As you head down the cobblestone stairs to Marina Grande you are greeted by the smell of the sea and the sight of a charming Trattoria carved into the mountain. Trattoria Da Emilia. As a student living in Sorrento, I pass this restaurant almost daily. It is constantly filled with locals and tourists indulging in a fresh meal while exchanging conversation with one another. It is clear to see relationships forming with strangers just by walking past the restaurant. When you come to eat at Trattoria da Emilia, you are no longer just a tourist or a local. You are family. We sat down with owner and Chef Irene Cacace, to hear her story of the Trattoria and the legacy her mother created for their family.
What is your day to day routine?
«I come here at 9 AM to prepare the sauces with my workers. Then I start the deliveries and place them in their organizational spots. Fresh products come every day before midday service begins at 12 pm and lasts until 3:30 pm. Then we clean and set up everything for the dinner service. I go back to my home down the road for an hour break and then come back at 6 pm to begin dinner service. For 7 months I only am at the Trattoria and home. I don’t go to the city center until the start of November!»
What is the concept of Trattoria da Emilia?
«My passion is to connect with people. My mother always treated guests as family. People come back because of the relationships and friendships that are started here.»
Was their ever a significant relationship Emilia started with a guest?
«Johnny, a tourist from England came to the restaurant and developed a friendship with Emilia. He was the one who had the idea to take pictures of my mother and put her face on the menu. After Johnny had spent a few hours taking pictures for Emilia he had gotten a few beers and when he asked for the bill Emilia replied, “you can just pay tomorrow.” Johnny came back to eat many times that summer, and each time Emilia would tell him to “just pay tomorrow.” Johnny came back to eat many times that summer, and each time Emilia would tell him to “just pay tomorrow.” When it came time for Johnny to leave Sorrento, he asked Emilia what he owed for all the meals. She responded, “If you can remember everything you had I will write it down and you can pay.” Ever since their first encounter Johnny came back every year until 2 years ago when he passed away.»
Why do you do this every day?
«I can’t live without this job because it is a passion that comes from my mother. I’ve been doing this since I was a child. It’s very difficult to explain. It’s something I have inside my heart.»
How do you think your mother lives on through the Restaurant?
«My mother is always present with me. Her presence is always here because we bring her with us in our hearts every day. We are doing this job with the same passion and love Emilia had.» After the interview concluded my fellow colleagues and I dined by the water on Emilia’s iconic dishes. When we went to ask for the bill after the meal was finished, we were responded by the words Emilia once said to Johnny after all those years: “you can pay tomorrow.”
edited by Shannon McNulty
Eight St. Bonaventure University students studying at Sant’Anna Institute participated in a group interview with Trattoria da Emilia owner Irene on Thursday, July 25th. This formal interview provided a background on the iconic restaurant’s culinary legacy, as well as its importance to the local community and business along Marina Grande. Throughout the interview, Irene shared sentiments of her late mother, telling that she still believes her mother is still alive in the hearts of the current staff at the restaurant. Subsequently, Trattoria da Emilia carries on its legacy of outstanding customer service and sharing the magic of Italian cooking with international tourists.
edited by Anna Bulszewicz e Liam McGurl