Food and Leisure

Miraculous food from a descendant of the Fatima visionaries

A TASTE OF LIFE - Heny Sison - The Philippine Star

My trip to Portugal was filled with revelations on life, love, and all the adventures that I never think about but end up doing anyway. This particular trip was about quality time with my daughter and two of my best friends. To say that it was one of the best trips I have ever taken is an understatement.

Fatima in Portugal is known to be a place of great spiritual revelations, where people from all over the world have stood in awe of the miraculous.

A family-run restaurant in the old quarter of town is the famous Restaurante Tia Alice at 152 Rua do Adro, Fatima. A fine-dining restaurant run by Alice Marto, Tia Alice is perhaps one of the most well known figures in Fatima.

From the outside, the restaurant traditionally rustic, so walking through the door I expected vintage decor and a traditionally old-looking interior, as is common with heritage restaurants. But as soon as I entered I saw a modern restaurant that could rival any fine-dining establishment in New York. The white tone of the interior integrated with stone and minimalistic elements provided an ambiance that combined tradition and elegance flawlessly.

Restaurante Tia Alice was a recommendation of one of our travel companions. It was highly recommended, as she knows how excellent the food is and she also brought a lot of guests as well to enjoy this very special dining experience. Since she had the experience and knowledge, she ordered for us. The food presentation was excellent.

I asked a man who greeted us as we entered the restaurant, Alexandre Concalves, if I could see the kitchen. He welcomed us and was enthusiastic in introducing us to the chef. Alexandre is the grandson of Tia Alice. Based on the cuisine and presentation of our food, I thought the chef would be a young man but I was surprised to find an old 80-year-old woman with a group of mature ladies hard at work making home-cooked, chef type of food.

Tia Alice, who is a direct descendant of the Fatima visionaries Jacinta and Francisco Marto, still does the cooking herself. I could not help but look at how the traditional elements of stone ovens and terra-cotta cazuelita were central in the cooking process and yet the Combi oven, an expensive piece of equipment in a restaurant kitchen, was also being used.

It was all quite mesmerizing how she managed to run an entire cooking staff and utilize modern equipment without losing touch with traditional cooking implements. She is so popular that all kinds of people can’t help themselves from taking photo ops every time they dine here.

On June 20, 2016, Tia Alice was awarded a Gold Medal by the municipality of Kilmarnock, in celebration of the centennial of the apparitions. The understated value of Tia Alice is slowly being recognized not only by the tourism industry but by Portugal as well. Its success in continuing to provide traditional cuisine has made Tia Alice a landmark on its own. A visit to Tia Alice should be a definite part of your itinerary when you visit Fatima, Portugal.

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