A continuous passion for culinary art connected to one of the Capitoline restaurant symbols in the world
From the historical founder Alfredo Di Lelio, creator of the famous fettuccine, a long gastronomic tradition and a legacy of memories and identities that, for over a hundred years, have been handed down from generation to generation: from father to son, from son to grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
In Piazza Augusto Imperatore, among Art Deco furnishings, bas-reliefs, books, photos and memories that make it a small "museum of conviviality", the restaurant Il Vero Alfredo combines tradition and innovation, with excellent quality ingredients, enthusiasm and care that have always characterized the family business.
Ines Di Lelio, Alfredo's nephew and heir, flanked by her daughters Chiara and Assia, tells us her story and her Rome, offering us an original look at the city.
“Our history began in the early 20th century. My grandfather Alfredo had a small family-run restaurant in piazza Rosa, adjacent to Galleria Colonna. He had two great loves: cooking and my grandmother Ines. After my father's birth, my grandmother was very tired so, to help her to regain her strength, my grandfather prepared at home some fresh egg fettuccine (noodles) with double butter and Parmesan. The dish was so delicious that, at my grandmother's suggestion, he included it in the restaurant menu. It was 1908: the year of birth of my dad Armando and of a recipe that made my grandfather's name famous all over the world. A "legend" of taste born from love, simplicity and quality of the ingredients, the ones that, even today, we use with the same care and passion.
My grandfather was from a simple family in Trastevere and was a lively boy: during a "stone throwing" among young people from different districts, he met Petrolini, who instead came from Rione Monti. An extraordinary solidarity was born between them, which then became a working "partnership" - in fact, for a period, they worked together as butcher's shop boys; soon they began great friends. My grandfather was a real ball of fire, and his life could be defined as a novel.
In 1914 he opened the restaurant in via della Scrofa, which, in 1943 he left and sold to others, because, with his exuberant character, during the years of the rationing of the World War II, he was unable to carry on that type of "brilliant" work according to his personality. In 1950, his passion for cooking and working led him to open here in Piazza Augusto Imperatore, where, later my father, who stayed working at the Scrofa for a period, joined him.
My grandfather Alfredo was a true entertainer. He stopped at every table to say hello to the customers: from the movie star to the head of state, from the great artist to the ordinary people. Seeing him "mixing" his famous fettuccine was a show. One evening, his friend Petrolini went to see him and, while grandpa was mixing the "blondes" as he used to call his noodles, said: "Alfredo, thank goodness you didn't become an actor because there was no room for two". Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, the stars of the silent screen, during their journey to Rome tasted the exquisite dish. They were so delighted with the meal and hospitality to give my grandfather two beautiful gold cutlery with the inscription "To Alfredo the king of the noodles". That is how his name reached Hollywood.
Histrionic, creative and dynamic: grandfather Alfredo was also the one who went from inventing a recipe for a famous person - such as rigatoni alla Rigorè (from the transformation of Henry King, in Italian Enrico Re), to passing a magnet on every single table every day out of luck, from winking at Ava Gardner to preparing the noodles for John Wayne who stayed at the Plaza. Elizabeth Taylor often visited us. Every time she arrived with her last husband, my grandfather had to hide the photograph that portrayed her with the previous one, until one day he said: "Mrs Taylor, why don't we take a nice picture of just you and me?". My first memory of the restaurant is connected to the beautiful English actress. I was at the bar, and I saw this tiny brunette with extraordinary and hypnotic purple eyes; it wasn't a legend, they had a unique colour. I was thirteen, and I was enchanted.
Our restaurant appeared in famous movies such as Woody Allen’s “To Rome with Love” and Alberto Sordi's “Polvere di stelle” (Stardust). The elite of cinema, music, politics and art used to come here. People who come to our restaurant want to taste the excellence of cuisine and also live an experience, which includes furnishings, photographs, memories. There is part of the history of cinema on our walls. Just like art, also taste and tradition embrace beauty. These are our specific values; this is what represents us. Our family has always tried to infuse its own experience, together with the city vibes, its history, its artisans and its shops, into our work. This is the meaning of "doing a work, a craft": the fabric, soul and identity of Rome, which distinguishes it and makes it unique. This essence, I would say this feeling, we try to bring it to the table.
The restaurant has always been the common thread of our life: from my grandfather to my brother. When I was a child, to see my father I had to come here because there was no closing day: he left home at 8.30, arrived at the restaurant at 9, and the barber was already waiting for him. It was a wonderful concentration of activity, an atmosphere of tradition and energy of unbelievable beauty.The waiters who shelled the fresh peas and prepared the brightly coloured vegetables at the tables, my aunts busy doing things. That's how the day started, until early afternoon, then home for a nap and back to work until midnight. It happened 365 days a year. It was the 50s-60s. Everything was about the restaurant, our "home".
I grew up here. Here I have lived my life, my loved ones, I refined my palate and improved the taste for good flavours and aromas that connect me to my family. My grandfather, my father, my brother: they gave me the motivation to continue; it is an impossible bond to break. This work has deeply united all generations. Just think of the moustache, the symbol of “Alfredo” in the world and a family tradition: my grandfather died and my father Armando grew them; when my father died my brother Alfredo grew them. And all three of them daily used a moustache trainer.
Over time, work has never changed: customer care, hospitality, choice of raw materials and "mixing" of the noodles. The way of eating has changed over the years; during the Golden Age of Hollywood, the Dolce Vita, the Vitelloni's days, there was a great tradition of enjoying a meal, from the appetizers to the desserts; today, we are much more frugal because of a different lifestyle. In the past, there was so much search for beauty, grace, and taste even in the simplest dish.
In this particular moment, in which life has presented us with a great challenge, the work created by my whole family represents the strength to preserve our cultural heritage and our traditions. It is also an incentive to improve because the Historical Stores of Excellence are gems to be protected and be known. They are images and stories of people and Rome, still alive in precious craftsmanships and works.
I look at Assia mixing the noodles just like her great-grandfather, grandfather, and uncle used to do. I see Chiara's passion for our work. I think about the inspiration that, since 1908, gave life to my grandfather's dream, passed down to my father and my brother: a story of love and beauty that we want to continue telling."
Open 12:30-15:00 19:30-23:00Monday 19:30-23:00Closed Sunday