BLOG

This is the blog of Steve Burkett of Italy, Our Italy

Eat Here: Il Flauto di Pan

In a followup to last week's article on the beautiful Villa Cimbrone, I present their fabulous restaurant, Il Flauto di Pan.

Wow! I’m very excited about Villa Cimbrone gracing the walls of a new development in San Antonio, Texas. Be sure to read the late-breaking addition to this article at the very bottom.
I have never lied to you, and I won’t start now — so when I say ‘we ate every bite’, trust me on that

We have a general feeling in our family about the quality of a restaurant versus its height above its surroundings...you know, the meals in space-needle-like settings, tops of very tall buildings, etc...often it is the quality of the view that takes precedence over the  quality of the food...not always, but often enough that we steer clear without a recommendation.

Here is a restaurant that sits high above the Amalfi Coast, which has both a quality view and quality food. 

The remarkable gardens of the Villa Cimbrone extend to the entrance of Il Flauto di Pan, as you can see here with a wall of petite white flowers.

As you are seated, you will find a lovely welcome at your place setting, as shown in the first photo at the top of this article, complete with embroidery hoop. So striking, don't you think?

As we sat, we were treated to both a view of the Amalfi Coat and bread sticks -- two of our favorite things!

 

In addition, there were two varieties of butter from which to choose. 

 

Il Flauto di Pan is a Michelin-starred restaurant. Having a star is of great significance, and it is extremely hard to get.

If you have watched 'Chopped' on the Food Network, you know that they judge the food on taste, presentation, and originality.

These, of course, are important to the Michelin folks, too. But beyond the food itself are the aesthetics of the restaurant and the ways in which the diner is pampered. Touches like the orchids on your table are taken into account. 

 

As Italian wine lovers, we seldom have cocktails whilst in Italy...well maybe a Negroni or Campari & soda on occasion -- but the suggestion of a Bloody Mary made with fresh-squeezed tomato juice sounded too good to pass up...so we didn't. And man-o-man was it ever good! 

We had course after course, some of which I'll show you here. I won't try to tell you exactly what each dish is, because frankly, I can't remember.

I think you can get the gist of a Michelin-starred restaurant from the photos...lots of garnish, debris, drops and plops on decorative substrates with well-placed and tasty sauces. Not only is it pretty to look at, but it is most excellent in taste!

Of course, right now you are asking, "But what about desserts?" My response would have to be, and is, "Yes, they have admirable desserts -- which we did indeed admire, right before we ate them." I have never lied to you, and I won't start now -- so when I say "we ate every bite", trust me on that. And, as unusual, we also enjoyed a dessert wine.

 

I have to say that we had a wonderful afternoon and evening at the far reaches of Ravello at Villa Cimbrone -- at the villa, the gardens, and the extraordinary restaurant. As I finish, we toast you and say 'thank you' to all of you who loyally read the articles of Italy, Our Italy.

 

Villa Cimbrone in San Antonio!

You can now find Villa Cimbrone in San Antonio, Texas...at least photos of the villa. 

I'm pleased to announce that 210 Development Group, one of the premier property developers in San Antonio and beyond, has ordered eight of my photos of Villa Cimbrone as the wall art for a model in their recently completed Aviator project. This housing project is on the site of the old Brooks Field of World War II fame, now called Brooks City Base.

Here, you can see photos of the installation. My thanks to Alyson Callison, Director of Design for for 210DG, for putting her confidence in my work, and for creating the beautiful model that surrounds my photos.

I suspect you will recognize these photos from last weeks article, titled A Visit to Villa Cimbrone.


  

Ciao for now,

Steve

 

p.s  You can see other Amalfi Coast blog articles here:

A Visit to Villa Cimbrone

A quiet place of peace and marvelous views.

The first mention of Villa Cimbrone is found in the 11th century. The origin of the name comes from the rocky outcrop that surrounds the 20-acre site

 

 

It's time to return to the Amalfi Coast...way above the Amalfi Coast.

 

Getting There

Villa Cimbrone (cheem-bro-neigh) sits in the town of Ravello, at the end of its peninsula-in-the-sky. And Ravello sits high on the escarpment above the town of Amalfi. Getting there is not too difficult, unless you are faint of heart on narrow, winding, ever-climbing, roads.

