Don Alfonso 1890 – a southern Italian jewel.

I thought the name Don Alfonso name sounded familiar before we arrived – and then suddenly I remembered a marble clad restaurant in Macao – suddenly this lost corner of Southern Italy became a lot less lost !

The current Don, grandson of the original Alfonso Iaccarino, after whom the restaurant is named, is a gastronomic icon in Southern Italy. His 2 star Michelin restaurant is in the little town of Sant’Agata high up above the Italian coast on the Sorrento peninsula.

18 chefs work hard to share his passion for Southern Mediterranean specialities based on local produce, much of which comes from their own 6ha organic farm  ‘La Perricole’ a few miles down the coast, just opposite Capri. Here they grow lemons for their lemon liquor, olives for their olive oil as well as fruit and vegetables for the table.

The lemons are also used for a sparkling homemade lemon juice with which they welcome you to this intimate 19th century palazzo which also houses a small hotel and a cooking school.

As with many successful Italian companies this is a family affair run with his wife Livia and their sons Ernesto and Mario.

The cooking school at Don Alfonso

After visiting the farm to understand their passion for the produce you can try your own hand at some of the signature dishes from pasta to pastries and much more in between. The recently creating cooking school is on the edge of the garden with the doors wide open to the Italian sunshine.

Stay in one of the recently renovated rooms or in the tiny “Poet’s House,” in the garden by the pool named after the local poet Salvatore Di Giacomo who used it as his summerhouse. You certainly will not be able to drive home down those twisty mountain roads if you want to do justice to the wine cellar. Amongst the 25 000 bottles, as well as a great selection of local Campanilla wines, there are many famous international names, including Bordeaux of course, all hidden in a spectacular cellar which has  parts dating from the 17th century to the 6th century BC. Yes BC – a stone tunnel leads down 40 metres to a well where, along with the wines, they age wonderful old buffalo cheeses.

The 6th century BC tunnel down to the Don Alfonso cellar

And why Macao? well amongst his many other talents Alfonso Iaccarino has opened 2 international restaurants, one is the Grand Lisboa in Macao the other in the Marmounia in Marrakech, addresses that reflect the standing of the original establishment. The Marmounia apparently also has it’s own vegetable garden but I can’t imagine it is quite as poetic as the hills above the coastline of the spectacular Sorrento coast.

 

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