Two Days in Capri

For the next leg of our Italian adventure, Kevin and I hopped on a ferry from the Naples port for the quick 40 minute ride over to the beautiful island of Capri. Situated just to the west of the Amalfi Coast, Capri is a tiny island, spanning only four square miles, which is known for its expansive views and crystal blue waters. We had two days to explore this little paradise, and we made it count…rain and all!



That’s right…rain…and plenty of it. Upon arriving in the evening, we barely made it to our room before the heavens opened and a crazy storm came bearing down on us, complete with some of the loudest thunder I’ve ever heard (apperantly very unsual for these parts…lucky us).


Since it was storming, and there was no restaurant in the hotel, we called the front desk to inquire as to dinner options. The sweet manager let us know he was running into town to pick up…wait for it…pizza!!! Oh no…no more pizza!!!  Haha, we had certainly had our fill earlier that day so, instead, when there was finally a break in the storm, we hitched a ride to town with him to hopefully find something open. Most of the places had shut down for the night due to the crazy weather so we weren’t left with a ton of options. We stumbled upon a place called Ai Faraglioni, and unfortunately ended up having the most expensive, but least memorable, meal of our entire trip. We’d found all of the meals up to this point to be super reasonable so we had a bit of sticker shock when we got the bill (which we’d been warned could happen in Capri).



The weather was a little touch and go the next day. We had originally planned for a two hour private boat tour around the island that day, with a stop off at the famous Blue Grotto. However, as you can see in the pic above, dark clouds still loomed with threat of more rain so we opted to postpone the tour till the next day. The sky was kind of crazy because there was this really drastic dark layer of clouds up high covering the moutains, but the lower half of the island was absolutely gorgeous. We just decided to squeeze in as much sight seeing as possible and hope that the rain held off…which it thankfully did (for a while…).


Ok, so let’s talk about the views, shall we?



The views were just absolutely amazing!!  We couldn’t stop taking pictures.  Every direction you looked, it was breathtaking. It felt like another world with those massive rocks jutting out of the water. Apparently there was some kind of earthquake activity that created the island some ba-jillion years ago.


We took in some of the best views from the Gardens of Augustus, which only cost 1 Euro for entry (worth it) and .50 Euro to use the restroom just outside (not worth it, but very necessary after morning cappuchinos).




From the garden we were able to get a look at the insanely gorgeous Via Krupp below, a pathway that zig zags its way down to the marina. Unfortunately, the path is not open to the public, but still pretty great to get a look at it.



After our rip off meal the night before, we were in no mood to overpay for mediocre food when it came time for lunch that day. Luckily, we stumbled upon the amazing Buonocore. We were lured in by all of the goodies in the window, which included an assortment of savory bites, pastries, and gelato. We ended up with, oh you know…fried mac & cheese…and a fried grilled cheese (aka: crostone). How can you go wrong there?! As can often happen, I got food envy over Kevin’s crostone so he switched with me (#27…so true).



We loved Buonocore! The food was miles better than our dinner the night before, and we got out of there for less than 15 Euro with drinks. If you’re heading to Capri, this simply has to be one of your stops!




Fueled up from our lunch, we headed off for more walking/hiking to take in a view of the Arco Naturale. The walk there was so quaint, passing through a long curving foot path, between rows of houses and down some stairs. We had kind of a Griswold moment when we arrived, “ok, great…there it is…how gorgeous”…picture, picture, picture…head nodding…and we’re off!




We wanted to be sure we had enough time to squeeze in a visit to the other town on the island, Anacapri, to experience the chairlift ride up to the top of Mount Solaro. We jumped on bus for a quick ride over there, and grabbed our tickets to the heavens…




In true European fashion, there were hardly any instructions or safety precuations. In the U.S., you probably would have had to sign a waiver to get on this thing. But not in Italy. They were single seaters so it was a very peaceful ride to the top, with gorgeous views…at least for the first half of the journey…




Once we started making our way up the mountain, we disappeared into the fog…



WHAT an A-mazing view…haha…ok, not so much. But a fun ride nonetheless.




