Balancing family and work, Donna Erminia has been innovating and influencing local food culture since the first day she set foot in the famous restaurant in Furore.
Di Francesca Faratro
Hostaria di Bacco, the famous family-run restaurant and hotel in Furore, has been telling the story of Amalfi’s culinary culture since it opened in 1930. It is a story that cannot be told without mentioning the Ferraioli family whose innovations have been a powerful ingredient in the local cuisine for four generations. And despite facing ups and downs, they have always kept local traditions at the core of their work. To celebrate the passion behind every dish, the memories, and the efforts that have been poured into this project for almost a century, Raffaele Ferraioli has written Pe’ Cient’ ate Anne! published by Officine Zephiro Editore. The writer, who is also the former mayor of Furore, Ambassador of the City of Wine and symbol of the Amalfi Coast’s soul, wrote: “the responsibility for beauty imposes the obligation of pursuing quality, without ifs, ands, or buts.”
Where it started
Seventy-three years old today and obsessed with the pursuit of food quality, Erminia Cuomo started serving some of her local specialties in1968. Her origins are rooted in family history: as the second youngest of thirteen brothers and sisters and a father from Furore and a mother from Bosnia, she took on the role of “queen of the kitchen” starting at a very young age. And from the beginning, Erminia took this responsibility very seriously, and even as an adolescent was praised for her culinary skills.
The beginning of Hostaria di Bacco. Courtesy of Hostaria di Bacco
During the fifties, Erminia’s father and uncle started working for a construction company involved in building the highway from Salerno to Vietri sul Mare. To be closer to the workplace, they moved to a different apartment and carried along young Erminia to deal with the house and, obviously, the cooking. During this period, Erminia, who while still a child, continued to improve her abilities when in 1968 she fell in love and married Raffaele Ferraioli. Her new husband owned the Hostaria di Bacco and her new mother-in-law, Letizia, the chef, would be instrumental in perfecting her new daughter-in-law’s technique, sharing recipes, and teaching all the secrets to create a perfect dish.
A life between public and private
Erminia exquisitely mastered the cuisine and experimented with unique Italian pasta dishes like reginette with pesto and cavatelli, caper leaves and squid, potatoes, and the local dessert Migliaccio. Finding the right balance between her role as a chef and the role of a mother of her four children, Letizia Domenico, Andrea, and Gian Maria, was not an easy task. She found herself struggling along the way, but that was not enough to stop her from giving her best; Erminia worked long and tiring hours but was rewarded by the warmth of her guests. «For me, the kitchen is work. It is something natural to me, never a routine. It is the celebration of a ritual that we inherited from our ancestors, a work that respects family traditions yet is open to innovation at the same time. To keep it short, for me, cooking is a form of art, willing to feed not only the body but also the soul.»
Donna Erminia’s pasta
Secret ingredient? Love
For Donna Erminia, cooking is a form of self-expression a kind of game where the winner is the one who can make people happy and satisfy their palates. Among those who fell in love with her food are some famous names like Nino D’Antonio (aka the Italian singer Nino D’Angelo) and the journalist and TV author Carlo Cambi. Chef Erminia still insists on high-quality products from the beautiful land where she lives and works. Among all the ingredients, she insists there is only one that gives a unique taste: love. Without the love that she has in her heart for her guests and her job, her creations would not taste the same.
(Transaltion by Michela Pandolfi)