Sant ‘Agata sui Due Golfi – Don Alfonso 1890

It had been a long-standing ambition of mine to eat at Don Alfonso which by all accounts is one of the best restaurants in Italy.

For many years I didn’t go because I was always on my own and it seemed a shame not to experience it with someone else. Finally in 2015 I found the occasion when my oldest friend Luke came out to spend a long weekend with me.

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Obviously with two Michelin stars it wasn’t going to be cheap but for both of us it was a once in a lifetime experience so we decided to splash out.

In 2015 the Menu Degustazione was €170 per head, with an add on of €76 for the wine matching. With water, two aperitivos and tax the total bill for two came to €573. Another cost to consider is the taxi from Sorrento which is €50 one way, despite Sant’ Agata only being a short distance away. As I say, treating yourself in this part of Italy is not cheap!

Don Alfonso 1890 (Advanced A), 11-13 Corso Sant’ Agata, Sant’ Agata sui Due Golfi, www.donalfonso.com, closed Monday and Tuesday

I was too busy enjoying myself to grade the food and wine but suffice to say it was all excellent.

To begin ‘Gelato de anguilla, caviale Oscetra, pasta alla rosa canina e battuto di erbe selvatiche’ which is English is ‘Eel ice cream (!), Oscetra caviar, pasta scented with roe and a mince of wild herbs’. Osetra is a top quality Russian sturgeon caviar second only to Beluga in terms of price.

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Not sure what this following dish was as it wasn’t mentioned on the menu.

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Then ‘Petto d’anatra ai sentori di canella con borragine, composta di mele e riduzione di aceto balsamico’ or ‘Duck breast scented with cinnamon, borage, apple preserve and reduction of balsamic vinegar’.

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‘Baci di calamari ripieni con il pescato del giorno su leggero pesto mediterraneo’ which translates as ‘Squid ravioli stuffed with the catch of the day on a light, Mediterranean pesto’.

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‘Cappelli di pasta farciti con stracotto di pollo, salsa di cipolla, parmigiana e tartufo nero’ or ‘Pasta hats stuffed with braised free range chicken, onion sauce, parmesan and black truffle’.

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‘Merluzzo dorato e fritto, servitor con l’osso intero, agrodolce di limoni e yogurt di bufala’ or ‘Breaded and fried codfish served on the bone with a sweet and sour lemon sauce and buffalo milk yogurt’.

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‘Filetto di manzo del Beneventano in crosta di pane, mozzarella, guanciale con crema verde e purea di Pomodoro picante’ or a ‘Filet of tenderloin from Benevento in a bread crust, mozzarella, pork cheek with a green cream and spicy tomato puree’.

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A multitude of desserts followed.

With all of this, six different glasses of wine, all wonderful.

Our only gripe was the attitude of the sommelier who started off being quite friendly but gave us a nasty scowl after I asked once too many times if I could take a photo of the bottle. Given the prices we were paying I think it should be permissible to record what we drank so that we could take that knowledge away with us. Poor show fella.

The owners on the other hand were lovely. The original husband and wife team, Alfonso and Livia Laccarino, who started the restaurant both came round the tables individually to say hello, the good lady apologising for the noisy children (didn’t notice them myself) who are not normally allowed in, which is unusual for Italy.

Their youngest son Ernesto, who along with his brother Mario is now in charge, was even friendlier and organised a tour of the restaurant for us. First we got to see the kitchens.

Then we were taken down to the ancient cellars which date from the 6th century BC, which makes them around 2500 years old! Incredibly they were only discovered recently as they’d been sealed up. They were probably a hiding place from raiders who regularly pillaged this coast.

The fantastic wine collection is actually kept in a temperature controlled room at the top of the stairs to save the legs of the waiters but the bottom level is an excellent place to keep your provolone cheese as the mould is seen as useful for the maturation process.

Don Alfonso is also a hotel and runs cookery courses. One day when I win the lottery I’ll treat myself to the full works.

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