Back in town, we did what we normally don’t do on vacations…we returned to Buonocore! I’m usually fanatical about trying new places when we travel, but we were a little hungry again and there were so many things there I still wanted to try there. This time we tried the arancini (ridic!) and the lasagna pie, and they were terrific.




After our day of exploring, we were ready to just chill back at the hotel for a bit. We stayed at the Capri Wine Hotel, which was about a 10 minute walk from the main town. We absolutely loved our hotel, and would definitely recommend it for the price. Maybe if it was our honeymoon, we would have splurged to stay at one of the really fancy places up in the main town, but we were quite happy with Capri Wine Hotel.




We learned that the property actually used to belong to Francis Ford Coppola, which is pretty cool. True to its name, they specialize in offering an array of Italian wines. You order the wine at a cute bar within the lobby, which they prepare with some “snacks” and will deliver to wherever you like within the hotel. We chose to take ours on the balcony in our room.


This “snacks” thing is a pretty cool thing throughout the Amalfi Coast. Whenever you order a drink somewhere, they give you free generous snacks that go way beyond the simple bowl of nuts you may (sometimes) get here in the U.S. It was usually a few bowls of things, and it was particularly generous at our hotel where we got tons of olives, cheese, mortadella, and these curlicue cracker things that we kept seeing throughout our trip. If you factor all of the free snacks into the cost of the drinks (usually around 10 to 12 Euro), it ends up being a pretty good deal.



We were actually so full from our second Buonocore visit and our snacks that we didn’t even make it to dinner that night (we may have also taken a longer than expected snooze…please see bottle of wine above). When the manager was explaining the wines to us, she kept saying “you can also get them by the glass”, and we were like “no, no…we’ll take the whole bottle, thanks.”



The next day we woke up naively hoping the crummy weather had cleared enough to allow our boat tour and a visit to the Blue Grotto. No such luck. Not only was it completely pouring, but the hotel called to confirm that the grotto had in fact been closed for the entire rest of the day.



It was a little bit of a bitter pill to swallow. I’d like to think I may get the chance to return to Capri someday to see the Blue Grotto, but probably not. There are too many other beautiful places on this planet I want to visit, and that’s a long way to go to see a grotto. So we shall see. (This is the part where I would love for people to tell me “you’re not missing much”…so feel free to chime in).




We may have missed our boat tour in Capri…BUT…there’s always a but…this meant we had time to squeeze in a day trip to Sorrento on our way to Positano, which turned out to be very delightful. So that’s up next!


(Sorry to be dragging out all of these Italy updates. It’s taken me a bit longer than I expected to organize all my pics and put the posts together. I found so many blogs that helped in my own travel planning so I’m trying to be thorough and thoughtful with the content, in case other travelers may find it useful. Thanks for understanding!)



Happy Blog Birthday

This past Saturday was a big day for Serving Seconds…we turned two! I seriously can’t believe it was two whole years ago that a boring night at home on the couch turned into a very spontaneous blog launch. At the time, I had no concept of DSLR, SEO, Photoshop, Twitter, and oh so many other things. These past two years have been packed full of learning, and I still feel that I’ve only scratched the surface.


But one thing is for sure…I’m still loving this adventure, and I’m still loving all of you! Thank you so much for taking time to check in every now and then. You guys are the best!




PS…last year’s blog birthday.



Friday Round-up // Week 43

Kevin and I had such an amazing dinner at the new Tosca this week. If you’ve been reading my Friday Round-ups for a while, you know I’ve been waiting (not so patiently) for the re-opening of this historical North Beach spot. The restaurant was taken over by one of my favorite chefs, April Bloomfield, given a facelift, and re-opened just a couple weeks ago. And I am in love. The menu is sort of Italian meets gastropub, and I think it’s one of the most exciting spots to open in SF in a long time. If you’ve eaten at any of April’s NYC restaurants, then you may be familiar with her style of cooking…very hearty, in your face, pow flavors…and she’s not afraid to use any part of the animal. Case in point, we had crispy pig tails, and they were spectacular. Also life changing — the meatballs. I’m already plotting my return. (The only downside is that they don’t take resos so prepare for a wait. We waited about an hour on a Tuesday night).


