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Still recovering from his jet lag, Chef Alfonso Laccarino greets us warmly at the door of Don Alfonso 1890 at Grand Lisboa and orders a cup of coffee for himself as he steps into the dining room. Unlike Americans and Chinese, who often give a firm and brief handshake upon meeting someone for the first time, the Southern Italians’ way of shaking your hand seems like it might last forever. Although it is a bit intimidating, it is a manner of showing warmth and friendliness, characteristics that translate into details that remind us of the family-oriented culture in Southern Italy.
“The coffee I have here is exactly the same coffee that I can have at Don Alfonso 1890 back in Italy. We pay a lot of attention to the quality that is offered here in Macau. There is no difference,” Chef Alfonso Laccarino says. Located right in between the Amalfi and Sorrento coasts, the lovely village of San’Agata sui Due Golfi has small cluster of houses dating from the 19th century, and Boutique Hôtel Don Alfonso 1890 is amongst them. It was a project started by Chef Alfonso Laccarino’s grandfather, and in 1990, “Le Peracciole” Farmhouse was added to the family-run business.
Chef Alfonso Laccarino’s goal is to bring the Southern Italian fine-dining experience to Macau. Sourcing high-quality local products and extra-virgin olive oil, the team at Grand Lisboa never puts any cream or butter into dishes created at the establishment. Butter is exclusively seen on the dining table along with the bread, but that is the only exception.
“At Don Alfonso 1890, we promote the Mediterranean lifestyle and healthy ways to eat. After a meal, our guests should never feel like they have had something heavy. Bringing the local food culture of Southern Italy to Macau means that our values and traditions are also here,” Chef Alfonso Laccarino explains.
One of these great traditions is savoring fresh handmade pasta. Just flown in from Italy a day before our encounter, Donna Alfonsina Alberti skillfully twists the “Ricci Furitani,” working her fingers around a tiny stick that holds the pasta in place before it is placed one by one alongside each other to be cooked inside the kitchen.
Pasta making is a task that requires sensibility, as the level of humidity and water is different here in Macau to Southern Italy. Getting it right means that the texture of the pasta has to be the same anywhere around the world. Chef Alfonso Laccarino takes Donna Alfonsina’s “Ricci Furitani” and layers them on scampi, green asparagus and fresh ginger.
Al dente and cooked to absolute perfection, the pasta is lacquered with a light sauce that reflects the strong, umami flavor of the sea. A hint of greenery is introduced by several strands of small asparagus intertwined between chunks of the scampi. It is the best dish that I have ever had at any Italian restaurant in town. With a glass of white wine in my hand, I listen quietly to the song “Caruso” playing softly in the background, a tune written by Lucio Dalla dedicated to Italian operatic tenor Enrico Caruso. The melancholic beauty of Southern Italy immediately comes vividly to the mind with these lyrics, “Here, where the sea shines and where the wind howls, on the old terrace in front of the Gulf of Sorrento…”

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