Cooking at Mamma Agata's in Ravello!

One of the highlights of this past exclusive Gourmet Getaways tour was to go to Ravello and cook with Mamma Agata.

Our day began early as we had to depart from the Excelsior Victoria hotel in order to arrive in Ravello by 10am.  It was a beautiful day and the ride to Ravello was breathtaking.  Upon our arrival Chiara greeted everyone with a cheerful smile and encouraged us to sit on the terrace and have an Italian breakfast:  Mamma Agata's famous lemon cake and a cappuccino.

Mamma's house is built into the hillside of Ravello with beautiful views of the Amalfi Coast .  Pictures cannot due it justice!  One has to see this to believe this view!  I often wonder what it would be like to wake up to this view every day.  This family works hard to grow their own vegetables and  herbs.  They also have their own lemon trees .    The land is terraced so as to use every available space. 

After we had a chance to collect ourselves we went into Mamma's kitchen and were eager to learn. Everyone was given an apron and folder with notepaper and pens so we could take copious notes. Mamma does not speak English so her daughter, Chiara, translates and together they make quite the team.   The first part of the lesson we concentrated on making eggplant parmesian and fresh tomato sauce.  I has to bake for one hour and then it must rest for about 45 minutes before eating!

Mid way we took a break and explored the working farm and took in the beautiful vistas.  Many of us just marveled at the amount of work that they have to do to  make this an ultimate cooking program. The family works together every step of the way and together they are quite the team.  Even Chiara's children help during the season when another pair of hands are needed.

We returned thirty minutes later.  Mamma then teaches us to make two pasta dishes: one with capers, tomatoes and olives and the other is with sausage, red and yellow peppers and cherry tomatoes. Next comes Mamma's famous lemon chicken. All the ingredients are grown on the farm.

After many glasses of wines, eating  rolled eggplant and tasting the tomato sauces we sit down to a fabulous meal.  The eggplant is so light and tasty, the pasta is outstanding the chicken so juicy and tender. 

 Of course for dessert there is the  lemon cake and no one resisted having seconds.  With all the lemon trees abundant with lemons Mamma makes her own limoncello.  I think it is the best on the Amalfi Coast and I have tasted several brands.  This a winner!  Hands down!

After our dinner Chiara tells everyone about the farm, how Mamma cooked for very famous people and still does and other bits of information.  She kept our attention for quite a while.

Now it is time for us to leave. All of us wanted to stay, but before we departed  we gather for a group picture and hope that the memories of this special day will linger for a long long time. Chiara and Mamma make you feel that you are part of their family. 

This cooking class is the ultimate.  You will not be disappointed one bit!  I cannot wait to go back and will definitely put together another tour.

Part I of the Amalfi Tour with Gourmet Getaways

Our spring Gourmet Getaways exclusive tour began in Sorrento.  We stayed at the Excelsior Victoria Hotel, which is my favorite hotel.  It is surrounded by lemon and orange trees and lush gardens.  

After everyone checked into the hotel and unloaded their luggage we gathered by the pool as   I had made arrangements for us to have a pizza making class with the chef at the hotel.  We were all given chef’s hats and aprons and we were ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work. 

As we approached the outdoor kitchen there was the wood-burning oven, which had been burning logs for at least 2 hours so that the temperature would be at least 900 degrees! 

First the chef instructed us on how to prepare the dough using yeast, water, flour and a little bit of sugar.  After a 3-hour rise it is ready for us to shape the dough, add the sauce and cheeses and some olive oil. 

Very simple ingredients.    Using a pizza peel the pizza was headed for the oven where it only took 2 –3 minutes to cook.  Each was dressed with a little basil and then it was ready for us to eat! Everyone had the chance to make his or her own pizza. 


Each pizza was beautifully charred on the bottom and the dough was very tender.  Of course it was the best pizza ever!  Nothing like a simple Neapolitan pizza.

