Alfredo Di Lelio, was the creator of Fettuccine all’Alfredo in 1908 in a small family restaurant run by his mother Angelina in Rome, Piazza Rosa (this piazza no longer exists).
The story goes that his after his wife gave birth to their firstborn son, Armando, her health declined. Alfredo, concerned for her wellbeing, tried all sorts of healthy and nutritious recipes to nurse her back to health. One of these dishes was flat noodles mixed with butter and fresh Parmesan. As a good Catholic, to be sure he covered all bases, he also prayed to St. Anna, the patron saint of pregnant women. His wife Ines ate the dish with gusto and recovered, then suggested he add the dish to the family restaurant's menu.
Afterwards, di Lelio opened the restaurant Alfredo in 1914 in Rome, after leaving the restaurant of his mother Angelina (after all, as most Italian men do, they only leave Mama after they are married and starting a family of their own). The fame of fettuccine all’Alfredo spread first locally and then to the rest of the gastronomical world. With his wild mustache he himself became a celebrity, as famous as the movie stars he posed with for photos, always holding a handful of fettuccine trying to stuff the face of his famous victims.
In 1943, during the war, Di Lelio sold Ristorante Alfredo to others outside his family. In 1950 Di Lelio decided to reopen a restaurant with his son Armando on the Piazza Augusto Imperatore across from the tomb of Augustus. Il Vero Alfredo (the REAL Alfredo), which is now managed by his nephews Alfredo and Ines, with the famous logo of the gold cutlery (fork and spoon) donated in 1927 by two well-known, old school American actors Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks (in gratitude for his hospitality). In Rome there are many other restaurants called "Alfredo" that have nothing to do with the Di Lelio family lineage. In a way, this reminds me of the story of "Ray's Pizza" in Manhattan. There are many... "Ray's Original Pizza", "Famous Ray's Pizza" and "World-Famous Original Ray's Pizza"and even a "Not Ray's Pizza"... recently there were 49 variations of "Ray's" pizza shops in New York City.
Il Vero Alfredo is in the registered in Rome's Historic Shops of Excellence and has been visited by just about every famous person you can imagine--presidents, movie stars, musicians, artists--you name them, and more than likely, they've eaten there--at least, back in the 1950s and 60s. Today you never see Italians or celebrities eating there. The atmosphere is old world, a bit stuffy, the ancient waiters wearing white jackets with yellow tablecloths to match the intense color of the fettuccine Alfredo being served.
The bottom line is, the fame of fettucine all' Alfredo mostly spread to places other than Italy itself. Most Italians don't eat it or haven't heard of it. It's an old import from the days of Sinatra, shark skin suits and men wearing hats. Italians think of it as an American dish. Perhaps this is because Italians don't typically have butter on their pasta (or their bread, for that matter). However, if you want to search out the "birthplace" of fettucine alfredo, while discovering the roots of the Olive Garden, book a reservation and follow the tourists into the dining room of Il Vero Alfredo. You'll have a fairly good meal, be taken care of properly by lack luster waiters and be serenaded by someone playing accordion... over and over and over again during your meal. You might even see Alfredo's grandson (Alfredo III) sporting the same outlandish 'stach as his father (Armando, aka Alfredo II) and grandfather did, wandering around trying to stuff mouths with fist-fulls of fettuccine.
Il Vero Alfredo
Piazza Augusto Imperatore 30
00186 Rome Italy Phone number +39 06 6878734
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Copyright, Jerry Finzi, Grand Voyage Italy, All rights reserved