In a Humble Grotto, Ventotene Goodness
As you get off the boat after your trip out to the island of Santo Stefano – or around the perimeter of Ventotene – you don’t have to go far to satisfy that hunger gnaw. Right across from the boats rocking at the Ventotene dock, head down a few steps into the grotto (once carved out of the rock by slaves of the Romans for wharf-side storage) and you’ll find Valeria scrubbing clean mussels while her brother Lorenzo slips fried calamari and shrimp into cartocci (brown paper cones) and their friend Toni slides portions of eggplant Parmesan (with a seaside addition, codfish!) onto paper plates.
This is informal dining – paper plates, wine in plastic cups, plastic tables, serve yourself when your order is called, and clean up – but the food is gourmet. Or call it “Slow Food goodness.” La Lampara opened last year: Valeria’s idea. From Rome, she met Luigi (born on Ventotene) while vacationing here with her family. Her assistant cook, Tonia, summered here too, with her family from Naples. Lorenzo comes from Rome now each summer to help his sister. Luigi cooks too: after he ties up the boat he’s used all day, taking visitors around the island, stopping in the most stunning coves for swims and snorkeling.
Day was giving up to night as Pino and I took a table dockside, vacationers in swimsuits strolling past, heading home after a seaside day. A bottle of white Falanghina wine accompanied our dinner of savory fish snacks: fishballs for me (no meat in these), a cone of calamari and shrimp – and I had to try the eggplant parmesan with codfish – who could imagine? – buonissimo! If on the menu, Pino will always choose steamed mussels with lemon, black pepper – and those at La Lampara did not disappoint.
The tables were filling up as we left. As vacationers put in their order, they read the poster on the doorway, setting out all the La Lampara rules:
1 Enter, place your order, leave your name
2 Wait to be called
3 Pick up your tray and eat
4 Clear your tray, dispose of waste
5 Enjoy your vacation
Tonia told us with a wink, “Number 6 is missing: Before you go, please, pay your bill.”
And we’d left knowing we’d be back – and soon.
In fact, we returned the very next night – as did two couples from Milan we’d met there, convinced they’d found some of the best eating on Ventotene. For their second dinner, they ordered the pasta with a tasty sauce of olives, capers and barracuda. This time, I opted for the rucola/carrot salad with octopus and calamari and Pino chose the cartoccio (“paper cone”) of fried calamari and anchovies, the flakiest potato chips you’ve ever had (homemade) on the side.
Those milanesi were right: we’ve all found some of the best eating on Ventotene.
Read more about the island of Ventotene
Read more on Ventotene goodness
Read about – and see – Ventotene’s splendid sea
Read about Ventotene’s many enticements
See the kaleidoscopic colors of Ventotene
Read about – and see! – pizza goodness (and not only) on Ventotene
Read about Ventotene’s bakery
Read about the European summit on the island of Ventotene, Aug. 22, 2016
Read about a favorite spot on Ventotene, Ristorante Da Verde
Click here for more on Fabio’s bookstore
Read why a return to Venotene is like “coming home”
Read about good eating at the “scooter truck”
Read about “palate poetry” on Ventotene