Elegant, romantic, charming, and exquisite are just a few of the words that I would use to describe the fine dining food, hospitality, and experience at the Michelin-starred Ristorante Don Alfonso 1890. The gourmet, indoor and outdoor (garden) destination invites guests the opportunity to savor the local flavors and recipes from the Sorrento Peninsula and the Amalfi Coast with a contemporary twist.
The award-winning chefs and world-class menu preserve and honor culinary traditions and invent new flavors, techniques, and presentation. It’s menu items are even captioned with the year that a dish was "created" or “revisited.” The restaurant reflects a philosophy that is innovative while respecting old traditions (Don Alfonso has been in the Iaccarino family since 1890).
“Farm-to-table” may be a cliche now, but it wasn’t in the 1970s when Livia and Alfonso were a young couple with an out-of-the-box idea that the food that grew in their backyard had more value than the stuff that came in a can. Let's just say.. they made history.
Now let's get to the menu. It’s so forkin’ good.
The basics: the Italian ingredients - tomatoes, olives, herbs, lemons - are all grown on their own organic farm. And, let me tell you, they are fresher than fresh and exceptionally flavorful. I will never forget the moment I bit into veggies. I turned to my husband, looked at him and said: “these are the best veggies of my life.” And, I meant it. It was truly loved at first bite.
Each dish was exquisitely crafted with each more creative and beautiful than the one before. Overall, a five-star meal, and experience — service included.
Just like the menu, with dishes created with ingredients from the restaurant's local farm, Le Peracciole, the team ties back to its roots. Not only are the wait staff friendly, welcoming and accommodating, but you will receive a special visit from the chef and owner (Livia) during your meal. It’s very personable, and a real pleasure to see how involved and passionate the family are about the customers’ experience at their restaurant.
This is very impactful for me as a customer. After all, dining out is a luxury. Personally, it’s not about eating at the most expensive restaurant, but rather the quality of the food and *service.* Service is a huge component in the decision to choose to eat out. If the overall hospitality/experience is lackluster, it takes the enjoyment out of the meal that you are spending your hard earned money on.
In addition to the menu, Don Alfonso 1890 boasts a wine cellar with 25,000 bottles that was, once, a pre-Roman cave discovered in the coast’s mountains. Sounds cool, right? Well, the owner, Livia, invited us to have a tour. Yup, you heard that right! It’s about to get way cooler.
In my opinion, I can’t imagine a wine cellar being more mythic than this one. It begins with rooms for whites and reds, old and important bottles. Then, the drama begins. Enter: the staircase, an old Etruscan passageway carved from Tufo, the rock that is the foundation of the Campania region. The stairs are smooth, strong and rather narrow. As you descend, you’ll have wines on both your left and right sides. The deeper you go down, the more valuable the wines in Don Alfonso's impressive collection. There are 25,000 bottles down at the bottom, each carefully documented and wrapped in cellophane to protect the labels. This cellar is an altar to “the grape.”
Just when you think that the cellar couldn’t get any more interesting or fascinating, when you get a few floors down the spiral staircase, you stop at the base of what used to be a well — yes, a water well — where you can find a room full of house-made cheese and salumi. *This is as far as they’ve excavated, however, they suspect the passageway leads all the way down to the sea.
It was incredible, fascinating and it smelled so damn good.
After catching our breath post cellar tour, we were then invited to check out the kitchen and speak with the executive chef. We happened to walk in to the staff preparing dessert -- my favorite meal. It was fun to watch!
After chatting about the history, cuisine, and business, it was time for us to go. To my complete surprise, Livia so kindly gifted me a book from the restaurant’s library: “Relais & Châteaux 2018 Guide.” It was a very sweet and thoughtful keepsake that I will forever cherish, and remember our incredible Don Alfonso experience and trip by!
If you have a tripped planned to the Amalfi Coast, I highly recommend making a reservation at Don Alfonso. It may be a bit of a detour from your normal route (Sant’Agata, Italy), but it's well-worth the fork in the road. I will certainly be returning the next time I am in the Amalfi. Bon appetit!
So next time you're in the area, head in and make your debut to see what you discover!
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