We chat with the three D’Alterio brothers who form the backbone of restaurant Isola D’Ischia. With help from their friends Emilio, Rosie and Yari the brothers have managed to recreate the food of their island home.
How is it working within ‘la famiglia’?
What Chef Salvatore says is always agreed upon almost gospel and there is no question on a professional level, but on a personal level, we are brothers and fight continuously as Italian boys do! You will always find arguments, and if it was not for Rosie, we would probably clobber each other on a daily basis.
Do you each have your own specialty in the restaurant?
Yes, our specialty is to follow Salvatore, the oldest brother who is now 26, Mariuzio, now has a diploma in hospitality from Ischia and makes a good attempt to look after the floor, Gianluca the baby brother at only 20 looks looks after the kitchen on instruction from his older brother. Let’s not forget about Emilio who is our childhood friend and the sous chef with substantial training and degrees as well!
Your restaurant is famous for serving dishes unique to the island of Ischia – what is unique about this region?
Ischia is more specialised with the mountains meeting the sea, thus the combinations are fresh as all crops are grown on the island and not imported from the mainland – obviously rabbit being our signature dish.
Your mother and father must have strong influences in your cooking. What is their story?
We were blessed with our beautiful mother Maria, who was a Pastry Chef on the island of Ischia. My father, Roby, was a merchant seaman. My mother was always chasing for the good life for her sons, as most Italian Mothers do, and her dream for me was to become a Chef. As such, when I [Salvatore] was just thirteen years of age she managed to find me a place to work after school and in summer holidays at Purticciull Ristorante in Ischia.
My heart was broken when I lost my Mother in her battle with cancer, which became a very defining moment in my life. I used all my energy and determination focusing on my Mother’s dream for me to become a chef and take steps to ensure that my life would be as she wished.
What will you be doing on Mother’s Day?
I hope that we have a full house in our Balmain Restaurant, but of course our thoughts are with our angel, our mother Maria. We believe our Mother is still watching over us and gives us more strength every day to continue on this journey.
100g of paccheri or other pasta (penne work well)
Chilli flakes or one red chilli pepper
Two cloves of garlic
100 g pecorino romano cheese, grated
100 g parmesan cheese, grated
1kg fresh tomatoes
Fresh basil to taste
1. Wash the tomatoes then chop them roughly. Some people remove the skins, but I prefer the rustic texture you get if you leave them on.
2. Finely chop the garlic (and the chilli if you are using fresh) and gently fry until the colour begins to change.
3. Add the tomatoes and let cook over a low heat until soft and, well, sauce-like! Add a pinch of salt if you would like, but remember the cheese is salty.
4. While the sauce is bubbling away, cook the pasta as per instructions – paccheri take a while so read the instructions!
5. When the pasta is almost done, add a couple of spoonfuls of the cooking water to the tomatoes and stir, making sure to get the amido (starch) which shows up as white froth on the surface of the water. This will thicken up the sauce.
6. Drain the pasta al dente, and add to the tomatoes. Throw in all of your cheese and mix well, adding the fresh basil at the last minute. Make sure you have a hunk of Italian bread in order to fare la scarpetta (little shoe), that is to say mop up the sauce when the pasta is gone!