Interview with Mario Iaccarino from the Don Alfonso 1890 restaurant in Sant'Agata Sui Due Golfi (NA)
The Don Alfonso 1890 restaurant in Sant’Agata sui due Golfi in the province of Naples is one of the unmissable addresses of international catering. The Michelin guide assigns it two stars to those restaurants that "offer first-class cuisine in their category and deserve a detour". The restaurant was founded in 1973 by the will of Alfonso and Livia Iaccarino, as a natural evolution of the hotel business that the Iaccarino family has managed in the same place since the end of the 19th century. Don Alfonso 1890 is the temple of gourmet Mediterranean cuisine, which proposes starting from exceptional raw materials mostly self-produced on the Peracciole family farm. That of Ernesto Iaccarino (who has been working alongside his father Alfonso for some years) is a cuisine that takes inspiration from tradition to experiment and innovate because - as a phrase from Eduardo de Filippo says that the Iaccarinos love to repeat: "If we remain anchored to the past, the life that continues becomes life that stops but, if we use tradition as a springboard, it is obvious that we will jump much higher".
And the Iaccarinos have certainly used that springboard in the best way, so much so that in recent years, alongside the restaurant and hotel business, an important training activity has taken hold with a cooking school frequented by gourmets and enthusiasts from all over the world and an equally important consulting activity that has led to successfully replicating the winning formula of Don Alfonso's approach to cuisine in some of the most prestigious international hotels: from the "L'Italien" restaurant at La Mamounia in Marrakech; at "Don Alfonso 1890" inside the Grand Lisboa in Macau, ending with the latest creation, the restaurant of the super exclusive resort of Helena Bay in New Zealand.
But it is not the cuisine of Don Alfonso 1890 that we want to talk to you about here, but about another extraordinary reality linked to this family that has been doing great catering for two generations. We are talking about the cellars of Don Alfonso 1890. They are located below the nineteenth-century building that houses the hotel and restaurant and are obtained from a gallery dating back to pre-Roman times. In this millenary and suggestive environment rest over 25,000 precious bottles (1300 are the labels) that come from all over the world collected in forty five years of activity. A heritage of inestimable value but also extremely complex to manage.
For a few weeks now, coinciding with the spring reopening of the restaurant, to govern this extraordinary heritage, the Iaccarino family has chosen to use our Enoweb with the application of optically readable labels.
What are the advantages of this choice? Were there any complications in switching from the previous winery management software? How did the choice made to replace the traditional wine list with the tablet influence the relationship with the restaurant's demanding clientele? How did Don Alfonso 1890's collaborators welcome the novelty?
We put all these questions to Mario Iaccarino who at Don Alfonso 1890 holds the role of manager of the room and cellar.
First of all, Mario Iaccarino is keen to reiterate that the judgments he expresses are not those of a naive person on the subject. “I was practically born in a restaurant and I have been catering for 35 years - he tells us - and I can say with certainty that in my career I have never been able to solve so many management and operational problems as with Enoweb.
Previously, every time the wine arrived, our collaborator had to enter the winery management system, had to register the incoming wine and fill in the technical sheet. All of which took a lot of time.
Today everything has changed and I can also quantify these advantages by stating that the time dedicated to the basic management of the cellar (i.e. the coding of the articles, loading and unloading, the creation of the wine list and its updating) has been reduced by 80 percent compared to before. An incredible time saving that allows us to make the best use of our employees.
But the benefits didn't stop there. Filling out the techine wine cards is a complex job that requires time and attention, but time isn’t always so available in a restaurant like ours, so very often the cards were filled out incompletely and partially. It was a continuous race against time because in a reality like ours, the arrivals of new bottles are daily. Today with Enoweb a simple check with the mouse is enough to associate the technical data sheet complete with all the data provided by the manufacturer and already present in the program database to the bottles just loaded in less than a second. Once the technical data sheet has been called up, it is enough to indicate the quantities, the purchase price, the sale price (per bottle and glass) and the operation is completed.
All the work that previously involved a huge waste of time is not only done in a few minutes but the result is much more precise and reliable since we have also chosen to use electronic bottle labeling that allows you to keep inventory under control minute by minute.
Not to mention the advantages that this system entails in managing the wine list which can be updated in a few seconds (in the printed and digital version for tablets) and contains extremely detailed information suitable to satisfy any customer curiosity.
The electronic label, which is generated simultaneously with the bill of lading, is affixed to the bottle and allows us to always keep the bottle unloading updated, but also contains the information relating to the exact location of the bottle on the shelves which thus becomes immediately available, this means that our sommelier no longer runs the risk of proposing a bottle not present in the cellar, a rather unpleasant episode for the customer. In addition - thanks to the introduction of the electronic card that can be consulted on a tablet - we have an up-to-date wine list ”.
At this point I am reminded of a previous interview, I had with Mario Iaccarino a few months earlier, in which I asked him why in his restaurant precious (and expensive) printed wine lists were still used instead of the more modern wine list electronics and his answer was peremptory: "By age and training - he told me then - I am deeply attached to the paper tool which can more fully represent the image of exclusivity of our restaurant. And then there are our customers. For the younger ones, the electronic wine list would certainly not represent a problem, but those of a certain age, I think, could have difficulties ”.
Today, a few months after that interview, the precious wine list has disappeared from the tables of Don Alfonso 1890, replaced by six tablets that are constantly running in the hands of customers of all ages. And the old wine list I ask him what happened to it? "One actually - Iaccarino tells us - we still keep it in a corner of the restaurant at the disposal of some nostalgic customers to whom we propose it with the warning that it may not be updated, but to date, after two months of reopening only in a case (that of an elderly regular customer) we were asked to be able to consult the printed wine list. After all, the electronic wine list will also be less elegant than the printed one, but it has the advantage of being always up-to-date and offering customers a quantity and detail of information previously unthinkable ".
Also in this case the Iaccarino work philosophy applies where tradition is important as a source of inspiration but "if you remain anchored to the past, life that continues becomes life that stops" and Don Alfonso 1890 certainly does not want to stop .
Piergiovanni Mometto [www.mometto.net]