Do you guys have any fun Halloween celebrations in store for the weekend? I’m excitied for dinner with my Ya-Ya’s tonight! Then on Sunday I ship off to Vegas for a work conference (PS…any reccos for Vegas restaurants?) 


I’m plannined to share just a few more Italy updates with you next week…then we’ll be ready to switch gears and focus on Thanksgiving! Till then, here are a few of my favorite links for the week…




Totally fascinating article about what it takes to keep Balthazar running.



State Bird re-opened after an expansion, and 60 days of resos filled up in 90 minutes. #igiveup



Just discovered Carson Daily’s fiance (and baby momma) is a food blogger.



It was a big week in Bay Area food news with Michelin star announcements!



Enjoyed my coffee talk with 52 Weeks Project this week…girl gets down with DIY!



I’m making this pumpkin ravioli for Halloween dinner.



I had a David Kinch sighting at Tosca.



Really looking forward to attending this event next month.



Have a great weekend!



Naples Pizza Tour

When plans for our Italy trip started coming together, there was initially no intent to spend any extended time in Naples. We knew we had to pass through Naples on our way to the Amalfi Coast, but the plan was to just head straight to the ferry terminal from the Naples train station and directly on to Capri. But then (as tends to happen with me) I started getting a serious case of #fomo like you wouldn’t believe. It was palpable. The main concern being, how on earth could I possibly pass through Naples and not have pizza IN Naples? It simply wouldn’t suffice to have very similar Napoletana-style pizza in the areas near Naples. It had to come straight from the source — the birthplace of pizza. And so a plan was hatched to squire away a few hours for a self-directed, fast-paced Naples pizza tour, and it ended up being one of the highlights of our trip. Here’s how it all went down…


We left Rome via high speed train at around 10am, which got us to Naples at just a little past 11am. We made sure to eat very little breakfast at the hotel before we left so we’d have grumbling tummies by the time we reached Naples…after all, we had a very aggressive pizza agenda ahead of us.



Once we arrived in Naples, our first order of business was to drop our bags at the temporary baggage storage at the train station. At other train stations I’ve seen huge lockers that you pay to keep your luggage in, but at the Naples station it’s actually a room where you drop your bag with an attendant, and they give you a claim slip. It was a pretty easy process with no line, cost 5 Euro per bag, and we collected everything completely intact later that day (the attendant even dropped a funny joke about my heavy bag…ok, I get it, I overpacked).



The plan from there was to venture out on foot to three well-known pizzerias, then return to the train station to retrieve our bags, and grab a cab to the port in time for the 4:30pm ferry to Capri. I did tons of online research to determine exactly which pizzerias we should try, and what was feasible within the limited time we had. (This article was a huge help in mapping out our plan). Altogether the schedule worked out to around an hour of walking time, which also left us ample time to eat at each destination. Luckily, these Napoletana pizzas cook pretty darn quick, and take-away is available everywhere so wait times were never an issue. We ordered just one pizza to split at each stop, which sounds like a ridiculous amount of pizza, but Napoletana pizzas are a bit smaller than what we’re used to here in the U.S. (That said, it was still a lot of pizza).




Venturing out into Naples from the train station was such an adventure. It definitely felt like one of the most foreign places I’ve been to. The streets were packed with people and tons of commotion, especially just outside of the train station. It was utter chaos on the sidewalks, and the streets were an even bigger mess. I’m not sure what the traffic law situation is in Naples, but seems like they could use a little help and maybe some traffic lights?


The further we walked from the train station, though, the more serene the streets got. We wandered through endless narrow alleys en route to our destinations, each strewn with requisite laundry lines that made us feel we’d been transported back in time. We didn’t hear any English spoken on the streets and didn’t meet a single American that day. We felt immersed!




