The owner, Loredana, and her son Matteo, a talented pizza maker, continue to run the business, staying open in winter as well.
What motivates us to face our daily challenges? Undoubtedly, there are many motivations that push us to give something more every day; but the real fuel that feeds our actions, daily or otherwise, is passion. The story of Loredana Ascione and her family demonstrates this very well: their restaurant, Donna Rachele, has over the years become a true point of reference for the community of Capri and for those who, although coming from outside the island, have learned to appreciate its most intimate and traditional essence. We asked her to tell us about her work in this interview.
How and when was Donna Rachele’s restaurant born?
“The business was born in 2010, but in reality it has its roots in a much more remote history. My great-grandparents on my mother’s side were, in fact, the owners of one of Anacapri’s oldest inns, which opened towards the end of the 1800s. My great-grandmother’s name was Rachele and she ran the restaurant until the 1970s. Following in the footsteps of that experience, I wanted to create my own “little corner” by opening the restaurant in Capri and dedicating it to my ancestor, who was a source of inspiration for me”.
What was the restaurant like in the early days and how has it changed over time?
“Donna Rachele started out as a wine shop, where patrons could find various types of wine and taste appetizers. Then, in a gradual way, we added the kitchen part, always introducing new dishes, and finally between 2018 and 2019 the pizzeria was born, with which we have had a nice success in these three years.”
Let’s talk then just about your fantastic pizza. Who is behind this great success? And what flavors are popular?
“The pizza man is my son, Matteo Di Sanza. His story is a particular one: after graduating with honors, and having studied foreign languages such as Chinese, he began to study for competitions, but then came the pandemic. Already in the previous summer he had begun to work as a pizza maker and he started to feel interest in this world; so, during the lockdown, at home he started to experiment making dough tests and he managed to find a perfect marriage between the doses of yeast, flour and water, making a very light pizza. So, after the first lockdown, he decided to become the first pizza maker, leaving the career for which he had studied, moved by this new passion that is giving him great satisfaction.
His workhorse is undoubtedly the pizza Donna Rachele, with the frame filled with ricotta and meatballs and above the Bolognese sauce with eggplant mushrooms, meatballs and parmesan cheese flakes. Then the classic Neapolitan fried pizza, just like the one you eat in the Rione Sanità, with ricotta and cicoli; it’s really a great success, also because we are the only ones to make it on Capri! The dough prepared by my son is very light, despite the fried food. We also bake bread, by reservation only, using pizza dough, and older people recognize it as the real bread of yesteryear”.
Let’s move on to the kitchen… What do you offer your customers?
“We offer many traditional dishes of our cuisine, but also something revisited. Very popular is the “pignatello” with Luciana style octopus, covered with pizza dough. In practice, when you arrive at the table and open the lid of the classic earthenware container, you can dip the pizza dough in the sauce. In addition to octopus, we also prepare it with broccoli and sausage or with meatballs in sauce. Moreover, we make many fresh pasta dishes, such as ravioli, gnocchi and scialatielli”.
What about your wine cellar? What does your wine list offer?
“Right now we are focusing a lot on wines from Campania. Tuscan wines are also very popular, of which we have old vintages; there is also a good variety of red and white wines. A peculiarity is that we have always had, since the beginning, the habit of preparing cold cuts and cheese boards to be matched to the tasting of wines. In order to prepare them, we use many products coming from Cilento and Calabria: in fact we have always had as a reference, until the beginning of the pandemic, 4-5 slow food presidia such as San Marzano tomato, Pomodorino del Piennolo, Alici di Menaica, Capocollo di Gioi…”.
Who works at Donna Rachele restaurant?
“There are both us in the family, as well as outside workers, a very trustworthy and talented pizza assistant, a Neapolitan chef in the kitchen, and a Capri waiter. We manage everything between us, and sometimes even my mom comes to help, despite her 84 years! On the other hand, Rachele is also my mother’s name, so the restaurant is also dedicated to her.”
What location welcomes patrons?
“In the restaurant there is nothing modern, for the furnishings we have used almost no steel under any circumstances, only in the kitchen. Otherwise, the restaurant is completely decorated with majolica and chestnut wood. They say it is one of the most beautiful restaurants on the island, near the historic square, in a small alley, with tables outside placed under an ancient vault of the village. We decided to take advantage of one of Capri’s famous “supportici”, small tunnels that connected ancient buildings from the 1700s. The restaurant is completed by the wine cellar underneath, made out of an old cistern”.
What made you decide to stay open all year round, and what does it mean in terms of work and management policies?
a tourist or a native of Capri”.