Saturday, August 29, 2015

Casa Mele

Once in Positano, you don’t have to walk far before coming upon an impressive floor-to-ceiling glass front where, carved into a concrete slab of a counter were three welcoming letters: B A R. An additional glance brought into view a life-size sculpture of a pig with an enticing graphic logo incorporating a house, spoon, fork and apple. This is the entrance to Casa Mele. The design of the ultra modern kitchen projects the warmth and hospitality of Chef Raffaelle Mandara’s residence where many over the years have dined and enjoyed festive meals.

We had made reservations for this trendy restaurant ahead of time.  It was only a 5 minute walk from our hotel, so we were able to get there with no problem.  The waitstaff were much more hipster in appearance than all the other places we'd visited in Italy so far, but the quality of service was just as attentive and professional.

Along with house made breadsticks and crackers, we were treated to an amuse bouche of the typical stuffed zucchini blossom, served with a basil puree.  It was slightly better than the others we had so far, but just redundant for us.

As a starter, I chose the Caprese Salad.  Since we were just in Capri earlier in the day, I wanted us to get a local version.  The tomatoes were from Sorrento and were bright and juicy.  The buffalo mozzarella and buffalo ricotta cheese were amazing.  I could eat a whole block of this cheese.  Served simply with s drizzle of olive oil, black pepper, and a garnish of basil, this salad was simple and fresh.

Keith started with the Amberjack Crudo with Fennel and Campari Oranges.  This beautifully plated dish had Asian influences, and was a summery explosion of flavors.  The fish was super fresh and the portion size enough to share a little with me.  We really enjoyed this starter.

As a first course, Keith chose the Pasta Genovese.  A stewed sauce of seven types of meat with onions and tomatoes were served with tube-shaped pasta.  This hearty sauce is also known as Neapolitan sauce, as it is indicative to the region. 

I ordered a pasta dish as my main entree, that was large flat tube pasta with a mixed seafood sauce made of calamari, shrimp, mussels, clams, and fish with hearty tomatoes and a touch of saffron.  The flavors were reminiscent of a cioppino.  I could see local fisherman eating this dish on a cold night, but it was not too heavy for this summer's night either.  It was very delicious and filling, and one of my most memorable dishes from this visit to Positano.

For his secondi, Keith enjoyed a piece of fresh sea bass with crispy skin, served with a lemon butter sauce and fresh grilled vegetables.  The fish was meaty and flaky and again, highlights the fresh abundance of seafood in this area.

Lastly, for dessert, we shared the Ricotta Cheesecake with Red Berries. The locals call currants simply 'red berry' here, so we were unsure what kind of berries we were getting until the dish arrived.  But the tartness of the currants balanced out the sweetness of the raspberries and cheesecake.  The cake itself was whipped so lightly, that it almost melted in your mouth.  However, the crust was a bit too thick, and almost too hard to cut with our spoons.

Though we still had seafood, which was a consistent theme of all our meals so far in Naples and Positano, we appreciated the modern and contemporary approaches to using seafood at Casa Mele.  Each dish seemed to be an imaginative twist on a local classic.  The quality of ingredients were apparent and overall, we had a lovely meal.

Casa Mele also offers the opportunity to experience a savory, regionally inspired feast that can be partnered with a hands-on cooking class.  I highly recommend this modern gem in Positano.

Total Rating: 4.45
Food: 5, Price: 3.5, Service: 4.5, Ambience: 3.5, Accessibility: 5

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