Meet Eleonora Baldwin, a food writer, blogger, photographer and culinary tour guide living in Rome, Italy. Eleanora was born in the United States from an American father and an Italian mother, and she moved to Italy when she was still a little girl. She grew up in Rome, where she built a career as a food & travel writer and journalist. She also conducts gourmet tours in Rome – in fact, that’s how I met her, and it’s through her eyes and enthusiasm that I fell in love with the city’s timeless beauty and culinary treasures. She’s extremely knowledgeable about Italy’s culinary traditions and knows the best off-the-tourist-map gourmet spots everywhere around the country (I know, I tested her many times!). Here’s Positano, Italy, in her own words.
My Edible City
Steinbeck visited Positano in 1953 and in an essay, “Positano bites deep”, he wrote. “It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there, and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.” I return, visiting as often as I can, since I can’t be away from the embracing aroma of the bougainvillea, the sparkle of the water at noon, and the flavors of my childhood for too long. Positano has played a pivotal role in my appreciation for food, and is the one place where I experienced the strongest, most intense sensual encounters with flavor, aroma and texture.
I was seven years old, it happened off the coast of Positano, on board a smelly fishing boat (which I have in the meantime learned to love and board as often as I possibly can). O’ fratillo is Salvatore’s nickname, and it means ‘the younger brother’ in Neapolitan. The older of the two brothers, Gennaro still considers Fratillo the younger kid. They are both in their advanced sixties. But I digress.
On the boat, out at sea, Positano in the distance, islands of Homeric fame nearby. My mother is sunbathing, cicadas are singing, and Fratillo is hauling up a fishnet full of gleaming, silvery creatures, as the lapping Mediterranean tickles the sides of the moored “gozzo” vessel. He motions me over to him, and out of the tangle of seaweed and netting, he extracts a shrimp the size of my pinky finger, and tears its head off. Out of his calloused fisherman hand he feeds me the raw shrimp, fresh from the sea. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a multitude of senses all at once like on that mid-July afternoon. The sweetness and buttery texture of the shrimp, the salty fingers that brought it to my child lips, the boldness of the gesture, the aroma of the sea… That incident left a mark in that I began to appreciate seafood from that day onward with an open, curious mind you’d not expect of a child.
My Favorite Dish
Freshly caught shrimp. Over the years of spending summers in Positano, and being exposed to freshly caught wild fish, my palate grew trained to more and more sophisticated flavors, I learned the tricks of catching octopus, and I began experimenting in the kitchen, testing new flavor combinations, daring novel cooking methods with fish, mollusks and crustaceans. But my point of reference was always the peasant, fisherman cuisine of the Positano villagers.
So now I can bake a salt-crust sea bass for 15 people, stew calamari with potatoes, or extract perfect ink sacs from cuttlefish for risotto, but my pièce de resistance will always be a homage to that first sensual encounter with the perfect shrimp fed by O’ fratillo’s fingers.
Crudo di Gamberi (Marinated Shrimp)
Remove the carapace and de-vein 10 small wild shrimps or prawns. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil; dribble the juice of 1/2 lemon and 1/2 orange; dust with cracked black pepper, and season with sea salt to taste.
Marinade for 10 minutes, while the white wine chills. Eat with your hands.
- Eleonora’s Guide to Positano for a Weekend
- Salvatore “Fratillo” Capraro – portrayed by National Geographic photographer Massimo Bassano
- More of Eleonora’s photos of Positano
- Positano’s Tourism Board Website
- Visit Positano and the Amalfi Coast by boat: Gennaro & Salvatore Boat excursions
- And while you’re there, learn how to cook some of the tastiest local specialties at the Buca di Bacco cooking school
Next Week on Edible Cities