Please note: This feature has been updated to reflect Don Alfonso 1890’s recent announcement that it will be moving to its permanent location at Toronto’s Westin Harbour Castle Hotel and will be open by July of this year.
Forget spaghetti and meatballs. The Italian restaurant scene in Toronto has never been as exciting as it is today; you’ll find an enticing combination of old and new, of innovation and tradition, and of elegant Michelin-Star inspired restaurants. And perhaps no restaurant (in the world) is as on top of their game at this very moment than Don Alfonso 1890, formerly located within Toronto’s historically famous landmark castle, Casa Loma (as a pop-up location) and now soon-to-be opening its new permanent location on the 38th floor of Downtown Toronto’s Westin Harbour Castle Hotel.
It should be noted that Don Alfonso 1890 operates under the prestigious Liberty Entertainment Group (LEG) umbrella. Led by Nick Di Donato, LEG is responsible for transforming and redefining Toronto and Miami’s restaurant, nightlife and special event experience. As developers and operators of numerous landmark establishments, LEG has become recognized as one of the most successful and innovative companies in the industry, gaining success and acknowledgment for developing an impressive roster of unique venues including Toronto’s premier special event facilities, Casa Loma and Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex.
I had the chance to speak with Nick Di Donato recently about the new location, which will be nearly 8,000 square feet and will seat up to 80 guests: “Casa Loma was always promoted as a pop-up experience and we were always looking for a permanent location,” he said. “We were fortunate enough to land a deal at Westin Harbour Castle, which will provide 360 degree panoramic views of Lake Ontario and the city, a feature that we know our guests are going to truly appreciate and fall in love with.”
As for that award-winning menu, Di Donato assures that the restaurant “will continue to do our award-winning à la carte menu, with changes on a seasonal basis.” Perhaps what’s most exciting about the new space is that the kitchen will be an open kitchen. “It plans on being a beautiful experience for guests to be able to see and walk through,” assured Di Donato.
Reflecting on that Casa Loma location experience
In Italy, food is the foundation of Italian culture. It is commonly celebrated in its ability to teach, express and continue family traditions. Don Alfonso 1890 showcases the Michelin-Starred legacy of Alfonso and Ernesto Iaccarino in Sorrento, Italy. The Toronto location operates under the creative talent of executive chef Daniele Corona.
Trained for years under the watchful eye of both the above-mentioned Michelin chefs, Corona moved to Toronto from the Amalfi Coast to execute the award-winning details of the original restaurant’s cuisine. Much of Corona’s career has been centered among the most respected chefs and restaurants in the world, many of which have been awarded with Michelin Stars.
The best Italian restaurant in the world – outside of Italy
Since opening in 2018, Don Alfonso 1890 Toronto has been recognized with multiple national and international awards and honours. It’s most recent distinction came in January, when the beyond elegant 60-seat fine dining restaurant was named Best Italian Restaurant in the World 2022 – Prosecco DOC Award by the prestigious 50 Top Italy in a virtual ceremony, broadcast internationally. It topped other worldly famous restaurants from cities including Shanghai, Geneva, Tokyo, London and Paris. In addition, the restaurant was honoured with the Meal of the Year 2022 Mulino-Caputo Award, for its multi-course prix fixe tasting menu.
Characterized by its modernity, Mediterranean flare and the exceptional quality of the raw ingredients used, Don Alfonso 1890’s Michelin style is reflected in the eight-course tasting menu of uniquely crafted dishes; each dish is created with expert precision using the finest quality ingredients available and plated on a one-of-a-kind vessel, selected specifically to highlight the food’s characteristics and stunning presentation. And under the direction of James Peden, Sommelier and VP operations at LEG, the delicate flavours of the Mediterranean-influenced cuisine are paired with the finest curated wines from Casa Loma’s renowned cellar. And oh, what an experience!
A collection of canapes paired with a glass of Tenuta Montenisa Cuvee Royale sparkling by Marchese Antinori set this class-act, unforgettable meal in motion and would be a harbinger of what was still to come, including: Seared Muscovy duck breast with a 2018 spatburgunder (German pinot noir); Vermicelli di Gragnano and Carpione style mackerel with a 2019 Velenosi verdicchio; Roasted wild red snapper with a 2020 Pascal Jolivet Fume Blanc from the Loire Valley; Seared organic Manitoba tenderloin with a 2016 Brunello di Montalcino; and a selection of desserts paired with Clos Lapeyre Jurancon Moelleux, from the Pyrenees, France.
As a special bonus, chef Corona brought out the Il Vesuvio di rigatoni (found on the a la carte menu and is in fact the dish that won chef Alfonso his third Michelin Star) and it was, as one should expect, delightful. Needless to say, whether choosing the signature meal or ordering a la carte, one can look forward to an evening of memorable indulgence.
Stunning design under the fabled dome
Globally recognized by the prestigious design-et-al’s International Hotel and Property Awards for Don Alfonso 1890, Liberty Group’s VP and creative director, Nadia Di Donato has created a unique design for the property as one of the most creatively themed venues in Toronto. The restaurant space evokes a sense of grace and style while acting as a canvas for the food it presents; each detail and piece of furniture has been crafted from the finest materials, many of which were imported directly from Italy.
Diners are immersed in the creations of the award-winning Casa Loma Gardens team, showcasing an incredible floral exhibition as the room’s backdrop. The venue’s famous McCausland dome lends a distinctly Canadian artistic sensibility and unmatched beauty, while the room’s picturesque setting is one of the most spectacular in all North America.
Liberty Entertainment Group is also responsible for the development of Toronto’s most prolific restaurants including BlueBlood Steakhouse, Xango and three Cibo Wine Bar locations (King West, Yonge St. and Yorkville), as well as the city’s most vibrant nightlife space – Arcane. In addition, it operates the Coral Gables Country Club in Coral Gables, Florida. With over 500,000 square feet of hospitality space, the Liberty Group caters to a diverse clientele of upwards of 1.75 million people per year including A-list celebrities, sports personalities and industry leaders. More information can be found at libertygroup.com.
The new Don Alfonso 1890 location plans on being open as early as end of June this year.