On 20 August, 2000, Norwegian school teacher Age Folkestad left his homeland for a new adventure in Spain with his wife and three-month-old daughter. Arriving in Altea’s Old Town, he saw the magnificent view across the Mediterranean, and knew this was where he wanted to live. Then he turned around, and saw the house he wanted to live in, and Restaurante Casa Vital was born. The house had been for sale for around five years, and Age just knew it was waiting for him, and this was where he was meant to be.
The Casa Vital Kitchen:
These days, Casa Vital is one of the best restaurants in Altea, but back in the early days, the family had five tables and 11 chairs, and served a choice of five tapas, which Age cooked himself for the first year Casa Vital was open. He then hired a Norwegian chef, but for the last 15 years, the kitchen has been in the capable hands of Chef de Cuisine Bobbie, who is originally from Bulgaria. 12 years ago, Diyana, also from Bulgaria, joined the team. Clearly, Age is a great person to work for, and this continuity of service in the kitchen is a major contribution to the continuing standards of excellence in the cuisine at Casa Vital.
Spain Life Exclusive caught up with Age recently to talk about why he came to Spain, and why Casa Vital is so successful. He told us:
In Norway, it always seemed to be raining. I am a happy person, and I need happy weather! The early years at Casa Vital were difficult, but I come from a strong family, and I have so much energy, I never give up. Casa Vital is more than a restaurant to me – it’s a place of joy for everyone, whether they are customers or staff. I am a happy person, I smile a lot, and it gives me a lift as well as everyone around me. A little smile can make a big difference, so make sure you always have one for someone who needs it!
Certainly, the ambience at Casa Vital is happy, and its fortunate diners can also enjoy wine tasting sessions, and admire beautiful art work. Age has not just created a restaurant, it’s a place where culture and kindness combine with excellent gastronomy, resulting in a sensory experience that is second to none. No wonder so many people return to Casa Vital again and again!
Casa Vital Wines:
Another unusual feature of this magical corner of Altea is that Age produces many of the wines you can enjoy with your meal. His latest creation is a red wine called Thea, dedicated to his daughter, but he is best known for the unique Azul Mediterraneo, a blue wine inspired by the sea around Casa Vital. The Classic blue wine made its debut in 2016, and the latest product in the range, a frizzante, slightly sparkling wine, made from Verdejo grapes, is particularly enjoyed by French diners, who like to drink cava with their meat.
Recently, Age has added two new red wines to the Casa Vital wine list. Both are produced with the passion and attention to detail that is a feature of everything he does, and each has special meaning for him. Jubileum Casa Vital Barrica was created to celebrate the 20 year anniversary, from Bodega Santa Margarita, Albacete, which specialises in producing wines from the Castilia-La Mancha area. The label for the wine was produced by famous Norwegian artist, Roald Tellnes, cementing the synchronicity between Age’s heritage and his life in Spain.
Then there’s the signature Rioja, Thea Crianza, dedicated to his daughter, and produced by Bodega Antonio Alcaraz in the famous Rioja growing region. Age says:
I think these wines are a part of the contemporary history of Casa Vital. Thea symbolises the beginning of the adventure, and the steady growth and flourishing of our lives here in Spain. Jubileum is a statement and a commemoration of the satisfying stage we have now reached, and the link between Norwegian and Spanish cultures. However, nothing stands still – the adventure continues, and my new wines are a symbol of continuity, and a marker of our progress, personally and professionally.
As well as serving his wines in the restaurant, Age also exports to several countries in Europe, so you don’t need to come to Spain to sample it. That said, it’s worth the trip to enjoy the Casa Vital Experience at first hand.
Keeping the customers – and the staff – satisfied:
This is all very well, but it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to maintain standards and live up to the expectations of both customers and staff. And as Age freely admits, it’s not all plain sailing, even now, with 20 years of success to celebrate. I asked him how he handled the stress of running a busy restaurant in the Spanish heat – Casa Vital is often full to its capacity of 92 covers – and he explained:
It’s all about the energy, and understanding how stress works, but being kind and firm at the same time, so everyone works well together. It works because we respect each other, and that’s important in all aspects of life and work. I open my heart to everyone around me, and when you open your own heart, you find that it opens the hearts of others too. It’s about loving life, and loving what you do.
This is certainly a theme that comes through from many of our friends here at Spain Life Exclusive. The most successful businesses are run by people who want to improve the experience of others, and use their skill sets and personalities to make that their mission in life. It’s people that matter to them, rather than profits. Creativity is important too – nobody can maintain success unless they have the motivation to try new things.
Age hasn’t quite left his teaching background behind, though. He leads guided tours around Altea, talking about its culture and history. And he says he learned a valuable lesson from the children he taught in Norway all those years ago:
Children are creative and open to new ideas and different people. They realise you have to try new things to be successful in life, and to continue growing as a person. It’s not always easy, but if we can be positive, everything will pass. Nothing stays the same, and neither should we. Stay stable, and centred on what’s really important.
Excellent advice from the smiling face at the heart of Casa Vital. We congratulate Age on the success of his 20 year adventure, and look forward to many more magical experiences at Casa Vital. If you haven’t yet enjoyed the Casa Vital Experience, contact the team to make your reservation to avoid disappointment. Maybe we’ll see you there!
Calle Salamanca, 11, Altea
Telephone: 965 84 09 36
Mobile: 617 64 08 59