Reservations for all other restaurants worth writing a blog about have been made well in advance, but Cala del Citro is a new restaurant that we discovered by chance. It belongs to the hotel of the same name and was opened in the summer of 2018. Cala means cove (a small bay with a beach), and the restaurant looks out over the Cala del Citro near Maratea. As we arrived when it was already dark, we could only hear the surf crashing, but at lunchtime (or earlier in summer when it gets dark later) the view from the outside seating of the restaurant must be awesome. Maratea is a town on the beautiful Gulf of Policastro, and also known as the “pearl of the Tyrrhenian Sea”. It is in the narrow piece of Basilicata wedged between Calabria and Campania.
The restaurant offers an a la carte selection as well as a 7 course tasting menu for 70 euros. We opted for the latter.
The first course of the tasting menu looked more like what would be called amuses bouches (small appetizers) at other restaurants. The crispy eggplant and mint ball with a bit of gazpacho was very good. There was also a tiny eggplant quiche and a cod cracker with cruschi mayonaise (cruschi is a type of pepper). The quiche was a replacement for a zucchini blossom stuffed with ricotta, because unfortunately the season for zucchini blossoms is ending.
Three types of seafood carpaccio including prawn and swordfish with various garnishes. The garnishes were all very tasty, but perhaps a bit too many of them.
Basil risotto with vongole. This is an original combination that works well. There was a nice amount of vongole in the risotto. As often happens in restaurants, the consistency of the risotto was not as creamy as homemade risotto.
Fresh tagliolini made with squid ink, raw squid, a sauce of yellow cherry tomatoes, and a bit of bottarga grated on top. This dish was perfect and worthy of at least one Michelin star. The pasta had just the right texture, the raw squid was very tender, and the yellow tomato sauce had the flavor of fresh tomatoes, which brightened up and balanced out the dish. Well done.
Stuffed red mullet with pistachios and a citrus sauce, with black olive powder. This seemed to me as if it was inspired by sarde a beccafico, a similar dish from Sicily with sardines and pinenuts. It is very difficult to serve red mullet with a crispy skin without breaking the skin, which was done perfectly. I thought however that it was a bit hard to make out the mullet due to the amount of stuffing and citrus sauce. Maybe a bit more salt on the mullet, or less stuffing, would have helped. There were some bones left in the fish.
Beltfish with cream of zucchini and mint. The fish was nice and moist. It could have handled a bit more than the small amount of zucchini cream.
A very nice dessert: almond ice cream with crushed amaretti (almond cookies) and amarena cherries. Almonds and cherries are always a good combination, and this has great flavor and a nice contrast between the creamy ice cream and crispy amaretti powder.
I see a great future ahead of the young chef Dario Amaro. The food is presented beautifully and very tasty. All of the dishes in the tasting menu were good, and some were excellent.
The service and the wine of this new restaurant are not yet at the level of the cooking. The service during the menu was fine, but before (waiting to order) and after (waiting for coffee and the check) the waiting times were too long. The wine selection was too limited for a restaurant of this level. The food is ‘wine friendly’ so a wine pairing is not strictly necessary, but a wider selection of white wines by the bottle would be great.
We will certainly return to Cala del Citro when we are again in this area, as I am very curious how the restaurant will evolve. In the meantime, I definitely recommend this restaurant when you are in the area.