By Olivia Orman
The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis has finalized its two-year expansion with the opening of its new restaurant, Casa Don Alfonso. While this Mediterranean concept originated in Sorrento, Italy, it has since expanded to Toronto and Shanghai and finally made its way to St. Louis in spring 2021 – Its first location in the US! MEET Missouri had the pleasure of speaking with Italian restauranteur Mario Iaccarino to capture the rich history and cultural influence of Casa Don Alfonso, while also illustrating Iaccarino’s commitment to bringing this vision to life through authentic and personalized experiences.
A Brief History
The Iaccarino family business, which carries the Italian tradition of creating extraordinary guest experiences, goes back four generations. Drawn from the beauty of the Sorrento Coast, Alfonso Costanzo Iaccarino founded a hotel-restaurant in 1890 before passing the family business on to his grandson named after him. Alfonso and his wife Livia upheld his grandfather’s restaurant, which, in 1973, was renamed to Ristorante Don Alfonso 1890. They closed the hotel seven years later to focus exclusively on the restaurant.
Alfonso and Livia had a clear vision for Ristorante Don Alfonso 1890 from the very beginning. As they witnessed the longevity of those who lived along the Sorrento Coast, they strived to serve Mediterranean cuisine inspired by these residents’ way of living. The restaurant placed emphasis on local, organic ingredients and on using herbs that amplify flavor without comprising nutrition. In fact, studies suggest that these herbs may increase one’s lifespan. You could say that Alfonso and Livia were ahead of their time; so much so that these exact same practices are still put into action at Casa Don Alfonso in the present day.
The Cultural and Hospitality Experience
Casa Don Alfonso is best described as a cultural fusion. In fact, its artistic and culinary elements have migrated from various parts of the world to form the modern-day concept. These influences originated in Greece, made their way to the Sorrento Coast, and then traveled overseas to the US. Every facet of the restaurant has a story, collectively creating the entire experience known as ‘Casa Don Alfonso.’
Though Casa Don Alfonso aims to provide a cultural experience, the Ladies and Gentlemen of The Ritz Carlton, St. Louis, suggest the restaurant’s overall mission is to provide the most authentic, homely hospitality experience. Mario states his philosophy in the simplest way possible: “The guest is the reason.”
Meeting at Casa Don Alfonso
For groups looking to meet over Mediterranean cuisine, Casa Don Alfonso offers various dining accommodations. The 2,795 square-foot restaurant has a private dining room that can seat up to 16 guests and an outdoor patio that can seat up to 34 at full capacity. Additionally, there is a meeting space – which showcases the restaurant’s 3,000-plus wine varieties in one of its walkways – conveniently situated next to the restaurant for groups who want to meet and then eat at the restaurant during their break.
MEET Missouri asked Mario to share more of his hospitality insights. To this end, he explains, “Hospitality is a state of mind. The family at Casa Don Alfonso is proud to share the same values when it comes to caring for our guests. At the end of the day, we aim to be a factory of happiness and make every guest part of our family.” It’s evident that the Casa’s approach to cuisine is savory, while its mission of hospitality is sweet.
Olivia Orman is a contributing writer from St. Louis.
About Mario Iaccarino
Mario Iaccarino joined the family business in 1999. After studying hotel management in Geneva and working at various restaurants and hotels in France and Germany, he decided to work in guest services. Mario oversees the worldwide expansion of the Iaccarino family business to this day.