisine, typified by an antipasto of meltingly tender tuna belly, with white beans from nearby Controne and sweet red onions from Montoro scented with wild thyme.
There is meat on the menu – veal sirloin with capers, olives and Cetara anchovies looked especially good – but it is, unsurprisingly, seafood at which La Sponda excels. My main course, described as a “suntuosa casseruola” of rockfish and crustaceans, was indeed sumptuous, partnered with a lovely sauce made from scallop corals.
Service is formal but friendly, the wine list a joy and the homemade ice creams and sorbets splendid. As the strains of Come Back to Sorrento waft over white-draped tables, the siren call of Le Sirenuse is irresistible.
Completely different, but equally romantic, is Da Adolfo, a rough-and-ready beachside restaurant a short boat ride from Positano: look for the vessel in the harbour with a red wooden fish atop a tall mast. It will deposit you at Laurito, where you can enjoy a swim before sampling Da Adolfo’s short but delightful menu.
It is not compulsory to start lunch with mozzarella in lemon leaves, grilled over charcoal, but it is highly advisable, and a good way to enjoy the trademark aroma of the Amalfi Coast without recourse to the sickly limoncello. You might also sample some marinated anchovies, tender octopus or mussels impepata (cooked with abundant pepper). The aubergine parmigiana is a must, followed by the fish of the day: spigola (seabass), maybe. And you should wash it down with the excellent local white wines – a Falanghina or a greco di tufo.
After a coffee and a digestivo (try the bitter-sweet nocino, made from green walnuts), time for another swim, or a snooze, before the gentle return journey. Then a brisk walk up the hill to Le Sirenuse, just in time for cocktails on the terrace at sunset. Who said romance was dead?