Eating on the Amalfi Coast: A Galleon on a Mountain
Casimiro Milano was a citrus merchant, like his father. Every day he would make the four-hour trip from Praiano to the general market in Rome to sell his Amalfi lemons. The work was hard and not profitable, but in the '60s there wasn’t much of a choice for the Praianesi. It was either fishing, or agriculture.
While tourism was somewhat of an option for Amalfi, Praiano remained a small unknown fishing town with one exception: the Africana nightclub. Situated in a cave overlooking the sea, next to an old Spanish watchtower, the Africana quickly became a major destination for the Dolce Vita lovers in the Naples area.
One day Casimiro had the prescient idea of buying a piece of the mountain and opening up a bar on the other side of the tower, near the Africana and just next to the beach, La Praia.
Casimiro in the '60s
He had no experience as a barista. Nor did his wife Pasqualina, a young Neapolitan who had discovered Praiano while visiting her aunt, who lived just above Casimiro. "I would come from Naples to help out my aunt," she recalls. "Casimiro used to hide behind a fig tree to look at me. I liked him. He was a good guy and we got married in October 1960."
Pasqualina was a dressmaker and knew nothing about running a bar, but the idea appealed to her, if only because to stop Casimiro from spending his life hauling Amalfi lemons.
Finding four million lira to pay the Positanese landowner for a piece of the mountain was the easy part for Casimiro. Digging out the mountain to create his bar was more complicated. "To dig the bar out of the mountain. I started with explosives. Then months of chipping away at the stone with a pickaxe," says Casimiro.
Even in difficult times, when the winter storms threatened his property, Casimiro never regretted what he had done. Actually, the more time passed the more he wanted to dedicate to his new endeavor.
Vera, Casimiro, Pasqualina e Rino
A restaurant was a logical next step, but the transition from a bar to a restaurant was as random as spontaneous. "One day a customer came from the beach to ask for a dish of spaghetti with octopus sauce,” Pasqualina recalls. “I suggested he go to a restaurant close by called "Luca". But he planted the idea in my mind and I started offering a few dishes. One day the owner of Luca came and complimented me: "Pasqualina.” he said, “you are an amazing woman.”
The bar soon became a restaurant, and then it needed a name. With the watchtower close by it was natural for Casimiro to think of what his fellow villagers had most feared over the centuries: the pirate. "The choice was between Saracen and Pirate and I chose the latter," he says. Things progressed. "There was a well-known count from the area who came one day with a group of his friends. He sat at the head of the table and said, ‘it’s like sitting at the stern of a ship’. That was a good start, "says Pasqualina. "After dinner he asked for me. I was afraid that something had gone wrong. Instead, he and his guests started clapping."
Now the helm of the galleon has been taken over by Casimiro e Pasqualina’s children, Rino and Vera. And at the stern there may be fewer counts and marquises, but definitely many more regular people from all over the world. Casimiro and Pasqualina are still there to welcome them.
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