With Open Arms: A Day Spent With The Agata Family, A True Amalfi Coast Cooking Experience
It happens every time. Mamma Agata, the vibrant, warm, welcoming host, standing in front of me, saluting our table, her guests, with a glass of wine while motioning us to begin tasting, savoring, and eating. The food, that we have all just spent hours prepping and preparing, just keeps coming and coming with no immediate end in sight. Bold colors decorate the china, deep textures of pastas, meats and vegetables adorn and cover them. With a gorgeous view in front of me, and endless scents, tastes, outstanding company and camaraderie, and wine, lots of wine, at the end of a day like this, I have to pinch myself that I am this lucky to get to visit this beautiful place time and time again.
What I have just described is the culmination to the day you will spend with the Agata family upon your visit to their Ravello coast cooking school and beautiful home. Mamma Agata, her daughter, Chiara, and their loving family, have been running their famous cooking school right in the middle of the family kitchen for more than a decade, but it’s the home in which they live, and the land that lies below their terrace, that has been in the family for more than 250 years, that holds the true story. Today, their Amalfi Coast cooking school is booked solid with visits made annually from people around the world, including professional athletes, actors, and political figures.
My relationship with the Agata family is different than most who come to learn how to make Mamma’s famous lemon cake, or sip homegrown wines from their vineyards. While my first visit was an unknown adventure, similar to all of their guests, it resonated with me so profoundly, that I continue to come back year after year. Gazing over Mamma Agata’s terrace that sits high in the Ravello cliffs overlooking the sea…lemon vineyards, vegetable gardens, and olive groves sprawling just below your feet, it’s almost too much to take in for just one visit.
Mamma Agata is the soul and master behind this Amalfi Coast cooking school. Growing up in Ravello, she spent her early days gathering eggs from the family hens, baking fresh breads, and harvesting the garden that begins just footsteps from her back door. As a teen, she experimented with herbs and fresh ingredients and cooked for her family and friends almost daily. She loved to share her dishes and became very popular making a name for herself locally. Still young, she was already a master at her craft preparing Italian favorites such as Pasta with Zucchini and Eggplant Parmigiana, Spaghetti del Contadino, and of course her famous lemon cake which continues to be a favorite with everyone who visits.
Mamma’s love for preparing fresh dishes, her time spent in her family kitchen, and her desire to please others, has helped shape her into the chef and teacher she would become. But before she started her cooking school, she served as a private chef and was hired to cook for dignitaries and other high-profile officials. When she wasn’t cooking for others, she was cooking for her own family. Easter continues to be a time where you will find her in the kitchen for an entire week! She makes a classic Italian Pastiera Napoletana cake that takes hours of preparation and more than two dozen ingredients. She makes about thirty of these cakes and delivers them to friends and family near-by.
Mamma Agata’s cooking school is one like no other….and I know this first-hand because I’ve been to many. Managed by Mamma and Chiara, it is truly a family affair. Mamma’s husband, Salvatore tends to the garden, while Chiara’s husband Gennaro oversees the vineyards and wine making. Even Chiara and Gennaro’s beautiful children, Mario and Paola peek in every now again to say hello. It’s a family affair and with each visit, I’m simply amazed and taken back to a different time when family values, rich culture, and endless tradition were the norm. Daily, you will find visitors from around the world sipping their wines on the beautiful terrace, always set so lovingly for each guest, and strolling the gardens in complete awe that people actually live this way, and have a backyard that is simply indescribable.
I could write enough about Mamma and Chiara to fill pages upon pages of text. Using every adjective in the book to describe their home, their land, their cooking, and their most amazing family. I’m going back to visit the Agata family later this year and will go back every chance I can. I love taking new guests with me and watching their faces light up the minute Chiara opens her front door.
Our time on the Agata family terrace, cooking in their kitchen, preparing outstanding cuisine, and then eating together with new-found friends, each with a different story to tell, is something that continues to warm my heart for days upon days.
Won’t you be my guest?
Carol Ketelson is the owner and operator of Delectable Destinations LLC. Dedicated to planning, co-ordinating and curating customized group tours to hand-picked destinations. As an experienced travel planner, Carol’s customized itineraries, specialized tours and off-the-beaten-path experiences create memorable journeys for her small groups of singles, couples, divorced, widowed and solo travelers seeking exceptional trips into the culture and cuisine of destinations around the world. Spring and Fall bookings invite travelers to taste delectable local cuisine, culturally rich traditions and mesmerizing sights. For over 10 years, Carol’s tours have captured the true essence of Tuscany, the Amalfi Coast, Puglia, Spain, Ireland and India.