A pokey Piaggio on the serpentine road

The road from the Amalfi Coast highway to Ravello gets very narrow...so narrow that a traffic light allows cars going up hill to proceed whilst cars traveling down hill wait, and versa vice. And not all of the vehicles travel up the road at the same pace, as you can imagine from this photo.

 

 

[lease click on a photo to get a larger view]

 

Here you see this peninsula-in-the-sky, which is the town of Ravello. Notice the cliff to the left where The Belvedere is located.

A birds-eye view of the Ravello escarpment

The Piazza and Duomo

One parks, or is dropped off by taxi, at the Piazza, where the duomo, or cathedral church, sits.

The Duomo of Ravello

I'm not sure if this is admonishment, praise, or otherwise, but the priest of the Duomo has something to say to his parishioner and her sun-glass-wearing son.

 

Inside the church you will find the typical, gorgeous trappings of Italian churches. Here we see the Angel Gabriel doing battle with Satan, Mary and the soon-to-be-risen Christ, a marble-lion column support, a bronze door with Biblical scenes (well, mostly Biblical, as you can see St George slaying the dragon in one panel), a marble and mosaic altar with Jonah waving farewell as he is devoured by the serpent, and a painted icon.

 

Young entertainers on the Piazza at Ravello

While we were there, a number of the young of Ravello were having fun making music as they marched around town. I'm not sure if the fingers-in-her-ear girl in the rear is enjoying the group's musical attempts.

 

 

Frivolity in Ravello

These two young men seemed to be particularly zealous in their appointed task.

Our first thoughts as we watched these children was, 'This would be a fabulous place to live.'

 

A Walk to the Villa

It is a walk of about 4/10ths-of-a-mile from the piazza to Villa Cimbrone, all the while wandering narrow, pedestrian-only walkways. And along the way, you will have ample opportunity to purchase beautiful, hand-painted Italian ceramics. And we love the care that is taken in wrapping purchases. In the photo on the right, notice the ceramic panel in the top-right -- you will see what that scene is in a moment.

Along the way we saw several shrines and vines, and a cat or two.

We came across an occassional lazy dog sleeping under lemon trees, poppies, and views of other towns across the valley.

This fabulous view took our breath away...town after town clinging to the hillside above Amalfi, marred only with the drifting smoke from someone burning their trash. If one isn't born in a particular town, how on Earth could you decide in which to settle?

Looking to the west from Ravello, where the town of Amalfi sits at the terminus of the distant valley

The Villa

At last, we arrive at Villa Cibrone. The first mention of Villa Cimbrone is found in the 11th century. The origin of the name comes from the rocky outcrop that surrounds the 20-acre site, which can be seen in the aerial photo at the top of this article, which was known as 'Cimbronium'. You can read much more about the history of this property on the Hotel Villa Cimbrone website here.

Today, the estate consists of the villa/hotel, a Michelin-starred restaurant (that being the subject of next week's article), the gardens, and the famous scenic viewpoint known as 'The Belvedere.'

Here is your first view of the vine-covered villa as you approach.

The vine-covered Villa Cimbrone

You see scenes from inside the walls of the villa, just below.

I particularly like this scene of the stairway, and the intricate pattern of iron work found on the door on the landing.

Verdant Gardens

And then there are the gardens.

The Belvedere

The world-famous Belvedere, perched atop a cliff, offers a magnificent view of the Mediterranean, one which these time-worn busts seem want to ignore. 

The busts of The Belvedere

These statues are actually quite whimsical, as their expressions are not what one normally sees in classic carving. See what I mean by clicking on the thumbnails in these closeup views.

They look very content to be sitting there, don't they?

In this view from The Belvedere, you can see more towns to explore along the Amalfi Coast, should one have the time.

View of the Amalfi Coast looking to the east

I'll leave you with a quote from Gore Vidal concerning The Belvedere: 'A wonderful place from which to observe the end of the world." And when it comes to that, I would have to agree.

 

Ciao for now,

Steve

Steve and his lovely wife, Ellen

Next week: The Michelin-starred restaurant at Villa Cimbrone