Caina restaurant on Södermalm in Stockholm was opened in 1980. In a few short years, it wrote its own chapter in Stockholm’s restaurant history. It was the first, and, according to many, still one of the few truly Italian restaurants ever in Stockholm, way ahead of its time with a minimalistic interior with a stone floor, large curtain-less windows and white walls with modernist paintings and photography.
“When we opened, people wondered what the hell this was,” says Alessandro Catenacci. “In those days, an Italian restaurant in Stockholm meant either a cheap pizzeria or maybe some Disney-style romantic cavern with candles. But I had been to New York and was inspired by the modern minimalist restaurants there. When we took over the restaurant, the floor was covered with a filthy carpet and the walls with all kinds of things. I still have marks on my hands and arms from all the chemicals we used to get rid of the glue on the wonderful stone floor we discovered underneath that carpet.”
Four generations of Catenaccis worked in Caina, including then 14-year old Stefano Catenacci, who assisted his father at the stove. The brothers’ great-grandmother Nonna Fellucca was responsible for peeling the large amounts of garlic consumed.
After a slow start, Caina soon took off and became a great hype among Stockholm’s hip and eager restaurant crowd. The restaurant was packed every night for three years. In 1983, Alessandro Catenacci left to take over the larger Capri restaurant in the uptown Östermalm district.
“We had different opinions about running a restaurant, my father and I,” Alessandro recalls. “We served true Italian food, not the usual pizza-tortellini-lasagna menu that the Stockholmers were used to. We even had dishes like sheep brain on the menu sometimes. When guests complained, my father would come steaming out from the kitchen, cursing them and telling them to get the hell out of his restaurant and go to McDonald’s instead. I advocated a somewhat more flexible attitude…”