The Charlotte Inn is a member of Relais and Châteaux, a collection of the world’s finest luxury hotels and restaurants. For some, this is the mark of true excellence while for others it evokes images of high prices and rigid decorum. If the later opinion has had you crossing South Summer Street when you see the iron fence approaching, now is the perfect time to visit Il Tesoro at the Terrace in the Charlotte Inn, and alter your perception.
This week, I met with acclaimed chef A.J. Black, owner of Il Tesoro in Sanibel, Fla., and at 27 South Summer Street in Edgartown, to learn more about the restaurant’s upcoming events and specials. Although his impressive resume includes training at the Italian Culinary Institute, Master of Wine, and Second Chef at the five star Grand Hotel in Rome, Chef A.J. is anything but elitist. His Roman Holiday special is an invitation to Islanders who may not have otherwise considered Il Tesoro. Throughout the fall and winter, look for the weekly coupon in their ad in The Times, entitling the bearer to one free entrée with the purchase of another entrée.
Not one to turn down an invitation, I clipped the coupon and made a reservation. The dress code is less demanding than I expected. The general guidelines are no jeans, flip-flops, tee-shirts, or sneakers and the moment you enter, you realize that even Jerry Seinfeld would don a pair of khakis and some oxfords for a night like this.
We passed though rooms decorated with lavish antiques and mahogany-paneled walls hung with museum-quality paintings before we were led into the dining room. The Terrace is an enclosed patio with slate and brick flooring. Huge multi-paned windows and skylights outlined in white woodwork delight the thriving ferns and ficus that fill the room. The natural elegance of the room is illuminated by the flicker of white tapers in tall silver candleholders.
The service was impeccable. Our server was knowledgeable and helpful in choosing a wine from the all-Italian list. The pace allowed for brief restful breaks between courses. Each time we needed something, someone was there to assist. And when we needed nothing, we enjoyed uninterrupted privacy.
The hearty rustic bread is made in house. I could have spent the evening dipping it in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and parmesan, but the promise of other courses reined me in. The Filet Mignon Carpaccio with arugula salad, topped with capers, tomato concassé, shaved parmesan, and fresh lemon, was drizzled with olive oil and delicately seasoned, allowing the flavors to sing.
Entree choice was arduous with options like Porcini Risotto and Filetto al Pepe Verde — filet mignon sautéed with cognac and green peppercorn sauce, finished with white truffle oil. In the end, we chose two pasta dishes: Tagliatelle Alla Scampi tossed with jumbo shrimp and Fettuccine Melanzane — homemade pasta with eggplant, tomato, olive oil, and garlic topped with buffalo mozzarella. We took our time and finished every noodle.
White chocolate crème brûlée was studded with fresh berries giving a tart accent to this divinely sweet custard. Our Roman Holiday included a bottle of wine, two appetizers, two entrées, and one dessert for $146 including tax and gratuity.
Relais and Châteaux has just released two cookbooks: “85 Inspirational Chefs” and “Chefs at Home.” These oversized hardcover books are a first time collaboration of all the North American Relais and Châteaux chefs. Loaded with exquisite glossy photos, recipes, and chef profiles, both books would be ideal gifts for the food enthusiast on your shopping list.
From October 11 through October 17, Il Tesoro will be joining the global Slow Food Movement for A Slow Taste of Italy, a festival of local and sustainable food.
Restaurants from Staten Island, N.Y. to British Columbia are participating. Its purpose is to celebrate the pleasure of good food with a commitment to community and the environment.
During this week, Il Tesoro will serve a $45 prix fixe menu. In addition, a Chef’s Tasting Menu will be offered including A.J. Black’s signature recipes from the newly released books. The five-course dinner, which includes a wine tasting, is $100 per person. Along with the two Relais and Châteaux books, limited copies of “Cooking with Italian Grandmothers,” the book that prompted this event, will be on sale.