It sounds like one of those unassuming, family taverns the locals would flock to for homely food and lots of it. It even looks like one, at first glance. But no. Antica Osteria Nonna Rosa, on the road that climbs out of Vico Equense towards Monte Faito, is a gourmet destination boasting a Michelin star. Not that chef Peppe Guida, who opened the place with his wife Lella a good 20 years ago, shuns tradition: far from it. The cuisine that earned the reputation is a continual, contemporary revisitation of a whole culinary legacy, presumably that of Grandma Rosa, certainly of these Neapolitan parts. The intense flavours of regional classics meet creative nouvelle flair, and Peppe Guida performs an impeccable balancing act using the finest produce from the sea and the land around and about.
Most every dinner starts with a delicious meatball hors d’oeuvre, a traditional morsel that makes a statement. It likely ends with Peppe’s zeppoline fritte (to which a translation cannot do justice). In between, mostly (but not only) seafood and/or vegetable pasta dishes and mains, precisely executed and presented, always original, accompanied by homemade bread and grissini. And then those exquisite Neapolitan desserts. But leave it to Peppe: his tasting menu (at €80) is your best bet. The wine list is nonpareil in the area, though a good bottle needn’t break the bank. The Antica Osteria maintains a cottagey face and feel with its bare stone walls and timbered ceilings that date back to the 17th century, again striking a winning balance between elegance and intimacy. Vico Equense is quite a destination in itself. Not as renowned as its neighbours on the Amalfi coast, it’s still strategically located where the Bay of Naples ends and the Sorrento peninsula begins – or the other way round, depending on your direction… Whatever, Nonna Rosa and some spectacular sightseeing go well together.