Limoncello & Other Rosoli
The typical liqueur of the Costeria, limoncello is the most famous of the rosoli -- sweet liqueurs made locally from fruits and herbs. The most unusual are finocchietto (wild fennel), lauro (bay leaf), mirto (myrtle), nocello (walnut), nanassino (prickly pear), the exotic mandarino (mandarin), and fragolino (wild strawberry).
Limoncello is probably the most versatile rosolio. You will find local versions -- and endless claims of paternity -- from Vico Equense on the Sorrento peninsula all the way to Vietri and beyond, to the islands of Ischia, Capri, and Procida. The liqueur's actual origin is probably the area of Maiori, Amalfi, and Vietri -- although Sorrento has good foundations for its claim.
Almost every family in Campania has its own recipe, passed on for centuries. True limoncello is made from sfusato di Amalfi, a particular lemon that has obtained D.O.P. recognition (the stamp of controlled origin for produce, similar to D.O.C. for wine). The Amalfi lemon is large, long, and light in color, with a sweet and very flavorful aroma and taste, almost no seeds, and a very thick skin.
Limoncello is sold in pretty, hard-to-resist bottles. If you plan to buy a few bottles as gifts, don't forget to give the recipient tips on how to drink it. Always served very cold (often straight from the deep freeze where the alcoholic content keeps it just liquid), the drink can be sipped as a digestive after a meal. It also makes an excellent lemon-flavored long drink -- dilute with tonic water or seltzer. Some like it as a cocktail with a small quantity of champagne or prosecco. To make granite, dilute the limoncello with simple syrup and freeze it, stirring occasionally.
You can buy these liqueurs from various specialty stores, the most reputed of which is Limunciel, Corso Vittorio Emanuele 9, Minori (tel. 089-877393). This shop was also among the first to commercialize the local rosolio, which it makes in small batches according to a generations-old recipe. Another excellent shop is Profumi della Costiera, Via Trinita 37, Ravello (tel. 089-858167; www.profumidellacostiera.it).