Adventurous Dining Experience in a Capri RestaurantFriday, October 28, 2016 Food and drinks by Diana Joya
My husband and I arrived on the island of Capri tired and hungry from our long journey. We checked into our hotel, looking forward to walking into town for authentic Italian food for dinner. When we got down to the concierge, we asked in broken Italian about any ristorante’s that were within walking distance.
Finding a Dining Spot
The concierge immediately noticed that my Italian was limited, and began to speak English. “Ristorante da Tonino, past the piazza in Capri. It is the best ristorante on the island.” My husband and I looked at each other and smiled. “Your best way to get there would be to take our complimentary shuttle to the edge of town and walk from there.”
We walked outside, got into the shuttle, and the driver carefully pulled between two old stone columns to exit the hotel. The columns were obviously there well before cars since the sedan barely fit between them. He then drove up a steep and winding road. About ten minutes later, he dropped us off at the edge of town. The driver apologised in Italian, “Mi dispiace ma la mia auto non è adatta.” (I’m sorry, but my car will not fit). The road went down to the width of a bike path. The concierge had said it would be about a twenty-minute walk from here.
The walk was all cobblestone, and mostly uphill. We finally saw the sign that read ‘Ristorante da Tonino’.
Best Capri Restaurant Experience
A stone path led us to what appeared to be a renovated old home. The place was empty, and for just a moment we thought perhaps we had been misled, but an older gentleman came rushing over to us with a warm smile, “Benvenuto!” he said, motioning us over to a lovely seat by a window. His enthusiasm turned our hesitation into welcomed joy.
He spoke not one word of English, and the menu was all in Italian. Using limited Italian, and many smiles and hand motions, we informed him that we wanted his recommendation on what we should order for dinner. We had learned the art of doing this on our last trip, as locals are honoured when you trust them on the best dishes they have to offer. He proudly informed us, through speaking Italian slowly and pointing to items on the menu, of what they were.
The man’s name was Rolando. The son of the original owner, his wife did the cooking, and he told us she would like to send over some house specialities for us to try. Several fantastic dishes later, our dinner came, and every dish was carefully paired with wine. Throughout the evening, we communicated any way we could. He even took us out back to proudly show us their garden area.
We finished up with cappuccino and dessert and thanked him for everything. We informed him in our broken Italian that it was the best dining experience we had in Italy, and he was thrilled. As we walked away I realised why I loved the culture of Italy so much. Italians put value in face to face relations, and there is a genuine warmth that comes through with each encounter. Trusting the concierge at our charming hotel to direct us to the best ristorante he knew, although furthest in distance, and trusting in Rolando’s choices for our meal, made the experience.
8 Ways to Make a Foreign Dining Experience an Adventure
- Toss the travel books, websites, and online reviews. Ask a local.
Italians in particular light up when you ask them about food or dining, and trust their opinion with your next dining experience.
- Don’t be intimidated by a place that is off the beaten path. The additional walk is part of the experience. You’ll learn more about the area you’re staying in.
- Don’t let it deter you if they do not speak English and the menu is solely in the local language too. There are many ways to communicate, and besides, you should have learned a few words of the local language before you set out anyway.
- Learn the items in the local language you would not want to eat, so you can identify what to stay away from. This point is from a personal ‘phew!’ experience we had on our first visit to Italy. The ability to identify pigeon and steer clear of it was very helpful when it was the house special.
- Ask the server for their suggestions on what is the best dish in the house. They will want to serve you proud by giving you the best, and you’ll get the freshest too.
- Encourage the server to further suggest the best wine to order with your meal. If you thought their face lit up when you asked them about the food, wait until you throw this one their way.
- Don’t get impatient about what appears to you to be slow service. A leisurely dining experience is a norm in most other countries, and it is considered rude to rush.
- Be grateful. Say thank you, clean your plate, give a thumbs-up, smile and nod – there are many ways to show gratitude for great service and great food.