To celebrate the new home of Don Alfonso 1890 here in the city, 3 Michelin starred Chef Alfonso Iaccarino and his wife Livia flew in from Italy to Toronto to host several special culinary events.
Now located high above the city at the Westin Harbour Castle on the 38th floor, this bright restaurant offers the most spectacular wrapping view of the city and lake. It’s not just about the exterior views of the glistening ripples on the waters from a bird’s eye view but also equally as stunning are the interior details. It is one of the most beautiful dining establishments in the city – paying astonishing amounts of attention to the detail in the food, the interior and the exterior with a well orchestrated and seamless flow. It’s tastefully contemporary and effortlessly confident everywhere your eyes and taste buds leads you. It’s no wonder its previous locations had caught international attention and has already received numerous accolades including taking first place as the ‘Best Italian Restaurant in the World Outside of Italy’ by 50 Top Italy.
“Alfonso Iaccarino is one of the most celebrate chefs in the world and in Italy,” says Nick Di Donato of the Liberty Group. When he introduced Chef Iaccarino to the team here in Toronto he mentioned to the team, “This is the chef you should aspire to be. He is a gentleman who has made a legacy.”
In the 1980’s, Alfonso earned the title of a 3 Michelin star chef in Southern Italy. Di Donato tells us his success grew from being one of the first chefs in Italy who said his restaurants were farm-to-table. “He grew his own vegetables and did them organically. He wanted to create a menu that people from all over Italy would experience. When I say this, people often say ‘of course, farm-to-table it’s been around forever. But no, this is the gentleman standing in front of us today is one of the very first to ever do this. He did it because he wanted to do it and it was the right thing to do, not because he was following a trend. Not only is that significant but he has been one of the most recognized chefs in the world since the ’80s. That’s a legacy in itself.”
While you may have a bit of a déja vu feeling, you’re not wrong. Don Alfonso 1890 has had held space in the city in recent years. In partnership with Nick Di Donato of the Liberty Entertainment Group, now guests can look forward to the same exceptional international award-winning cuisine experience they have received in the past here overlooking the city’s skyline and waterfront.
Given that Don Alfonso has locations globally what can we expect on the menu? We are told that each location features a selection of signature dishes, but with a local element, and features locally sourced and organic ingredients. “The cuisine of ‘Don Alfonso 1890’ was created out of love and deference to the traditions of the cuisine of the region,” said Iaccarino. “Every dish served in the restaurant is carefully researched and contains the purest ingredients.”
Considered one of the originators of the farm-to-table movement, Iaccarino has always been focused on top quality, and local product. Don Alfonso’s cuisine is characterized by its modernity, Mediterranean flare and the exceptional quality of the raw materials used.
While his family still oversee the menus globally, what is one of the most important messages he imparts to the chefs? Iaccarino says “La Dolce Vita! And be authentic, true and pure to the food, as much as possible!”
Don Alfonso 1890 is very much a family business. His wife still runs the front of the house in their original location on the Amalfi Coast region. His son Ernesto (who is also a Michelin star chef) continues to be the hands-on chef and continuing his footsteps. What brings him joy as his family continues to work on this business together?
“The history and legacy of Don Alfonso itself — and everything we have worked so hard to achieve, since the very beginning at home. Making our guests happy, exceeding expectations…that is what we do and are committed to doing in all Don Alfonso locations,” said Iaccarino.
While the pandemic was especially challenging for the hospitality industry, Iaccarino says they are looking forward to welcoming guests back to dining in person.” So much of what we do at Don Alfonso 1890 is about the overall experience and that personal touch of being in-person.”
And what does Chef Iaccarino think about Toronto’s food scene?
“Toronto is a modern cosmopolitan city, and the dining scene is truly a reflection of that,” said Iaccarino. “It’s incredibly diverse and has really developed significantly in the last decade. We are honoured to be acknowledged as one of the very best in the city!
I am so proud of our team in Toronto and what they have created. They embody the philosophy of Don Alfonso 1890. The restaurant has been incredibly well received and has been recognized with a number of prolific national and international awards and honours, which makes news, back at home in Italy. We look forward to offering guests an unforgettable experience in our stunning new home, with unparalleled views of the city and lake, and a superb fine dining experience. It will be a memorable evening. Please join us!”
Di Donato, also commented on the recent announcement of the Michelin Guide coming to our city. With enthusiasm he mentioned this news actually signifies that Toronto is now on the world map in terms of the culinary experiences we provide. It’s exciting times for the industry as it will also bring more opportunities for young and up-and-coming chefs and restaurants in the city to be recognized on an international level.
Livia was excited to tell us about Executive Chef Daniele Corona who is in trusting hands overseeing the Toronto restaurant.”He’s dedicated to the food and he understands what we love – it’s food that pure and clean. This is our life. We cannot forget about life outside of Italy.”
Corona originally trained under Alfonso and Ernesto Iaccarino’s helm. He and his team will have the opportunity to recreate the Michelin experience in the new sleek and spacious open-concept kitchen with refined menus boasting fresh, local and organic ingredients enhancing the award-winning dishes created by his mentors at the original restaurant.
This unique partnership also shares another common understanding. Both Di Donato and Iaccarino know that the wife always rules. Their partners are hands-on with their respective businesses. Livia has been the front of the house of Don Alfonso since its inception 50 years ago in Italy. She had never left the restaurant in 50 years during this time of year – considered the busiest season in the Amalfi Coast. She did so for the very first time to travel to Toronto for this opening.
With emotion Livia tells us “It was not easy for me to leave Don Alfonso in July but after thinking for a month I said okay. I wish to visit Toronto and Don Alfonso outside of Italy because it was awarded the Best Italian Restaurant in the world outside of Italy. This is fantastico!”
We can’t say enough about Nadia Di Donato’s design eye. As the creative director for the Liberty Group, she captures the essence of the space that reflects both the food and the people that bring us this culinary experience. When you go to dine be sure to walk around and explore the contemporary artwork from some of the most popular modern day artists including Damien Hirst and Mr. Brainwash. And the details carry through from the plates and ceiling artwork the resembling open shells or waves in the ocean. Look up and look around! There’s lots to take in.
Alfonso Iaccarino tells us space on the 38th floor of the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel is — airy, elegant and modern in design. “It’s not just the visual effect of the city and water view that greets your eyes when you enter, it’s the wealth of small details that Nadia (Di Donato) has created that keep you riveted,” said Iaccarino. “She brings a strong personality and everything here has something special about it.”
Don Alfonso 1890 Toronto is now open at the Westin Harbour Castle. For more information and reservations visit DonAlfonsoToronto.com