We all enjoyed eating our pizza and drinking wine and Pelligrino sitting among the lemon trees with the sun shining.  A great start to a wonderful tour.

Later in the week after our exclusive dinner at the hotel, to which the chef prepared a special meal for my group, the manager and the chef presented everyone with a cooking certificate and the recipe.


Getting back to this hotel, let me say again that this hotel is my favorite.  I have stayed here at least four times and each time my stay is enhanced and I can never tire of this magnificent hotel.


What makes this hotel so special is the manager Nicolino Grigio(pictured below)  You can read more about the hotel by visiting John and Elana


Tastes of the Amalfi Coast and Rome with Cooking at Mamma Agata's Home

This spring Gourmet Getaways will be hosting an exclusive tour of the Amalfi Coast and Rome in April 2011.  Although this tour is sold out I thought you might be interested in reading about it. Dates:  April 2- 10 2011

Highlights of the trip include:

  • Accommodations at the Excelsior Victoria Hotel in Sorrento and Hotel St. George in Rome
  • Private transfers
  • Pizza demonstration in Sorrento at the Excelsior Victoria hotel by chef Vincenzo Galano
  • Free time to explore Capri
  • Tour of Naples
  • Wine tasting in Rome with a private guide, Katie Parla
  • Private tour in Rome
  • Visit to a limoncello factory
  • Mozzarella demonstration follwed by lunch
  • Cooking class with Mamma Agata followed by lunch


$4200.00 per person based on double occupancy

Single Supplement:$1130.00

Not Included:

  • Travel Insurance - highly recommended!
  • Airfare
  • Personal expenses at the hotels: beverages, wine, laundry, room service etc.
  • Tips for guides
  • Other incidental costs:  entrances into museums, finicular to the top of Capri, ferry ride to Capri

There may be an adjustment to the final cost because of the fluctuating euro.

For more details please call:  973 644 0906


The Best of the Sorrento Hotels!



During my last trip with my family to Italy, I combined business with pleasure and chose to visit the Amalfi Coast, Rome and Orvieto.  I thought it was best to revisit Sorrento, one of my favorite towns, and stay at the Excelsior Victoria Hotel located in the heart of Sorrento. Although I have stayed here before, its excellent accomdationg staff and charm continue to exceed my expectations.  Truly it is deserving of its five star rating and membership in ‘The Leading Small Hotels of the World’.  Each room is beautifully appointed each with its own unique character.  This time we enjoyed a seaview room, which included a breath taking view.  Each morning we were able to sit on the balcony and watch the local fisherman in the Bay of Naples with Mt. Vesuvius in the far background.  It was very relaxing and peaceful.


There are spectacular suites at this hotel which are attractively decorated, as well as garden view rooms, and classic and deluxe sea view rooms.  All bathrooms are luxurious with lush towels and robes.


Each evening you can sit in the lobby and enjoy the pianist while sipping your evening aperitif.  You may be fortunate enough one evening to enjoy the delicious and mouth-watering chocolates prepared by the chef.  I am a self- professed  chocoholic.  I have tasted many different chocolates prepared by different chocolatiers, and I have never tasted anything that compares to these delectable chocolates!  Ever!


The breakfast buffet is amazing.  The selection of breakfast foods will satisfy the most finicky eater.  Don’t leave the hotel without having dinner.  Chef Vincenzo is very talented!


The Excelsior Victoria is a luxury hotel with gracious charm.  It is surrounded by lemon and lime trees, beautiful gardens, and is situated on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean.  There is a holistic spa, where you may feel compelled to indulge yourself, as well as a large swimming pool.  The manager, Nicolino Grigio, vigilantly manages this hotel with utmost care


Gourmet Getaways highly recommends this hotel and if you book through its services and stay three nights, you will certainly be taken care of and will be entitled to an exclusive offer, which in today’s economy is a definite bonus.  Spoil yourself and create those  recession proof memories which will only appreciate in value and yield dividends for years to come!