By Gary Walther
As the Executive Chef of Le Guanahani’s Bartolomeo, Nicola de Marchi speaks cuisine Esperanto. Meaning, he suavely executes a French-inflected menu, but one that incorporates influences from all around the Mediterranean.
“Here we are in France,” he says, when asked why he offers Suprême de Volaille, a dish out of the Escoffier era. As if, why wouldn’t he?
After all, St. Barth is a bit of France afloat in the Caribbean, so why not have a bit of Escoffier-era France on the menu? (De Marchi gets his inspiration from Eleven Madison Park in New York, so that’s a clue.)
But this is coming from an Italian?
“I am Italian. I love Italian food and I think everyone loves Italian food.” (A lovely way of expressing nationalism, no?)
Which is why Bartolomeo, under his stewardship, has become less starched, more bistro than Michelin. The ravioli dish—a painstaking concoction of roasted tomato, water, asparagus, and black truffle (the ingredients can vary)—is the most popular, he says. The pasta is made in-house, as you can tell by the trademark yellow tinge (egg-yolks), and the flour is sourced directly from Italy. Says de Marchi, as only an Italian would: “It’s my grandmother’s recipe.”
Patrice Lanteri, Le Guanahani’s Food and Beverage Director, explains further. “We try to serve what international guests would expect,” he says. “If we are talking about lunch, we need to have a touch of France because we are in France, a touch of seafood because we are on an island. We try to create something that is relevant to the destination, but also connected with the guests’ needs. We created a bistro style so we could change the menu. We know that we have families here and they want to eat quickly but with good quality.”
De Marchi sources as many ingredients as he can locally, but he doesn’t pretend that St. Barth allows you to do farm-to-table—for one thing, the island has no water supply. Despite that, the restaurant has a good selection of vegan and gluten-free dishes, and all of its ingredients are sourced to be as fresh and high-quality as possible.
“The logistics are complicated,” says de Marchi. The lobster, yes, caught here. The truffles? Here we go bi-lingual: the white from Italy, the black from Périgord. Other ingredients come from Paris and Miami (as they do at every other resort). The restaurant also offers a ‘Cook Your Catch’ option. Bring it and de Marchi will do it. The best so far was a 120-pound tuna, whose owner only wanted the belly—meaning everyone else was in for a pleasant surprise.
De Marchi will also customize a burger, a true fantasy on a bun. Dream it but be sure to order in advance, as the bun will be baked in-house. De Marchi was trained as a pastry chef and Le Guanahani is the only resort on St. Barth that bakes all of its own bread.
About the Contributor
Gary Walther has been a travel journalist for 40 years. He has been editor-in-chief of Departures, Expedia Travels, Luxury SpaFinder, and Forbes Life magazines, and for the past five years a freelancer with a column on Forbes.com called The Hotel Detective. He has passport stamps from 61 countries and is a million-miler on American Airlines. He writes for the Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, and Departures Europe among other publications.