Although you can now get limoncello all over Italy (and in most of Europe or any self-respecting Italian joint in the US), its home is the Amalfi Coast region where the famous Sfumato, or Sorrento, lemons are grown.
I first encountered limoncello decades ago at Nonna Cherubina restaurant (don’t look for it, Stefi and Luigi moved to Spain years ago) in Warwick, Rhode Island. Karen and I dined there all the time and to this day we still recreate some of their recipes at home like pasta with lentils, goat cheese and rosemary. So good!
Stefi and Luigi worked incredibly hard at the restaurant and didn’t often get to go home to Italy, so their family and friends would come to Rhode Island to visit. One night we met Luigi’s friend Otis (a nickname given to him because of his love for Otis Redding) who was visiting from Bologna. We spent a raucous evening laughing too loud and drinking limoncello.
A couple years later were visiting Bologna and Luigi put us in touch with Otis. Keep in mind, Otis only knew Karen and I from one evening spent in a restaurant, but when he found out we were coming, he insisted on taking us out and showing us his city along with his sister and her fiancé. When Otis deposited us back at our hotel at 2am his sister asked “What time should we pick you up tomorrow?” Nothing like Italian hospitality.
When you get to the Amalfi Coast you’ll notice it is quite a bit different from the other parts of Italy you may visit. There are not a lot of historic must-see blockbuster sites. The city of Amalfi has a nice cathedral, though, as does Positano.
When shopping for limoncello, I recommend Antichi Sapori d’Amalfi in the town of Amalfi. You can’t miss it; their store is right at the foot of the giant staircase leading to the cathedral. I was hesitant to go in at first; this place looks like a tourist trap from the outside. But, they make their own limoncello with good ingredients.
Antichi Sapori d’Amalfi uses the famous Sfusato lemons from the Amalfi Coast, an ugly, knobby fruit with an amazing flavor. These lemons were likely brought to this part of Italy by Arabs from nearby north Africa.
Antichi Sapori d’Amalfi makes traditional limoncello but also experiments with new flavors like limoncello infused with juniper and peppermint. And they have bottles with interesting designs and fun shaped bottles which make a perfect gift. Some bottles are even 100cl or less so you could conceivably pack a bottle in your carry on, although many airlines don’t allow alcohol in your carry on.
Another option is to pack your bottles in your checked baggage. Word to the wise if you do this. The corks in limoncello bottles are not sealed as securely as, say, wine bottles. Take it from someone who learned the hard way and had a suitcase of wet and sticky clothes upon returning home; seal the bottles yourself using heavy duty tape.
Antichi Sapori d’Amalfi also offers shipping, but it is quite expensive.
About the Author
Brent Petersen is the Editor-in-Chief of Destination Eat Drink. He currently resides in Setubal, Portugal. Brent has written the novel “Truffle Hunt” (Eckhartz Press) and the short story collection “That Bird.” He’s also written dozens of foodie travel guides to cities around the world on Destination Eat Drink, including in-depth eating and drinking guides to Lisbon, Porto, Sintra, Monsaraz, and Evora in Portugal. Brent’s podcast, also called Destination Eat Drink, is available on all major podcasting platforms and is distributed by the Radio Misfits Podcast Network.