Sitting in the main dining room of La Capannina restaurant, pastel colors reminiscent of the dreamy beauty of Capri’s nature, one has the feeling of magically entering an enchanted garden, what Persian poets call Dil-Aram, delight of the heart.
More than ninety years after its opening, in 1931, La Capannina is the worthy heir to an ancient Capri gastronomic tradition that has its roots in Augustan and Tiberian cuisine.
In the look of Antonio De Angelis, an energetic 80-year-old, emotion shines through as he talks about his father Francesco: “He came to Capri to work as a chef at the Grand Hotel Quisisana. Then he met my mother Teresa, a descendant of the famous Carmela di Tragara, Capri’s first hostess, who opened an Inn for artists in Tragara in the late 19th century.”
Theirs was a love marriage of taste. Francesco, Ciccillo to his friends, with his strong, flavorful Abruzzese cuisine from Amatrice, with its meats, soffritti, meatballs, and endless legumes, and Teresa, with her seafood and game dishes. Together they opened the Savoia restaurant in Piazzetta, haunt of the nobility, residents of the island, and many artists such as Amedeo Maiuri, Alberto Moravia and Elsa Morante.
“The cuisine of my grandparents,” says Francesco, son of Antonio, proudly, “is still present in our very rich and varied menu. It is the epitome of healthy cooking. Cianfotta, ancient Caprese minestrone, is still in high demand by our loyal customers.”
Antonio recalls that his father named the restaurant “La Capannina,” at the suggestion of some nobles who frequented the Savoy, because they ate under “le pagliarelle” exquisitely en plein air.
Going through the restaurant’s photo gallery, one realizes that every moment of Capri’s Dolce Vita was lived here.
“In my youth,” Antonio continues, “I went to work in America with my friend Renatino della Pigna at the Restaurant “Petite Marmite” directed by maître Renato Savorelli. There I met his daughter Aurelia. Together with my wife Aurelia we led this restaurant with joy, dedication and immense sacrifices.”
Francesco and Renata, Antonio and Aurelia’s children, are two siblings who complement each other perfectly. Francesco, volcanic, with his joie de vivre inundates you with words, Renata, thoughtful, wine connoisseur, directs “la Capannina Più,” the realm of refined gourmet Capri. Francesco has created for the many young and not so young, an alternative venue, the Capannina Wine Bar, a landing place for those who in summer and winter want to listen to music, conversing in tranquility.
The new entries in this historic family are Andrea, Piero and Matteo, who will project La Capannina into the third millennium with new projects.
We can well say that the atmosphere that is experienced in this historic venue where there is the cult of food is discreet and warm, the quintessence of island hospitality.
La Capannina is like a beautiful elegant, classy woman who does not ape the easy passing fashions.
But the spirit of the famous chef Triola, who sang Verdi and Puccini for guests after dinner and the legendary guitarist Scarola with his Neapolitan melodies, is always alive in this restaurant.
“During the holidays,” says Francesco, “everyone loves to sing, and on that occasion the staff and all of us delight in participating.”
Greeting Antonio and Francesco, I ask what their dream is for Capri. After a few seconds Francesco answers me, “I would like the new youth to know their island better and love it as much as my family does and will love it.”