Wolfgang Puck is among the most prolific chefs in the world, with over 20 restaurants in the United States and dozens more worldwide.
While we can track Puck’s fame to his early beginnings in California’s West Hollywood at Ma Maison (a celebrity mainstay in the 1970s) and Spago (where he debuted many of his signature dishes, including his smoked salmon pizza), Puck’s career traces back to his humble upbringing in Austria and his adventures throughout France (where he trained at Maxim’s in Paris, the Hôtel de Paris in Monaco and the two-starred L’Oustau de Baumanière in Provence).
As such, Puck’s culinary renown is strongly linked to the influence and power of extensive travel. “For a short vacation,” he tells us, “my favorite place is Capri.” For his wedding to partner and fashion designer Gelila Assefa in 2007, Puck chose Capri for its spectacular views of the Tyrrhenian Sea and unique culinary offerings.
At their wedding celebration at the Grand Hotel Quisisana (established in 1861), Puck selected a local folk-dance troupe called Scialapopolo to entertain guests, which included the island’s very own mayor. A five-tier wedding cake made with Capri lemons set the tone for a significant day in this unique locale.
While the limestone and sandstone rock is best known for its crystalline Blue Grotto, towering Faraglioni Rocks and the Palazzo al Mare, regular visitors of Capri like Puck suggest snorkeling at Marina Piccola beach, fabled to be where Odysseus was lured by the Sirens’ song. Capri has served as a resort for lovers of beauty since the Roman Republic when Augustus detailed the island with villas, aqueducts and gardens for his own private paradise. It has since hosted artists and authors throughout the centuries, from Somerset Maugham to John Singer Sargent.
When Puck visits Capri, there is one restaurant in the area that charms him most, and coincidentally, is not on the island at all. “[It is] in Nerano,” he explains, “which is on the mainland about [a] 15 or 20 minute boat ride away.” Located at the tip of the coast, Nerano is a small fishing town about a half hour by car from Sorrento and an hour from Amalfi.
The Emperor Tiberio Nerone first found Nerano on a boat ride from Capri, and arrived in the Marina del Cantone. So enraptured with the beauty of this piece of the coast, he built a villa and named the village “Neronianum,” since shortened to its current name. Puck recommends a restaurant there called Lo Scoglio.
Lo Scoglio is first and foremost a simple hotel with 14 rooms, each priced under €200 a night, run by the De Simone family since 1956. But it also a restaurant, and one that has taken hold of Puck’s heart. “They have the best fish from the Mediterranean there,” he says, “and the most amazing zucchini pasta.”
Lo Scoglio’s dishes highlight the area’s famed seafood as well as fruits and vegetables harvested by chef and owner Peppino De Simone on the family’s farms across the island, in Pontone and Villaggio Caso. Guests sit overlooking the water with plates full of freshly made pasta with seafood caught minutes before serving. “I remember the tartufi di mare, the little clams,” says Puck, recalling the menu, which features linguine with sea urchin and lobster, as well as the typical local fish, blue-spotted sea bream, served grilled or baked with fresh lemon. “Even the bread is amazing.”
From the main square of Nerano, guests can follow the main road toward Marina del Cantone and turn right for Jeranto Bay. Here guests can find the natural marine reserve of Punta Campanella, a stunning succession of grottoes, inlets and bays with walking paths and views of Cantone Bay and the tiny private archipelago Li Galli. Guests of Nerano can also visit Villa Rosa, the former house of English writer Norman Douglas, set into a natural area known for its limestone and copper.
While in Nerano, guests should visit olive terraces and the Fiord of Crapolla, 20 minutes up the coast by car. While at the fiord, guests should look out for the fishermen’s traditional lobster pots, handwoven with reed and myrtle and used to capture the famous local pink shrimp.