Watch Garden Chef Niko Romito as he takes you on a tour around his Reale restaurant garden in Abruzzo, Italy
In 2011, chef Niko Romito renovated a sixteenth-century monastery, Casadonna, in Abruzzo, Italy, to create a new site for his three-Michelin-starred restaurant, Reale. Along with opening his own cookery school and a small boutique hotel, he has spent the last few years developing the terraced kitchen gardens and native fruit trees that form the basis for much of his experimental, highly complex cooking there.
As he recounts in our new book The Garden Chef: Recipes and Stories from Plant to Plate "Reale is in Abruzzo which is in the center of Italy, a couple of hours east from Rome, and is perched on the hills of the Val di Sangro, 2,600 feet (800 meters) above sea level, in an unblemished national park - it’s the greenest Italian region and it’s a breathtaking setting. The restaurant is part of the 15 acre (6 hectares) Casadonna estate.
"The gardens are right in front of the kitchen, and occupy a third of an acre arranged in large terraces with grass embankments and dry-stone walls cutting across the slope, to help to control water run-off and minimize soil erosion, Romito says in The Garden Chef.
"Around that we have orchards with apple, pear, cherry, plum, and peach, as well as walnut, hazelnut, and almond trees and an apiary for honey production. There’s also an experimental vineyard where we grow native grapes like Pecorino as well as Riesling and Pinot noir. In the herb garden we grow aromatic plants including rosemary, sage, thyme, lemon balm, and lemongrass, and wild herbs such as dandelion, burnet, wild fennel, potentilla, and wild carrot."
Niko's garden is an integral part of the dining experience and arouses deep emotions in his diners and guests. The great scenic and aesthetic charm of the place, the vegetation and its aromas, the dishes created with the fresh fruits and vegetables farmed on site, and the architectural project, make Casadonna a unique system in which beauty and taste are linked to wellness and health.
Can’t make it to Abruzzo? Watch the video Niko made for us above and then sample the tastes of Casaddonna Reale in our book The Garden Chef. Enjoy the scenery!