Every once in a while a gal stumbles upon a place so painstakingly beautiful that she needs to pinch herself just to ensure it isn't a dream. Il San Pietro di Positano is one of those places. Considered to be one of the best hotels in the world, Il San Pietro will make you want to do things you wouldn't normally do. Like treat yourself to a glass of Dom Perignon before dinner, eat 3 courses too many, or toss your hair gracefully over your shoulder just to show how effortlessly you fit in at a place that attracts the world's finest. Of course no amount of graceful hair tossing will disguise the clippity-clop of wooden heels a half size too big across a terra cotta floor. Next time I'll bring my glass slippers.
Dan and I indulged in the restaurant at Il San Pietro on our second night in Italy to celebrate all of the previous weekend's festivities. Upon our arrival, we were directed down a flight of stone stairs embellished with perfectly manicured moss. We took our time on the stairs, soaking in the view along the way and soon stumbled upon an elevator that transported us through the stoney mountain walls and into something spectacular. Upon our arrival, we were quickly greeted by our server and directed to a table perfectly situated on the outer most edge of a terrace overlooking the sea. Before I knew what was happening, a gentleman swept in with a small ottoman, which I assumed was for Dan and I to prop our feet on after an evening of indulgence. However, the kind gentleman then deftly removed my purse from the back of my chair and placed it gently onto the ottoman. I couldn't help but laugh at the sight of my $16.99 travel purse nestled upon a velvet ottoman but, hey, even TJ Maxx deserves the royal treatment once in a while.
I have to be honest, I don't remember the exact details of our menu choices and, given that the menu changes daily, I'm unable to find them online. However, here is my best attempt at summarizing our choices:
Apertif | Dom Perignon
Vino | 2003 Montevetrano Colli di Salerno Rosso
Antipasti | Grilled local vegetables paired with grilled octopus, calamari, mussels, clams, and prawns
Primi Piatti | Tagliatelle with lemon, basil, and prawns
Secondi | Sea Bass with softly whipped potatoes and a rich balsamic sauce
Secondi | John Dory fish with grilled vegetables and a mint reduction
Dolce | Sweet cherry tart paired with MEL (dessert wine)
Overall, the service was absolutely fabulous and the meal was truly delicious. While not the absolute best meal either Dan or I has ever eaten, it was without a doubt one of the top three experiences in terms of service and within the top 10 for cuisine. If you find yourself in Positano and have a pretty penny (or six) to spare, get yourself to Il San Pietro and treat yourself to an inevitably fabulous evening. The views, service, and overall atmosphere are something truly special and the food is definitely some of the best in Positano.
In honor of this awesome meal, I decided to remix (you know I'm a sucker for a good remix) this strawberry tart into something that could transport Dan and I back to our Dolce course at Il San Pietro. I'm sure the real thing has about 67 ingredients and requires one to dance around sifting 1.3 ounces of flour while simultaneously smashing cherries with her feet but this simplified version tastes pretty darn good (no dancing or smashing required).
Cherry-Almond Cream Tart (Serves 6-8)
For the crust:
◊ 36 Honey graham crackers (9 sheets)
◊ 2 tbsp sugar
◊ 2 tbsp butter, melted
◊ 4 tsp water
◊ cooking spray
For the filling:
◊ 8 ounces light cream cheese
◊ ⅓ cup sugar
◊ ½ tsp vanilla extract
◊ ¼ tsp almond extract
For the topping:
◊ 6 cups sweet cherries, pitted and halved
◊ ⅔ cup sugar
◊ 2 tbsp sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 350°.
To prepare crust, place crackers in a food processor; process until crumbly. Add 2 tbsp sugar, butter, and 4 tsp water; pulse just until moist. Place cracker mixture in a round removable-bottom tart pan lightly coated with cooking spray, pressing into bottom and up sides of pan to ¾ inch. Bake at 350° for 12-14 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely on wire rack.
To prepare filling, combine cream cheese, sugar, and extracts in a medium bowl; stir until smooth. Spread cream cheese mixture over bottom of tart shell.
To prepare topping, place 2 cups cherries in blender, and puree until smooth (you may need to add a tablespoon of water or two). Combine cherry puree, ⅔ cup sugar, and cornstarch in a small saucepan over medium heat; stir with a whisk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low; cook 1 minute. Remove glaze from heat. Cool to room temperature, stirring occassionally.
Arrange cherries in rows over cream cheese filling. Spoon half of glaze evenly over cherries (reserve remaining glaze for another use or discard). Sprinkle almonds around edge. Cover and chill 3 hours. Enjoy!