The decision to spend our honeymoon in Sorrento, Italy was largely influenced by Paul. Although it was my first trip to Italy, Paul had already explored this region with his mother and sister on a family vacation several years ago. During his prior stay, he stayed in Sorrento for two nights at Il Faro, a cutesy little Italian hotel just on the edge of the Mediterranean. Just outside this hotel sits Vela Bianca-a rather small and cozy restaurant with authentic Italian cuisine. Each night you can find the owner sitting outside the door greeting customers and flagging down the complimentary van that shuttles satisfied patrons back to the center of town. This comes in handy when you’ve over eaten and you can’t possibly fathom walking up all of those stairs.
Inside, the manager of the restaurant, Michele, tends to your every need. Not only does he provide you with a warm welcome, but he also rolls the fresh catch of the day right to your table. You can feast your eyes on all of the fish caught that day, in its entirety, eyes and all, and take your pick of exactly which one you want cooked for your plate. For our first dinner, we started with an appetizer of fresh prosciutto and mozzarella, followed by spaghetti with clams for me and spaghetti with olives and capers for Paul. Paul made sure to sample my entrée and I made sure to sample his. It’s hard to put into words just how tasty this food was. You’ll just have to take our word for it. It was FABULOUS!
While slurping my spaghetti and clams, I noticed a table of Italian men spooning an olive oil-like mixture onto their pizzas. My curiosity got the best of me and I kindly asked Michele just what they were topping their pizza with. In no time, Michele brought a bowl of this foreign concoction to our table with a basket of bread. It was their homemade olive oil topping made with fresh chiles. Paul and I LOVE spicy food so, despite our growing bellies, we dove right in. My eyes watered and my mouth burned, but it was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. I made such a fuss about it that Michele invited me back to the restaurant so that he could make me my very own special pasta dish with sauce made from the olive oil and chiles. I promised him I would return the very next day. As we got ready to leave, Michele informed us that we had just missed the shuttle back up to town. Although I was sure I would never make it up those stairs after stuffing myself beyond capacity, I thought maybe the walk would help me burn the dangerous amount of calories I’d racked up. So, just as we were about to set off on our journey, the owner of the restaurant got up from his chair and said, “No, no! I will get you a ride!”. At that moment he let out the loudest whistle I’d ever heard and flagged down the city bus that was ready to wind up the steep cliff. He waved us onto the bus and said, “My friend will take you to the top-a!” We were shocked and amazed and rode our private city bus all the way to the center of town. The bus driver even refused our tip! We put an end to our evening by returning to our hotel, putting our feet up on the balcony, and watching the fireworks over the water. Perfect!
The very next day we returned to Vela Bianca for lunch and Michele kept to his promise to make me my special pasta dish. This is when Vela Bianca became my all time favorite restaurant. You see, Michele didn’t ask the chef to make my special pasta dish with the special sauce. Instead, he wheeled out a cart, brought out all of the ingredients, and made my meal right in front of me, sauce and all. Yes, Michele cooked my meal as I sat and watched in awe. My special sauce consisted of prosciutto di parma, fresh tomato, chili spice, and vodka. Hungry yet? Paul loved my spaghetti and clams from the night before so he made sure to order the clams for lunch.
We also indulged in mussels in marinara sauce. When my Uncle was alive, we found joy in eating mussels, especially slurping the succulent juices out of the shells. It was one of our favorite things to do together and, just before he died, while lying in a hospital bed, he told me about his craving to have just one more dish of mussels. Unfortunately, he never got the chance. When I saw them on the menu at Vela Bianca, I decided I had to have them and once I tasted them and realized just how much better they taste in Italy, I wish my Uncle had gotten the chance to eat them here too. I know he’d be proud that I got to.
We returned to Vela Bianca three more times during our vacation and each time found a new dish to fall in love with. It got to the point that Michele would bring an entrée out for another table, I’d ask what it was, and he’d bring me a plate of it to try. In fact, after a while, Paul told me to stop asking because we were both growing too full to handle anymore food. Some of my favorite other dishes were the linguine with langostine and the seafood risotto. Michele told me they have the best seafood risotto and after cleaning my plate, I’d have to agree.
Vela Bianca and staff were truly some of the most generous people I’ve ever met while traveling. I felt I received the ultimate Italian experience by dining at this fine establishment. Their food was fresh and of the best quality for a very low price. We hope to visit Vela Bianca again someday and want to thank Michele and all of the wonderful people we met who work at Vela Bianca. Grazi, from the bottom of our hearts.