A trained pastry chef, Anabella Parisi is the owner of family business Alma, a hip cafe in Dublin’s Portobello, renowned for its lip-smacking breakfasts and brunches.
Anabella is one of four sisters who moved to Dublin from their native Argentina before their parents joined them in 2018 (Alma is an acronym for their names: Anabella, Luciana, Macarena and Agustina).
Here she talks early mornings, restorative pancakes, family values, and her favourite chef, Yotam Ottolenghi…
What has been putting a spring in your step this month?
I think it has been the fact that I’ve started going to the gym and focusing more on myself –that has been great and is making me feel happy and energetic.
The clocks are about go forward. If you could have one more extra hour entirely to yourself, how would you spend it?
I’d spend it probably cooking or sleeping. My two fave things!
Are you an early bird or a night owl?
I do wake up very early – 6am, to go to Alma – but I’m not fan… I do wish I could stay up later, watching a movie or something, but I do tend to fall asleep quite early and fast.
What keeps you awake at night?
Not many things, but one of them would be Alma. Having a business is beautiful, but tiring – when you’re the owner there are many worries that the rest of the staff don’t have, obviously. While they’re able to switch off completely after each service, I’m always thinking if everything is ok, thinking of new dishes we could add, answers to customers queries, etc. But I love all of it, from our lovely staff to our customers and suppliers.
Alma is arguably best known for its long breakfasts and brunches. Are they typically the most important meals of the day in Argentina, where your family is from?
Not really. Usually in Argentina you would have something quick like toast and coffee or a medialuna (like a croissant). The most important meal of the day is usually dinner for which you’re usually with the family, or on Sundays a really nice and extended barbecue with aunts, uncles, cousins, etc which could last hours and hours…
If you could have any breakfast in bed delivered to you tomorrow morning, what one dish and one drink would you order and why?
It would definitely be an oat flat white and a rhubarb pastry from Proper Order. It’s my favourite breakfast when I’m off work
Pandemic lockdowns were particularly challenging for small businesses within the hospitality sector. What did you learn most from that difficult period, both professionally and personally?
It was scary at the beginning, not knowing what to do or if customers would still come, even if we took orders at the door. But I would say the main thing I learned was that while we are afraid of change we also got very used to the constant changes so easily and smoothly. It’s great to think backwards and see all the things we tried to keep the business going, from reducing menus to taking orders from the door – no table service just take-away – masks and sanitiser, and so on.
Family businesses have their pros and cons. On the one hand there is a useful shorthand; on the other, it can be difficult not to talk shop outside the workplace. How do the Parisis strike a harmonious balance, where personal boundaries and different opinions are respected?
When we meet as a family we always end up talking about the business but we try our best to disconnect a bit as well. We’re a family of six so as you can imagine there are many different opinions on certain topics. But we always try to put all the ideas on the table and take the best of each of them to arrive to an agreement. This works great for us.
What do you miss most about Argentina – and what do you miss most about Ireland when you’re away?
As all my family is here in Ireland, I think the thing I miss the most are my friends. We have a WhatsApp group together but it’s not the same. And when I’m away from Ireland I miss my home, being with my family, and a bit Alma as well!
Is there one family breakfast recipe we could try at home that perfectly combines Argentine and Irish flavours?
Yes! The dulce de leche pancakes – it’s just mixing milk, sugar, and bicarbonate of soda. The secret is to cook it for as long as you can (ours cooks for eight hours!), to get the thickness right. You could use seasonal fruits here in Ireland, like blood orange and rhubarb, and combine it with a warm cup of tea or an oat flat white. It’s easy to make, just make sure you try some dulce de leche at Alma first, it’ll help you out with the recipe.
How do you juggle work with wellness?
I try to do something for myself after work a few days a week – going to the gym with a friend, or sometimes yoga, and I just signed up for pilates. I try to do these things to disconnect and enjoy some ‘me time’.
Where and when was your last truly mellow moment?
I’d say it was a few weeks ago when I went for a 90-minute seaweed massage and facial. It was the best I’ve had ever and it was truly relaxing, I can’t wait for another one.
Imagine a much-anticipated Friday night in. Your Moon + Mellow PJs are on and you have the TV – and couch – entirely to yourself. What is your go-to feel-good film, snack and refreshment and why?
Love this! Film would be something like Sex and the City, I love these especially when I’m all on my own. Snack would be sushi – delivered obviously – and I’d choose a glass of white wine because sushi and white wine is just yum.
Who would be your three celebrity pyjama party guests and why?
Well, as we’re in the mood for Sex and the City I would invite Sarah Jessica Parker. I love her style! Also Yotam Ottolenghi – my favourite chef. He might not want to stay in the pyjama party, but he will certainly have to cook something amazing! And Ellen Degeneres, to keep things fun.