Mario, Salina, Mamma Santina
the story of a man, an island and life projec
Meeting Mario at the restaurant at Mamma Santina’s is part of your culinary experience.
The chef and owner of this small Aeolian paradise Mario dedicates his time to the restaurant, the kitchen and the vegetable garden. He has a charismatic presence. Through his warm eyes and smile it is clear to see that he has much to tell. Mario always finds the time to stop and chat with his guests. He listens, tells stories of the past, and explains his goals and dreams for the future.
"I love to tell the story behind Mamma Santina. The love for this place is one you will feel in every corner."
In 1980 when Mamma Santina was an eight room pensione, or guesthouse, I began working in it. I was the youngest to work in our family business. During the following years I worked as a waiter in the evenings. This was because during the day I worked as a bricklayer with one of my older brothers.
In 1986 I was literally thrown into the kitchen!
My profession as a chef began with a phrase "scoppiau", or blown up. This was the mistake of the sous chef ,Calogero, who at the time helped my brother Alfredo in the kitchen. He had managed to blow up the only fresh fish we had that day. Our guests never got to taste that fish. Calogero was sent out to wait tables and I was moved from waiting tables to cooking in the kitchen.
In 1987 I began managing both the hotel and restaurant. This was two years after my mother passed. I decided to continue the work my mother had begun to keep her memory alive for all those who had the good fortune of experiencing her hospitality and mastery in the kitchen. She could also embroider and used to make all the bedsheets and tablecloths of the hotel and restaurant.
At the time I was also an architecture student in Turin. As soon as the spring semester was over I would run to Salina and open the hotel and restaurant for the summer season for an increasing number of guests. Motivated by the desire to keep the results of my mother’s hardwork alive, I was determined to learn the secrets of the Aeolian cuisine. As I could no longer ask her I began assisting my older brother Alfredo to learn recipes and secrets he had learned from our mother. I also went to my aunts and older women of the village to have them give me their recipes. They were years of culinary research. In the winter months I studied architecture and in the summer I studied the balance of tastes of dishes!
In 1994 I decided to leave my practice as an architect and devote my energies to my family history and continue my mother’s legacy. In 2001 with my brother Carmelo’s help we renovated Mamma Santina, added a pool, and bought some neighboring houses. The hotel rooms became 17. I then began work on the garden around the rooms creating cozy green areas. I then moved on to the interior decorating using natural brilliant colors to paint walls and furniture. I had solar panels installed. The hotel and restaurant took on the look, ambiance and atmosphere they have today."
the history and hospitality
The history of Mamma Santina, today a hotel and restaurant, is the story of hospitality and catering guided by the theme of love. Family is the key with which to read and understand this story...