Stop #1 — Pizzeria da Michele 



The first stop on our pizza adventure was a visit to Pizzeria da Michele, the local favorite that catapulted to cult status when it was featured in the movie Eat, Pray, Love (Remember when Julia gorged on pizza? This was where it all went down). The locals, however, have not let a little hype get in the way and still clamor to get into this place, as evidenced by the mob below.



Most of these people were waiting for a table inside, but we ordered our pizza to go and posted up for a little curb picnic outside. Oh, and PS…it only cost 4 Euro.




Ok, let’s pause for a moment to note a few things here…blistery crust with slight charring…sparse cheese that has all but dissolved into the tomato sauce…a little bit of soupy liquid pooled in the middle (telltale sign of a true Napoletana pie). You guys, it was utter perfection. I think this is the pizza that may have ruined me for all pizzas forever. If ever for a moment I doubted the effort and time it took to partake in this pizza pilgrimage, all of that doubt disappeared with one bite.




Stop #2 — Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba



The next stop on our adventure took us to Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba, the proclaimed original birthplace of pizza in Naples…as in THEE first place that Napoletana pizza was ever made. I had heard kind of iffy reviews of this place in advance, but I just couldn’t help myself and had to give it a try. I liken it to how we tell tourists here in SF that Boudin’s is really not that great, but they all still go anyway. We were those people…



The red flag slowly started going up as we approached, and there was nary a local to be found anywhere in sight. Then, when we tried to order a pizza to go, they offered a pre-made pizza that had clearly been sitting in the case (shown above) for some time. Um…excuse me?


Nonetheless, we’d come all this way and we were determined to get a taste of it…so we took a seat at a table to order a fresh pizza from the waiter.



I wish I could say that it was amazing, but it was a complete disappointment. I’ve actually had way better Napoletana pizzas here in San Francisco at Pizzeria Delfina or Zero Zero. The Port’Alba version was a total bummer. The dough did not have the springy lightness we’d tasted at da Michele, and the cheese was hard and chewy. Oh, but guess what…we ate it all anyway (research, people).




This is right about when the pizza wall started rearing its ugly head,but, of course, we carried on!






 Stop #3 — Pizzeria Di Matteo



Our final stop took us to Pizzeria Di Matteo, and we knew it was another great choice when we  spotted the massive crowd out front. Similar to da Michele, a lot of these folks were waiting for a tables inside, but plenty of them were also waiting for fresh batches of to-go pizzas to come straight out of the oven.



It kind of reminded me of a stock exchange trade floor. They would throw about 10 fresh pizzas in the window, a ton of commotion would ensue, and before we knew they would be depleted again. We went through a couple rounds of this before we caught on. There was really no line situation. You speak up, make eye contact, and ask for that pizza with determination. That’s how you get your pizza here. It’s not for the meek (Kevin was a total trooper).




There was one choice, the margarita pizza, it came folded in 4ths, and…you guys…it cost 1 Euro.




We ranked Di Matteo as leagues above what we’d just tasted at Port’Alba, but it didn’t quite notch out da Michele as our number one choice. I’m pretty sure I’ll forever be in pursuit of pizza that can compare to the perfection we tasted from da Michele. It was that amazing.


And so that wrapped our pizza adventure in Naples. Our only regret was not getting a chance to taste Sorbillo, another place that I’d read about. When we walked by, an insane crowd (shown below) was gathered out front, and we thought about giving it a try for about 2 seconds. But then our bellies were like, “don’t you even freaking dare.” In retrospect, I wish we’d tried that instead of Port’Alba…but then, of course, I would have had regrets not trying Port’Alba.




We tried a couple more pizzas during the remainder of our trip at the Amalfi Coast, but they didn’t even come close to what we tasted in Naples. Kevin even described one Positano pizza as “DiGiorno like”…ouch.


Speaking of the Amalfi Coast, I’ve got loads more pics to share from our time there…which I’ll have to save till next week!


(PS…if you missed it earlier this week, our visit to Rome).