Restaurant Review: Don Alfonso 1890 – Haute Italian cuisine worthy of its MICHELIN star
|Restaurant||Don Alfonso 1890|
|Address||1 Harbour Square (inside the Westin Harbour Castle)|
|Dinner for two with wine pairings||$500|
In late 2019, I had the opportunity to dine at Michelin two-starred Don Alfonso 1890, located on the majestic Sorrento Coast. It still leaves me speechless. Chef Alfonso Iaccarino and his wife, Livia, opened the original Don Alfonso 1890 the 1970s. Today, the family-owned restaurant has expanded across the globe with two locations in Italy, one in Macau, another in New Zealand and most recently, one that opened in Toronto in 2018—bouncing around to a few locations before settling permanently atop the Westin Harbour Castle. The Toronto location is a partnership between the Iaccarinos and the Liberty Entertainment Group, helmed by Nick DiDonato.
Just a few weeks before Toronto’s own outpost of Don Alfonso 1890 was granted one Michelin star, I had the opportunity to experience the magic of haute Italian cuisine all over again.
Walking into the shiny new location of Don Alfonso 1890 reveals a complete transformation from its predecessor, Toula. When the elevator doors open on the 38th floor, it’s apparent that the previously drab restaurant has been given a dramatic facelift, allowing natural light to stream in and the city’s panoramic views to be given the spotlight. White-washed walls, white leather furniture and accents of black marble and sparkly chandeliers add an elegance to the space. Its never-ending windows offer breath-stealing panoramas of the city at any time of day. Nadia DiDonato, Liberty Entertainment Group’s vice president and creative director, personally selected much of the stunning artwork, which adds to the contemporary sophistication of the space. It is luxurious through and through—even the restrooms have breathtaking views.
Another design element that contributes to the uniqueness to the space is the open kitchen, where patrons can witness Chef Daniele Corona crafting their elaborate dishes. Few chefs share the talent and drive that Daniela Corona exhibits. He’s finessed in his skills and accurately translates the restaurant’s sophisticated vibe in the menu.
Set menus at Don Alfonso 1890 start at $130 per person, which includes antipasti, pasta, meat and dessert courses. It’s exceptional value for the price. There’s also a chef’s tasting menu priced at $200 per person for those who want to take their culinary adventure to the next level.
To say the wine list is extensive is an understatement—it arrives on a tablet, and my guest and I are so overwhelmed that we opt for wine pairings to accompany our set menu. We don’t regret it.
Much like the restaurant’s surroundings, each dish is meticulously prepared, from the freshly baked focaccia—arriving perfectly warm from the oven with the purest of pure olive oil—or the L’Anguilla, a signature dish that immediately brings me back to my experience at Don Alfonso 1890’s location on the Amalfi Coast. Eel gelato, sturgeon caviar, rose-scented tagliatelle, pulverized egg yolk and minced scented herbs come together in this inimitable dish, while setting the stage for the remainder of the meal. From the antipasti section, the L’Anatra, a seared Muscovy duck breast from Quebec, doesn’t disappoint either. The succulent protein is cooked to perfection and paired with pureed gala apples, baby spinach and 15-year balsamic vinegar reduction—a wonderful marriage of autumnal flavours.
If an Italian restaurant can’t perfect the primi courses, there’s something terribly wrong. Rich and earthy house-made agnolotti, stuffed with Ontario lamb impress in appearance and in taste. The delicate, house-made pasta mingles with a savoury Genovese-style ragu, Ontario mushrooms, and Provolone Del Monaco cheese—and what’s not to adore about the earthy undertow of fresh black truffle shavings? Il Risotto is equally delightful, and is far from yawn-inducing, as some risottos tend to be. Each bite reveals a more complex flavour from its other components: lagoustine crudo, buffalo burrata and candied lemon. It has the correct balance of richness and the Acquerollo rice is perfectly al dente.
From the secondi, we sample the La Fiorentina, a 35-day dry aged Wagyu rib eye as well as the artistically plated fresh Pacific halibut. Both dishes are skillfully cooked. The Wagyu is an impressively tender piece of beef that the knife glides through with ease, as if slicing room temperature butter. Potato terrine and heirloom carrots, while predictable, are not upstaged by the protein they share their plate with. Leaves of crispy kale and leek bagna càuda conceal the halibut. Although the journey to the first bite takes some effort, it’s delightful in every sense of the word.
Don Alfonso 1890’s desserts are showy, like the Il Trionfo Alla Nocciola, a Piedmont hazelnut parfait containing mousse, sponge cake, crumble, raspberry marmalade—all topped with a 24-karat gold leaf. It is edible art, and I would be lucky if I could end every meal with this equisite masterpiece. The meal concludes with petit fours that arrive on the table with an entrancing display of dry ice that slowly dissolves. There are colourful macarons, dark chocolate truffles, and hazelnut crusted ice-cream on sticks.
Each course follows the next in admirably timed succession, which can be a misstep at many fine dining establishments. Service is always polished and professional, and the sommelier’s knowledge and light banter adds to our overall experience.
There’s something magically romantic about a panoramic view, and it’s hard to find a better one than Don Alfonso 1890. Aside from the view and the intimate ambiance, Don Alfonso is a feast for the mouth and the eyes. It’s no surprise that it was awarded one Michelin star in fall 2022. Not one dish falls short of phenomenal, but the agnolotti the Wagyu and the hazelnut parfait could keep me raving for days. Congratulations to the Iaccarino family, Liberty Entertainment Group and Chef Daniele Corona for creating an atmosphere that is both luxurious and intimate while delivering upscale Italian dishes that are both creative and traditional.
Mme M. xoxo
La rubrique de Madame Marie
1 étoile – Run. Before you get the runs.
2 étoiles – Mediocre, but nothing you couldn’t make at home.
3 étoiles – C’est bon, with some standout qualities.
4 étoiles – Many memorable qualities and excellent execution. Compliments to the chef.
5 étoiles – Formidable! Michelin Star quality. Book a reservation immediately.