Intimate table setting at Grotta Palazzese's cave restaurant in Polignano Italy
Shutterstock | zoaki

Italy’s Famous Cave Restaurant: Grotta Palazzese 

A dining odyssey where Amalfi's cliffs embrace the Adriatic and history echos in every corner.

Located in the heart of Southern Italy, Grotta Palazzese Restaurant is a highlight of Puglia’s fine dining scene, drawing visitors to its distinctive cliffside grandeur. This iconic establishment, perched upon the cliffs of Polignano a Mare, offers a dining experience that is as much about the ambiance as it is Puglia’s rich culinary heritage. Recognized as one of the top 10 most exclusive outdoor restaurants globally, the restaurant has garnered rave reviews in prestigious publications around the world. 

Overlooking the mesmerizing Adriatic Sea and carved into the vertical cliffs of the Amalfi Coast, Grotta Palazzese promises an experience that is truly unique. Here, vaulted limestone caverns forged by time serve as your dining halls. These age-old formations, combined with the region’s commitment to gastronomic brilliance, have shaped Grotta Palazzese’s reputation in the Puglia dining scene.  

History & Design

The history of Grotta Palazzese is as intricate as the natural cave in which it resides. Its historical roots trace back to ancient times and are heavily influenced by the region’s Greek colony heritage. 

The cave’s culinary excellence isn’t new either — during the 1700s, it was a hub for the area’s elite, with the echoes of banquets and merriment still lingering around. In fact, the menu prominently displays the 1783 artwork ‘La Grotta di Palazzo’ by French painter Jean Louis Desprez, which portrays a banquet inside the cave.

Today, the cavern’s design is a blend of nature’s craftsmanship and human ingenuity. The muted lighting, wood-paneled cave floor, and white linen-covered tables take center stage, but the rest of the space has been kept as natural as possible. Jagged rock still serves as the roof and the large cave opening allows sea birds to fly in and out. 

As the sun sets, the cave transforms. Candles illuminate the limestone, casting shadows against the rocks and unifying history, design, and nature into a captivating dance.

The Experience

From the artfully arranged table settings to the discreetly attentive staff to the soft glow of shadows flickering against the sea cave walls along the Italian shore, Grotta Palazzese is the quintessential romantic restaurant. 

And while several restaurants on the Mediterranean Sea are sure to be a unique dining experience, the ambiance at Grotta Palazzese is unparalleled. Guests enter the restaurant through a door built into the clifftop and are instantly greeted by a fusion of Italy’s rich culinary traditions and the essence of the Mediterranean. 

The menu is a curated offer combining Italian and Mediterranean classics, with an emphasis on fresh pasta and seafood, an ode to the Adriatic just a stone’s throw away. There’s more to this cave restaurant than great food, however. Each table has its own unique charm, setting the stage for intimate candlelit dinners against a background of waves crashing on the shore. 

Grotta Palazzese's cave restaurant against the Mediterranean sea
iStock | Zigres

The Menu

At Grotta Palazzese, every bite reads like a line from Italy’s rich culinary history. The restaurant offers five curated menus: Gold, Instinto, Essenza, Verdemare, and Abbraaccio — each set menu an invitation through the rich and diverse flavors of Puglia.

For those with an inclination for the finer things, the Gold menu offers the Caviar Grotta Palazzese Selection – a trio of indulgences featuring Beluga, Asetra, and Karaburun caviars. Complemented with delicate blinis, velvety sour cream, salted butter, wild salmon, and the zest of Cantabrico’s anchovies, this dish translates the essence of the sea onto the plate in a symphony of flavors.

The Abbraccio menu will satisfy vegetarians and vegans, while meat eaters will find a blend of seafood, meats, and desserts that capture the very spirit of Mediterranean cuisine in the other menus.

A la carte options are also available for dinner. From the single dishes, the Raviolo Cacio e Pepe is a showstopper. Imagine tender ravioli pockets filled with the sharp tang of Pecorino, mellowed by the warmth of freshly cracked pepper, and crowned with succulent prawn and a dollop of rich caviar. 

Another masterpiece is the vegan Fava Bean and Chicory dish. Here, creamy tofu pairs with the gentle bite of chicory, accentuated by the sweet and sour notes of caramelized onions.

The Drinks

Whether you’re raising a toast with a vintage or savoring a handcrafted cocktail at Grotta Palazzese, every drink tells a story.

Grotta Palazzese’s curated drink list perfectly complements the menu. For the truly indulgent, there’s an exclusive option to enhance the Gold menu by adding a bottle of the prestigious Cristal Brut 2014, a champagne revered for its age-worthy finesse and elegance.  

Diners also have the option to choose from the extensive wine list, which showcases an impressive range of robust reds, delicate roses, and vibrant whites sourced from some of the world’s most acclaimed vineyards. Their whites, especially, bear crisp, fruity notes to perfectly balance the seafood’s richness.

But wines are just the beginning. Martini enthusiasts will love the expertly mixed variations, while craft beer aficionados can sip on select brews that nod to both local and international flavors. 

The spirit section showcases a vast selection from all over the world. A standout is the Cognac Louis XIII Remy Martin, crafted using eaux-de-vie aged between 40 and 100 years and showcasing hints of myrrh, honey, dried roses, plum, and leather. 

The Hotel

The Grotta Palazzese Hotel stands out as a jewel in luxury Italian hospitality. Ranked among the best beach hotels in Italy, its façade, a harmonious blend of historic stonework and delicate archways, showcases centuries of elegance. 

Rooms are adorned with soft-hued textiles, marble finishes, and elegant woodwork, all illuminated by the golden Mediterranean sunlight filtering through expansive windows. Private balconies offer panoramic views of the azure sea and the secluded stretch of sand and sea below. The hotel’s private beach, set in a scenic cove, captures the very essence of a Mediterranean paradise.

Know Before You Go

Grotta Palazzese’s allure is no secret, and its reputation attracts food enthusiasts and romantic souls from all corners of the world. Given its high demand and exclusive setting, reservations are not just recommended but often required. 

Guests with reservations also receive complimentary parking, transferred to the restaurant by their driver. 

To experience this iconic cave restaurant and ensure you don’t miss out on its delightful dishes, secure a booking in advance (and prepare your attire — the restaurant’s dress code requires long pants and no sandals). Guests of the Hotel Grotta Palazzese Hotel have a guaranteed table along the railing overlooking the sea. 

Restaurant Info

Address: Via Narciso, 59, 70044 Polignano a mare BA, Italy

Website: https://www.grottapalazzese.it/

Instagram: @ristorantegrottapalazzese

Price: $$$ 

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