For over a century, Ristorante Don Alfonso 1890 has nestled in the centre of the quaint little village of Sant’Agata Sui Due Golfi, approximately half an hour from the famous town of Sorrento. And for over a Century, it has wowed its clientele with its innovative twist on traditional Italian cooking, carefully crafted by generation after generation of the same talented family.
Despite being slightly off the beaten path, and nowhere near anywhere we were staying on our honeymoon tour of the Amalfi Coast, the restaurant’s two Michelin stars, interesting menu and glowing reviews lured us in and we decided that it was probably worth a detour.
We weren’t wrong. In fact, six perfectly executed tasting menu courses (plus one extra off-menu course for us to sample) and several glasses of bubbly, red wine and Limoncello later and we had both agreed that this was the most memorable meal of our lives. Here’s why:
Every dish was unique
The baked egg with burrata and black truffle for example, which arrived looking exactly like nothing more complex than a raw egg in a dish, but which tasted so delicate yet complex that we both exclaimed in surprise.
The Gnocchi also surprised us with its warm, gooey liquid centres of smoked Scamorza and cherry tomato, which oozed out as we bit in.
And the pièce de résistance was the dramatic dessert platter complete with lashings of dry ice, which poured out over our table, creating the drama that each of these unique creations deserved.
The entire menu exuded passion
Livia, mother of head chef Ernesto runs the front of house and makes it her priority to circle the pretty white tables each evening, checking the guests are comfortable and answering any questions that they might have. She arrived at our table just as the mozzarella soufflé was being served by our waiter.
She described how her son had shut himself away in the kitchen for six whole months to perfect this dish; how it became an all-consuming obsession until he had got it just right. As she spoke, I wondered how a dish so simple could have become so important to him, but as soon as I tasted it I understood. I know that it will be a long time before I eat something so perfect, in texture, taste and composition.
The soufflé was incredible but it wasn’t unique. Every dish that comes out of that kitchen uses simple ingredients but is the product of complex techniques and an incredible amount of passion.
The food was about more than just the finished product
Since 1896, the kitchen has used produce from its own dedicated farm Le Peracciole, which lies a few miles away on the coast facing the island of Capri. Tended by Alfonso’s father (and Livia’s husband) Alfonso, this seven hectare vegetable garden provides an array of beautiful organic ingredients for the restaurant, from olive oil and lemons, to seed, grain and tomatoes.
The restaurant’s wine list is also given very careful consideration. In fact, the extensive wine cellar which dates back to the fifteenth century is one of the most interesting things about the villa in which the restaurant is housed, and we were lucky enough to be taken on a quick tour down the ancient stone staircase which leads to the maze of chambers which house the 25,000 or so bottles on offer to the restaurant’s patrons.
We felt like a part of the family
We were welcomed warmly at the door, as if we were old friends visiting the family home for dinner. We were congratulated throughout the meal for our recent nuptials, and our meal was turned into a celebration by the kind staff.
When we had finished, Livia asked if we would like to visit the kitchens and meet her son, and we jumped at the chance to shake the hand of the man who had concocted the best meal of our lives.
She then invited us into their family home, to show us maps of the farm, and talk about the history of the restaurant. It was clear to us that this was far more than a business to her, it was her entire life, and we were so grateful to her for sharing her passion with us so warmly.
We didn’t want to leave
It was nearing midnight when Livia finally led us out to our waiting cab. We had arrived for an early dinner and I wasn’t sure where the last five hours had gone! I waved out of the back window of the cab as we pulled away, Livia still standing out on the pavement to see us off. I felt as though we were leaving old, beloved friends, and even though we had been there for a short amount of time, I knew that this meal would live on in our memories for a very long time to come.
Mr Sunshine says:
“This truly was a unique experience for both of us. For a two Michelin Star restaurant, I was expecting glitz and glamour but the look and feel of the restaurant was actually pretty unassuming. That’s the beauty of this place: they let the food do the talking. From cheese soufflés to decadent desserts, every bite had us smiling from ear to ear! A family institution and one we were honoured to be a part of, for a few hours at least!”
Don Alfonso 1890 | Corso Sant’Agata, 11/13, 80064 Sant’Agata sui Due Golfi, Massa Lubrense NA, Italy | +39 081 878 0026
End note: At the end of the night we were ushered from the house to our waiting cab and as we were a little tipsy by this point, we didn’t realise that we hadn’t paid for our meal until we were almost back at our hotel. We were left wondering whether this meal was given to us for free or whether it was an oversight that we were not asked for payment at the end. If it was the latter and we left without paying then we are truly sorry to this lovely family who welcomed us so warmly! We emailed to apologise, and next time we are back on the Amalfi Coast, we have promised that we will come back to foot the bill (and have another incredible meal of course)!
I am posting this as part of the monthly travel link-up with Angie, Jessi, Emma and co-host Tanja at Red Phone Box Travels. This month is all about memorable food experiences – link-up your post before the 7th!