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Casadonna Reale, the art of sobriety

Three hours after renting a car at Rome-Fiumicino airport, I reach Castel di Sangro, a small village lost in Italy, in the wilderness of the Abruzzo. My goal is to meet one of the legends of Italian gastronomy: Niko Romito. The triple Michelin-starred chef is as talented as he is discreet. From the top of the hill, I spot a beautiful white building with refined outlines that stands out among the grapevines. Welcome to Casadonna Reale, the culinary haven crafted by Niko and Cristiana Romito. The sister rules the dining area and the brother the kitchen: an unusual duo in the world of grande cuisine. We meet in a refined 16th century monastery.  

Restaurant Reale, three Michelin stars with Hiddenist

Casadonna Reale, a monastery of elegance and simplicity

After a scenic drive through the Abruzzo mountains -one of the most breathtaking landscapes in Italy, I find myself standing in front of a grand iron gate. I ring the bell and I am greeted by a short alleyway leading to a stunning stone edifice: Casadonna Reale. This 16th century monastery, meticulously renovated by architect Leonardo de Carlo, seamlessly blends gastronomy and architecture meet, in a dance of simplicity, minimalism, and nature. A true reflection of the vision of Cristiana and Niko Romito.  


The setting of the boutique hotel is simply incredible! Time-worn light stone floors, whitewashed walls and a magnificient terrace offering sweeping views of the Sangro valley, the ancient church and villages houses below. Beyond the main building, rolling hills adorned with vineyards stretch as far as the eye can see. This striking contrast between past and present coupled with the understated decor, instantly ease all the tension from the trip, making way for a profound sense of calm and serenity.  

My room is immaculate white, simple and elegante with a beautiful view of the valley below.  

A delightful surprise awaits: a selection of refreshing beverages and Niko Romito’s renowned pandolce... Intrigued, I examine the ingredients: leaven derived from fermented grapes of Casadonna Reale’s vineyard, organic Bourbon vanilla pods, citrus honey, no preservatives, organic Sicilian almond butter... In Niko Romito’s realm, every detail is carefully crafted to perfection.  

As the aperitivo hour approaches, I step outside to admire the sunset casting its warm hues upon the gardens and vineyards. Serenity, elegance, beauty... It’s all perfect. Gianni Sinesi, the sommelier of Casadonna Reale escort me to the wine cellar and we select a bottle together. Time for Champagne, dinner and good Italian wines!  

Reale, three stars and an essential idea

A heavy door opens onto a dining room with eight tables. The austere monastic feel is intimidating, at first. Cristiana Romito welcomes me with a radiant smile. She explains: I could compare my job to theater, like I'm part of a half-improvised show that’s new everyday... new day, new clients! It’s like walking a tightrope, all in the flexibility.”

This daily show is nothing short of sacred, playing with light and shadows. Each table has its own lamp, creating a personal bubble within the half-dark atmosphere. Despite the restaurant being fully booked every night, the clever use of lampshades and soft lighting envelops diners in a gastronomic cocoon.

In the dining area, five waiters bustle around, while Cristiana carefully oversees every detail. “Our job isn't just about mastering the right gestures or explaining Niko’s culinary creations," she emphasizes. "It's also about attending to every seemingly invisible detail." Much like a ballet, everything is orchestrated, and everyone knows their dance steps in the restaurant room, moving with grace and precision in a flawless choreography.

Reale is where the three Michelin-starred chef can concentrate on his cooking philosophy, implementing new ideas where “the hardest thing is not to add elements, but to take them away”. With a commitment to purity and lightness in his gastronomic endeavors, Niko Romito’s cuisine makes you reflect.  

Time to taste the food at least! Each dish is a waltz of flavors, with a star ingredient taking center stage. Cauliflower, spinach, pomodoro, peas, broccoli and even onion are uniquely interpreted by Niko Romito, to exalt their flavors. “The dishes that have made the history of the restaurant are all plant-based, because vegetables are ideal for transformation and research” he explains. These dishes, intellectual per nature, may not always be immediately comprehensible, but they expand into an incredible array of flavors, culminating in a wonderful harmony of taste.  


The “wine” experience is mastered by sommelier Giovanni Sinese and his comprehensive selection of interesting montepulciano d’Abruzzo with floral and spicy notes, or trebbiano for those who prefer dry and fresh white wines. 


It feels like a step back in time when the waiter brings to your table a loaf of bread, fresh out of the oven "to bring more emotion to the service". This moment of pure pleasure is only enhanced when Niko Romito himself stops by, smiling and graciously greeting the guests. 


If you’re ready for a full immersion, this journey into the three-starred chef’s culinary universe is astonishing. Even now, as I write these lines, I can still taste the slight acidity of the capellini, recall the unique creaminess of the butter-free risotto, and the ineffable aroma of the crispy bread.  

The Reale restaurant of Michelin 3-star chef Niko Romito

Stunning breakfast at Casadonna Reale

I’ve heard so much about it that I have to admit, I'm pretty excited. For foodies, the hotel’s prima colazione is an unforgettable culinary experience. 


While the dining room of the Reale was shrouded in shadows and dim light, this morning, a bright sunlit haven awaits me at Porticato, the breakfast restaurant. Immaculate white linen tablecloths, silver cutlery and minimalistic tableware take on a whole new dimension in the daylight. And the pink menu is just so cute! 


There are so many tempting options, each more inviting than the last. Everything is prepared in the kitchen and at Laboratorio Niko Romito, in Castel di Sangro. Fresh juice, brioche, bread, jam, charcuterie straight from De Paulis, a friend of the Chef; and cheese by Gregorio Rotolo, a staple of the Abruzzo. 

This healthy breakfast is full of good energy and impossible to resist! The hardest part is refraining from having too many of the fresh brioches straight from the oven.  


Before leaving Castel di Sangro, one must stop at Alt Stazione del Gusto, to buy a pane or pandolce Niko Romito to go! 


It’s time, though, to leave Casadonna Reale and Castel di Sangro, continuing to Costa dei Trabbochi to discover the more “Adriatic” side of the Abruzzo, and then on to my beloved Rome, with its palaces, terraces, warm light and fashion boutiques.  


Before I depart, I share my emotions to Cristiana from my dinner at Reale, with Niko joining us. He offers a shy smile. The simplicity and discretion of Cristiana and Niko Romito are truly admirable, as they charmingly pursue the Abruzzo tradition of hospitality, while reinventing the codes of Italian cooking.  

Juliana Angotti, founder of Hiddenist



. 4 days/ 3 nights week-end itinerary in the Abruzzo – Chef's Escape Niko Romito: Hiddenist offers a week-end trip imagined with triple Michelin-starred chef including dinner and a night at Casadonna Reale, as well as private tastings, cooking classes, cultural visits, leading you from Rome to Castel di Sangro, through Santo Stefano di Sessanio. A gastronomic journey in the beautiful region of the Abruzzo in Italy 


. 8 days/ 7 nights itinerary in Rome and the Abruzzo – Chef's Escape Niko Romito: if you’d like to combine your gastronomic discovery of the Abruzzo with a trip to Rome, Hiddenist has prepared a gourmet itinerary, for experiences away from the beaten path in the Italian capital 



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