For our 30th anniversary trip, I surprised my wife with a journey through the Amalfi Coast of Italy. We spent 16 days on the Coast, staying in Ravello, Positano, and Capri, making a number of excursions from our hotels, such as Pompeii, Mt Vesuvius, several winery’s, and such. But my most anticipated gift for my wife was our day at Mama Agata’s Cooking School in Ravello.
I do in fact refer to TripAdvisor for a lot of travel guidance. More often than not I have found that the reviews of travelers are more trustworthy than those of paid travel guides. However I was honestly skeptical when I read the reviews for Mama’s Class. It is rare to find any hotel or attraction with ALL 5 Star reviews, and in Mama Agata’s case, the reviews boarded on the unbelievable. Nevertheless, I explored other review sites and about twenty internet checks to vet what was promised to be a fabulous day… and sent my paid reservation in.
Mama Agata’s bio states that she started cooking at the age of 13, and over the years cooked for Humphrey Bogart, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and Jackie Onassis to ‘name drop’ a few. Quite the résumé if you ask me. So I and my wife walked for some 25 minutes from The Caruso Hotel - DO get good directions! We did in fact get lost on our way and added about 10 minutes of walking in the rain – before we arrived at the very simple and understated entrance of Mama Agata’s private residence. As I opened the door, I was greeted by Chiara, Mama’s adult daughter, who translated and guided us for the day. Ok, I should not just say Chiara ‘greeted us…’ I sincerely felt like I had just been reunited with a long lost family member! She is ebullient, engaging, thoughtful, and even endearing and fun. As we were the second to last people to show up for our class of 12, we were spirited in to the patio dining area, introduced to our ‘classmates’, and presented with a slice of the most moist, splendiferously decadent lemon cake I have ever eaten. (And yes, I did have more… several more slices during the day!)
Here is where I offer some sage advice: Don’t eat breakfast before you start the class. Have a glass of juice, and maybe a bite of a scone… but no more. You will eat until you are satiated … and yes, with all the wine that Chiara’s husband, Gennaro serves from his own winery, perhaps happily inebriated. At 250 lbs, I can do damage to a buffet… but at the end of Mama’s Class I was as stuffed and content as a starving sumo at an all-you-can-eat sushi bar!
Mama’s kitchen is actually quite small; the twelve of us surrounded her kitchen island while Mama prepared numerous dishes - and Chiara interpreted and taught us the ‘lessons’. Mind you, there is no need for any writing down of notes and such. Every ‘student’ is presented with a completely annotated binder with all the recipes, each faithfully step-by-step described. We learned the proper techniques for choosing herbs, the suitable eggplant, how to slice, arrange, and yes, taste as we went along… with Gennaro’s wine as well. Are you getting the drift here? Uh huh, the hundred’s of 5 Star reviews really are true! Mama herself is – may I say it? - Adorable! She grins and smiles, especially at open comments made by students and Chiara alike. This is, after all, not a place to feel all stuffy and shy! We were all cracking up and having great fun throughout the day! And yes, there are a number of breaks where we would all go out to the patio dining area and eat the prepared foods… eventually culminating in the BIG meal consisting of several vegetable and meat pastas, chicken, sausages, and the outstanding egg plant parmesan. By the time the main meal was served, we had all become ‘Family’… No kidding.
Mama Agata’s Cooking Class IS a special experience. To me, it was a day of culinary inspiration, so much so that my wife and I went in to Ravello the next day and purchased our first complete set of 12 handmade Ravello dishes in 30 years! Now THAT’s Amore! And yes, we have even prepared two of the meals that we learned at Mama’s… much to the appreciation of our adult kids and spouses.
So yes, the reviews are in fact true. If I could, I’d give Mama’s School a TEN! Great fun, great food, pretty darn good wine, and wonderful memories. Gratzie, Mama and Chiara!
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.