Italians have a big advantage over most countries when arriving in a new place – at least according to Angelo Caputo. “I always say we conquer them with spaghetti rather than weapons,” he told the Post.
That’s what he did 40 years ago, when he first docked his sloop off the south coast of Antigua and prepared a pasta invasion – or to be more precise, creating the Abracadabra restaurant and club.
Four decades later, it’s still one of the liveliest beaches in the country and the anchor of an unlikely Little Italy outpost in the Caribbean. If you’re craving pizza as good as it gets in Naples, just book a tour of Antigua’s south coast, in and around Falmouth and English Harbour.
Caputo was not the only Italian arrival. A year after setting foot here for the first time, Tuscan Carlo Falcone also moored his yacht in Antigua – he was actually making a quick detour en route to Guadeloupe. He was already working as a wharfmaster, so he quickly realized Antigua’s potential for yachting at the time: charming, village-sized settlements sprawled around two deep-water harbours. So he moved on and moved here, scraping together enough money to buy the local marina – which he still owns.
Now a wealthy local businessman and his country’s honorary vice consul, Falcone says he, Caputo and co see it as a homecoming. “Antigua was named by an Italian, Cristoforo Colombo,” he says, now a wealthy, “Yes, the English came with Nelson. But we were there before them.
And in the nearly four decades since these two Italian entrepreneurs moved to Antigua, they’ve attracted more and more of their countrymen to join them. Giorgio Armani and Stefano Gabbana both own homes nearby, as does Silvio Berlusconi; he regularly moored the superyacht he bought from Rupert Murdoch, the Morning Glory, here too.
Indeed, it was Berlusconi’s close friendship with Lester Bird, the charismatic former Prime Minister of Antigua, that helped encourage both investment and tourism from Italy over the past decade. and accelerated the stealth takeover of Italy.
Caputo says Antigua’s resemblance to some of Italy’s rocky outposts has helped it appear welcoming, including the ultra-chic island of Pantelleria, between Sicily and North Africa (Armani has there too). a house) kind of tuff, and the ocean looks a lot alike in a way. It’s very Mediterranean,” says Angelo Caput, adding that its scarcity of fresh water is also a parallel.
He laughs that they’ve clustered around a town called English Harbour. “We did it there to piss off the English,” he jokes, referring to an exhibition by artist Bruce Smith. “He made a view of the place covered in spaghetti. That was the first thing that showed us that we were taking over.
Roberto Falangola’s family were also pioneers: he grew up in the region, his father being Angelo’s first partner in Abracadabra. “This area was discovered by this small group of Italians who basically spread the news that there was this little paradise in the Caribbean by word of mouth,” he told the Post, “We’re all cousins, or friends, or friends of cousins Once a friend is there, everyone follows.
Falangola now runs his family’s classic and motor yacht servicing yard, Antigua Slipway; his mother and stepfather own a local hotel.
Come to this corner of the Caribbean, he says, not just for a recreation of Italy, but a fusion of the two countries. “We mixed Italian culture with what is available here.” If you want a taste of this unlikely Antigua-Italian hotspot, here’s where to stay, eat, and play.
The English Harbor Inn
Roberto’s mother, Susanna, and stepfather, Enzo, own this luxurious 19-acre hotel, originally built by British pilot Peter Deeth in the 1960s. They remodeled it in its current ultra-luxury vibe after buying it twenty years ago after mooring in front. “They went ashore for breakfast and ended up falling in love with the resort,” Roberto says. “So my father-in-law offered to buy it directly as a gift for my mother.” The pristine, private white-sand beach is outfitted like a Mediterranean bagno, with umbrellas and full facilities; rooms are lush but simple, colonial-style wooden furniture offset by whitewashed walls and crisp white linens (doubles from $591).
Antigua Yacht Club Marina
Carlo Falcone still owns and manages this marina hotel on the Falmouth Harbor waterfront, which has 19 rooms and 30 studio-style residences. The best are undoubtedly the maisonette-style duplex suites with double balconies, the lower part overlooking the lush gardens and the upper part over the water. It also has full facilities for fueling and refueling yachts, including a supermarket and liquor store, as well as an on-site gourmet restaurant; boats pulling up to 25 feet can moor here (doubles from $209).
Mauro’s famous pizza
Born in Sardinia, Mauro began offering an ad hoc taste of home to Italian expats in the mid-1980s during Sailing Week, earning his nickname. “He was handing out free pizzas from a shack in English Harbour, which slowly turned into this place,” Falangola recalls. He and his wife built a wood-fired oven on this site, which they moved to in 1992. Many of the ingredients he uses, such as the cherry tomatoes, are grown on site.
Take a short taxi ride from the center of the port to this open-air wine bar run by chef Alessandro Moncada. Try a hearty Livorno-style cacciucco fish soup, one of the house pastas, or lobster, freshly caught from nearby waters and picked from the reservoir to be cooked to order.
Incanto Restaurant and Lounge
Milan-born Rosella and her son Andrea run this upscale restaurant on a wooden dock in Antigua Slipway – look for the waving Italian flag to confirm you’ve come to the right place. Come here to unwind with a glass of wine on one of its comfy sofas perched by the water, or feast on Italian cuisine’s greatest hits, whether it’s calamari a la fritto misto or spaghetti carbonara, sprinkled with crispy pieces of guanciale.
This restaurant, which sits right on the waterfront, is busiest at lunchtime, when crowds enjoy classic Italian comfort food like grilled mozzarella di bufala grilled and wrapped in Parma ham or large meatballs covered in a rich tomato sauce – all prepared by the Sicilian Taibi family. Order one of the wood-fired pizzas to go and they’ll be happy to deliver it by boat to any ship docked nearby.
Ari fish shop
Owner Arianna was born in Italy but was one of the first generation of children to grow up in English Harbour. She now runs this supply store which is loved by superyacht chefs for its reliable supply of super fresh fish and local produce (think micro greens and other gourmet treats). Stop in for some souvenirs, too: she’s put together a chic assortment of trinkets and other souvenirs, all made on the island.
The hub of the expat social scene here – call it Abra, as the Italians do – is set to reopen in November, following a two-year renovation by Angelo and his current co-owner, brother Paolo. It functions as an upscale restaurant in the early evening. “It’s a real Italian restaurant, where the recipes are inspired by those of my mother,” says Caputo, still proud of his son. But linger after dinner to watch it transform into a classic Mediterranean-style seaside disco, complete with live DJs and dancing on the tables. Don’t be surprised to see Armani on the dance floor at Christmas either because it’s one of his favorite places.