There are restaurants that change the way we view the foods we eat. They bring new life, new energy and old, familiar flavors into our lives. I’ve visited many countries and have eaten at countless restaurants, but nothing I’ve experienced yet can compare to the warm hospitality, food and wine at Ristorante Michel’angelo in Capri.
I consider myself to be incredibly blessed to see so much of this world, and to be able to taste its many flavors. My first taste of Ristorante Michel’angelo’s linguine limone captured my heart. After my first bite, I knew that I had discovered my favorite restaurant. Years later, I was able to travel to Capri again and was able to introduce my mother to its flavors. And this year, yet again, I was thrilled to bring our attendees of our Girls Trip To Coastal Italy Adventure to Ristorante Michel’angelo.
You know a place is fantastic when you feel like you’re sharing a piece of your own heart when you introduce your friends and family to it. Since our first meeting, I’ve kept in touch with owners Holly and Gianluca… and I’m so thrilled to be able to introduce their story and Ristorante Michel’angelo’s history to you all today.
Ciao Holly! Could you tell us the story behind Ristorante Michel’angelo?
Gianluca, my now husband, opened Ristorante Michel’angelo in March 2009 in memory of his father, Michele, who was a chef on the island. His family has lived on the island for generations and he wanted the memory of his father to live on in his own restaurant through authentic, simple Caprese cuisine, family recipes and warm hospitality.
Amazing. What is your connection with the restaurant?
I visited Capri for the very first time while I was traveling solo in Italy back in May 2013. I had booked 3 nights at the beautiful cliffside Hotel Luna but when I first arrived on the island I was a little taken aback by the glamorous and somewhat, pretentious side of Capri. My first impressions of the island, though, were soon overshadowed by its magical natural beauty.
Notwithstanding I still didn’t feel the island was a comfortable destination to dine alone despite being a regular solo traveler. After mentioning this to the Bar Manager Luigi, at Hotel Luna, he told me he knew a place that was local, welcoming and where I could happily dine alone. Before I knew it, I had a reservation at Michel’angelo.
When I arrived at Michel’angelo, I was greeted by Gianluca who had such a big endearing smile that, along with the restaurant’s relaxed vibe, I immediately felt comfortable, just as Luigi had promised.
I had the most scrumptious meal which ended with a slice of the most mouth watering delicious lemon Torta Caprese I’d ever tasted. I hadn’t ordered it; it arrived at my table as a gift from Gianluca and I was happy it did!
It’s a long story but my reservation at 8pm ended at 5am after we sat together and talked with the help of Google Translate and a translate flipcard App. Gianluca walked me back to my hotel and my 3 night stay in Capri extended to 6 nights and then a romantic 4 nights together in Positano before I returned to Australia.
While we couldn’t speak each other’s language, there was something between us from the first smile we shared as I entered the restaurant. I still can’t believe that we both took such a chance on a feeling and despite our different cultures, languages and backgrounds, we’ve now been married for almost 5 years, have two children, Valentino and Francesca, and we run Michel’angelo together.
What do you love most about cooking traditional Caprese cuisine?
Four years ago we started our cooking school and while it is Gianluca that is the chef, I am lucky enough to be able to be the taste tester!
In our restaurant and cooking school, we use simple, fresh and local ingredients that are combined to make heavenly dishes from family recipes handed down generations.
Caprese cuisine is distinct from that of Naples and the Amalfi Coast and for such a small island, it has a big food reputation with dishes that are renowned worldwide (for example, the Insalata Caprese/Caprese Salad and many more).
Is there a dish you love most?
This is a hard one. There are many dishes I love.
Of course, homemade pasta is hard to beat and for this reason, I don’t think I can go past the island’s pasta dish, Ravioli Capresi. Light pasta filled with local cheese, parmesan and fragrant marjoram that grows wild on the island and topped with a rich but sweet slow cooked cherry tomato sauce. It’s traditionally a dish shared around the family table at Sunday lunches and on special occasions and we teach guests to make Gianluca’s family recipe of this delicious pasta in our cooking class.
What do you think makes Ristorante Michel’angelo stand out amongst other family restaurants serving traditional meals?
We both share a passion for the island from different perspectives, Gianluca being a born and bred Caprese and I, having first visited the island as a traveler over 5 years ago.
In this regard, we have developed a range of offerings in addition to our restaurant, where guests can enjoy authentic and fresh Caprese dishes all over the island with a local touch (and just a little touch of Australiana :)).
From the fresh local food served in our restaurant, to experiencing our cooking classes where we share Gianluca’s family recipes, to picnics at secret local locations on the island or delivered to your private boat, fresh mozzarella, regional cheeses and salumi tastings, catering in Caprese villas and the live music performed every evening in our restaurant by renowned local musician, Bruno Lembo… our aim is that our guests leave Michel’angelo loving the island’s food, people and culture as much as we do.
We also have a range of our own Michel’angelo southern Italian delicacies such as our wine, extra virgin olive oil, pasta sauces and limoncello that we sell in our restaurant to take away or we can ship to customers around the world (subject to local laws) so a little bit of Capri can be enjoyed back home.
Your passion for cooking is so evident! What is the most meaningful aspect of what you do?
Running a restaurant anywhere in the world, let alone on a seasonal remote Italian island, brings with it many challenges but they are definitely outweighed by the satisfaction we feel when locals and visitors alike enjoy their experience with us.
Sometimes travelers may only be visiting the island for the day, others longer but our aim is all our guests leave Michel’angelo and the island already planning their return.
We’ve been fortunate to have made many lifelong friendships through Michel’angelo. We also love meeting guests who’ve connected with us on our social media. Our Instagram and Facebook accounts are a snapshot of our daily lives in Capri; the restaurant, our family, friends and the island itself and for this reason… we share a special connection with those who visit us and stay in contact.
If a traveler were to come to Capri, what is a must-try dish or drink they can’t leave without having?
Insalata Caprese (arguably the most famous salad in the world) from the place where it originated.
Ristorante Michel’angelo features a mozzarella and pizza bar. What inspired this unique idea?
We are located in Campania providing easy access to the best of Southern Italy’s fresh mozzarella, burrata, caciotta, provolone and specialist regional cheeses, along with Campana’s finest salumi. We also have our own local wines….and cheese and wine pair perfectly together. Guests can choose from cheese/salumi boards from our Mozzarella Bar menu or join one of our tasting sessions.
Our gourmet pizza bar first opened in the winter season three years ago. In the winter, there are few restaurants and bars open for locals and we always look for ideas to create a sense of community, bringing people together over great food and wine.
We created a range of gourmet pizzas, using the finest artisan flour to make the pizza dough and a selection of gourmet ingredients and imaginative pizza combinations. We arranged gourmet pizza nights for locals and once we saw that locals were enjoying the offering, we decided to open the gourmet pizza bar all year round.
Why do you think people are so drawn to traditional Italian dishes?
Food is the life force of Italian culture. In our family, our daily routine revolves around what we are going to cook and eat and share with family, friends or guests in our restaurant.
The passion that goes into organizing, cooking and presenting Italian food (especially family recipes) make it all the more enjoyable to devour.