Pepino and his family run a ristorante high in the cliffs of Positano. On our first night, the hotel manager Maria (an Italian woman who looks just like you think she does) arranged for us to be his guests for dinner, complete with a driver to pick us up promptly at 7:00 p.m.
The wind was blowing pretty good and it was starting to rain. I was glad someone else would be negotiating the hairpin turns and narrow streets that led to this invitation-only event.
I didn't gasp like Mom used to, but when our driver saw me drumming my fingers on my leg, he laughingly reached over to hold my hand. He spoke NO English whatsoever, but he knew the international sign for "holy shit"...
Pepino met us at the door like we were long lost friends. After choosing a view table that felt suspended from the cliffs over the ocean, he proceeded to bring out one sampler plate after another filled with five courses of an Italian feast!
No menu; just "whatever Mama feels like cooking tonight". Not surprisingly, they make their own red wine (divine) and it was flowing as well. The variety of tasties is just too numerous to list, but the Mama's Pasta No Name was a highlight.
Right before Ron and I slipped into a food coma, Pepino brought us a tiny glass of heaven, a liqueur called Lemoncello (to give us courage for the drive down, I suspect).
Positano is where people practice the Art of Simply Being. After the hectic pace of Rome, no one here is in a hurry. People linger over sweets and cappuccino for breakfast before wandering the shops and basking in the sun on the black sand beaches.
Everything is a picture postcard waiting to be snapped. The shops highlight Italy's beautifully feminine fashion (scarves, sumptuous fabrics, lace, and leather). Most pieces are actually made here and the pride shows.
There is a man who makes custom-fit sandals, a bakery where you don't know the names of anything, but want to taste everything, and a bright yellow boutique dedicated to...the lemon! Fresh lemons the size of footballs fill huge urns in the doorways and every product contains or is about lemons...Oh rapture!
Our room at the Hotel California is enormous by European standards; simple and elegant, with a huge comfy bed and our own balcony overlooking the town and the sea. Antonio is our host (think Hector Elizondo) and is our beck-and call guy. Maria told me he chose our room...and it is the one used in filming Under the Tuscan Sun.
Our one-night plan turns to two. In the embrace of these friendly, gracious Italians, we remember and relish how sweet life can be. It is hard to leave, but home is starting to call to us.