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After succumbing to the double whammy of the pandemic and condofication, the Michelin Star Italian restaurant gets a new lease on life
A dinner under the stained glass dome in the Casa Loma Conservatory typically requires an invitation to a very upscale wedding.
But on September 16, acclaimed Italian restaurant Don Alfonso 1890 will launch a pop-up dining experience inside the ornate, decadent space.
The restaurant opened in the Financial District in 2018, but closed earlier this year following government pandemic mandates on March 19. In mid-August, the owners announced they would close for good and that 100 full- and part-time jobs would be lost.
With a new temporary home inside Casa Loma that seats 60 socially distanced guests, it’s a more intimate affair than the old location in the Consumer’s Gas Building. The historical building was bought by a foreign company that plans on turning it into… you guessed it, a condo.
But Don Alfonso will live to see another day, and the restaurant’s operators plan on running the pop-up indefinitely until a new permanent location is found.
A spokesperson for Liberty Group, the restaurant’s parent company, anticipates the pop-up will run every day until at least the end of this year, giving lovers of fine Italian dining ample time to try it out.
The eight-course tasting menu is a pared-back take on Amalfi Coast-inspired cuisine. Their mackerel is done carpione style, a preparation method that is very common in seaside cuisines around the world. The fish is soaked overnight in vinegar, herbs, peppers and spices to give it a pungent, acidic bite and paired with vermicelli noodles and buttery Sicilian pine nuts. The menu also has vegetarian options like soy-smoked organic tofu and rigatoni Vesuvius, with the pasta stacked and covered in red sauce to emulate a volcano.
Don Alfonso 1890’s approach to seafood is unconventional, pairing ice-creamed eel with sturgeon caviar and tagliatelle noodles turned pink from wild rose infusions. The menu is crafted by Michelin star chefs Alfonso and Ernesto Iaccarino, who run the sister restaurant in Naples. Both the Naples and Toronto locations are known for their tasting menus of intricate renditions of traditional southern Italian fare and wine pairings led by in-house sommeliers.
The original Don Alfonso 1890 was established in 1973 by Alfonso and Livia Iaccarino. It grew to become one of the most lauded Italian restaurants in the world. It’s housed inside of a 19th century Neapolitan castle, so it’s kind of fitting that its latest iteration has a temporary home in Toronto’s own “castle.”