In September, my Dad spoiled me and my Granddad (Gordy) to a beautiful holiday in Sorrento, near Naples, where Gordy was stationed in the Second World War.
I said “Might this trip trigger some harrowing memories?” “Nah,” he replied. “For me, the war was fab.” What?
It turns out he only had to join in once we’d won. Amazingly, his memories are all of sunbathing on the Amalfi coast. He mainly drank with Americans (in his words “a very generous race”) and courted a variety of “beautiful females.” Eventually, there, he’d meet my Austrian Nana and fallen in controversial love. More lothario than GI Joe.
It was sunny, with bright flowers everywhere and cliffs lined with hotels making you feel like you were in a Forster novel. I’d never been to Italy before as an adult, let alone to the coast during the summer.
Jess with her Dad and Gordy.
The food was just as sexy as you’d imagine. You couldn’t stop for a G&T in a bar without a massive tray of glorious nibbles arriving with it. Nibbles. Troughs, more like. Salted almonds, olives, crisps and, sometimes, cured meats. After about 10pm these became buttery, dry, sugar-dusted biscuits and little bitter chocolates. Delightful but deadly. There’s a reason I’m never trying smack. I’d think: “Oh, I’ll just have one breadstick’” and then as if by magic I’d casually imbibed an extra dinner.
We had knockout gelato by the pool. We had fish, next to the sea, watching the sun go down over Mount Vesuvius. But our best night, from a mouth’s eye view, was our last.
I’d spotted the Ristoranti Trattoria Miccio Di Giglio Anna on our walk home. We’d had our share of posh places but here was more like a roadside cafe. It looked lively and homely. It took a bit of persuading. It obviously wasn’t fancy and it was right on a busy road. When we sat down they were both a bit pissy. Dad said: “The menu’s crap, there’s not much choice,” but he hadn’t realised there was more than one page of it. Gord said: “The road’s too noisy, I can’t hear anyone.” But none of us had spoken yet.
These gripes were blown to bits as soon as the hoovering began. Then it was uphill from there.
First, the delicious Jesus, the wine and bread. The wine was a massive jug of house red plonk (under £10) but, my word, it was miles better than some bottles I’ve paid triple that for at home. This trip confirmed my suspicion that Italy doesn’t export its best, affordable wine to the UK. This one was peppery, full, almost fiery: so tasty and so cheap. Italy, che cazzo. The bread was a whole ciabatta filled with amazing fennel seeds that popped on your tongue. We dunked it in oil and balsamic vinegar. It made you feel a wonderful combination of ‘teeth-tearing viking’ and ‘classy’.
The family-run restaurant had begun to fill up. Our waiter was sassy lady with a razor wit who explained her parents were in the kitchen. She got a hilarious flirt on with Gordy, who told her all his best stories. He explained “I’m 89” and she cooed “never” often going so far as to lean her hefty bosom quite near into his face. He loved it.
Both Dad and Gord had veal. It’s Dad’s favourite meat for its softness. It looked great, topped with a tomato reduction, molten mozzarella and a dash of paprika.
I had calamari. Big, fat and fresh, in a batter as light as fluff. It fizzed and crackled in your mouth, hit you with juicy, delicate flavour then just as fast it dissolved, puff, gone. Yeah, that’s right, my holiday romance was with a dead cephalopod.
Jess with her Dad and Gordy.
We shared a plate of chips and a plate of grilled Mediterranean vegetables. The vegetables were so bold and beautiful, they were to the mouth what Adele at the 2011 Baftas was to every other sense. Even the chips were just out of the fryer, juicy and salty. There was a kick to everything, a zing. Everything there had been cooked perfectly, so that it just tasted really extremely, of itself.
It was disarmingly good, the place, the food and the company of my sometimes grumpy forebears. We’d forgotten about the traffic noise ages ago. We hoovered up every last crumb. Our wonderful waiter made us laugh with an earnest “thank you for not eating my dishes.”
They brought some complimentary limoncello, the local drink. It tastes of the banana-flavoured liquid penicillin I was prescribed as a child. I declined.
I’ll never forget that food and that meal. On the plane home, Gordy said: “I shall miss my buxom wench.” Bloody hell.
Ristoranti Trattoria Miccio Di Giglio Anna
Address: Via degli Aranci, 36, 80067 Sorrento NA, Italy
Tel: +39 081 878 1223
Disabled access: There is step-free access to the outdoor terrace. There are four big steps however up to the indoor restaurant and there is no disabled toilet.