Quattro Passi

13/N 80061 Massa Lubrense, Massa Lubrense, Italy

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On the western end of the Amalfi coast overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea is Quattro Passi, an Italian restaurant with a view out over the Gulf of Naples. The main dining room is upstairs, with modern decor: white tiled floor, glass spiral staircase, with ornamental fish tails hanging from the ceiling. On the staircase was a picture of the chef with Vladimir Putin, which I mention since the chef was in fact not present in the kitchen on the night of my visit but off on a consulting assignment in Moscow. A tasting menu was on offer for €100, but we went a la carte.

The wine list had selections such as Elena Walch Castel Ringberg Sauvignon Blanc 2009 at €45 for a wine that retail at €17, Jermann Vintage Tunina 2005 at €90 for a wine that you can find in a shop for €41, and Le Pergle Torte 1998 at €190 for a wine that will set you back €77 in a shop. Hence mark-up levels seemed reasonable. As a nibble we were given deep-fried rocket with a garnish of radiccio, a pleasant way to start the meal (14/20). Bread was made from scratch in the large kitchens, and consisted of warm white rolls, flat bread and bread sticks (15/20).

The best dish of the night was tagliatelle with pesto and scampi, the pasta having good texture and the pesto sauce imparting its flavour of basil and pine nuts. I did find it rather mean in terms of portion control that the dish came with just a solitary small langoustine, but to be fair this was carefully cooked and tasted fresh (16/20). Deep fried fish was exactly as described, a plate of deep fried, cod, squid and langoustines. The menu mentioned vegetables, but these were not obvious. The fish was fine and the batter reasonable, though the dish would have benefitted from something green on the plate, even if deep fried (14/20).

My Fassone beef (from Piedmont) was served with mash, cabbage and a jus. The main problem was the beef, which was cooked all right but was remarkably chewy. On inquiring it transpired that the beef was aged just five days, which is just not long enough and entirely accounted for the chewy texture (the chef acknowledged this). This is all the more annoying given that Fassone beef can be truly excellent. Moreover the cabbage served on the side was extremely salty, even for my taste. This was not really edible (10/20). The staff were very nice about it, and offered an alternative dish of veal, which was much better (14/20).

A pre-dessert of lemon sorbet had nice lemon flavour and pleasant texture but was lacking in balancing sugar, so the dish was much too sharp (12/20). A red berry tart had good pastry and nice quality fruit (15/20). Sadly a vanilla soufflé was just poor, with a hard crust, the filling overcooked (barely 11/20). Coffee was fine.

This was a disappointing meal, wildly inconsistent in standard. The staff were very nice about the issues and generous regarding adjusting the bill (without my asking), but this level of cooking should not be happening in a restaurant than has held a Michelin star for a decade. The chef being absent seemed particularly hard to excuse since the restaurant closes anyway for the winter in November, but he clearly decided not to wait just a couple more weeks for that. Just three tables were taken on the evening of our visit.


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