SORRENTO, ITALY: The Bellevue Syrene is a majestic Relais & Chateaux property whose lineage dates back to 1820. It is built on the ruins of Roman villa on the cliffs of Sorrento overlooking the Bay of Naples. This 5 star luxury hotel property combines an impeccable location, serene beauty, and exquisite fine dining in its gorgeous indoor restaurant Mimmo Jodice.
The Bellevue Syrene: A storied history
With 50 rooms, each of individual distinctive design, Bellevue Syrene has been a member of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux group of fine properties since 2011. The history of the hotel dates back to 1750 when the Mastrobuono Counts began the construction of the original villa. In 1920 the villa was turned into a small hotel.
The turning point came in 1905 when William Waldorf Astor of Waldorf Astoria fame bought the hotel. Over the next two years, he built the “Villa Pompeiana” as it looks today. Its gleaming yellow edifice stands like a grand Roman sentinel on the cliffs above the gorgeous town of Sorrento.
In 1995 the Russo family purchased the Bellevue Syrene and undertook a series of renovations and modernizations. They exquisitely restored the Villa to the impeccably brilliant luxury retreat it is today. The Russo family continues to own and operate the hotel under the direction of Giovanni Russo.
The Bellevue Syrene: a glorious luxury hotel
The gated entrance to the property is just outside the center of Sorrento. It spreads out over several acres, on cliffs hundreds of feet over the Bay of Naples. The grand promenade leading to the hotel is a series of trellises alongside their outdoor restaurant and terrace, La Pergola.
The lobby is a testament to elegance and grace. It is beautifully appointed, with white marble floors and the air of a Royal palace. The atrium just off the lobby is a grand affair of 25 foot ceilings under a glass roof. Couches and sitting areas filled with antique furnishings provide an eloquent serenity, while a pianist plays softly in the corner.
Mimmo Jodice: Elegance in fine dining
The principle indoor fine dining restaurant Mimmo Jodice is a stunning room with floor to ceiling windows set above the Bay of Naples with impeccable views of Mount Vesuvius in the distance. Located on the lower level of the hotel it has an elegant ambiance and a refined atmosphere.
Restaurant Manager Gaspare Gargiulo greets each guest and shows them to their table. A commanding presence with Italian movie star good looks and an eloquent air, he has been with the Hotel Bellevue Syrene for over 40 years.
Mimmo Jodice is a beautiful space, with cream colored walls and 12 foot ceilings. Set in a fairly large room, it still seems intimate. The golden glow of candlelight lends an ethereal sense to the proceedings. Just to one side the lovely Angelica plays the piano with beautiful grace throughout the evening.
Mimmo Jodice: The Staff
Chef Ivan Ruocco has been head chef for the last 5 years. He provides a lovely take on classic Italian cuisine in a gorgeous setting. Our waiter, Manouela Jordanove, is a personable and lovely woman who has been at the restaurant for 7 years and worked for the Russo family for 18 years.
She is precise and impeccable, with an engaging sensibility and a genial presence. Manuela leads us through a series of courses that exemplify the best of an intimately romantic fine dining experience.
Her colleague, RosaMaria Persico, is a lovely young lady, who works together with Manoula like a precision watch. Together they are a team of highly trained professionals who greatly enhance the evening with their presence and knowledge.
Mimmo Jodice: The opening courses
The evening begins with a glass of sparkling Prosecco as the lights of Naples twinkle across the bay in the distance. Scampi on creamed ricotta with fennel is a lovely amuse bouche to start the proceedings.
An opening course of Crudo de mare is a tasty combination platter of oysters, amberjack tartar, and paper thin slices of tuna, with dots of salmon roe. The oysters are brilliantly fresh, the tuna has a tangy texture of carpaccio, while the amberjack tartar is beautiful, with just a hint of dill.
Steamed lobster on a bed of creamed potato and vegetable emulsion is fantastic. The lobster is beautifully cooked, out of the shell, and blends perfectly with the creamed potato. Succulent and tender, it is the best lobster presentation on this trip through Southern Italy thus far.
Fried egg with white truffle is a classic Italian delicacy. Especially now at the height of truffle season in the fall. Sumptuous shavings of pungent truffle on a pair of fried eggs are simple, but eloquent. It allows the full flavor of the truffle to permeate the richly beautiful bright orange egg yolk.
Mimmo Jodice: The pasta courses
A pair of scintillating pasta courses follow, displaying a mastery of classic Italiano dishes. Spaghetti with large Venus clams in a parsley broth is fabulous. The clams are bountiful, rich with briny flavor, and course across the palette in an impeccable presentation of a legendary dish.
Egg tagliatelle with black autumn truffle is extraordinary, a tour de force of fine dining. Again , simply prepared, in classic Italian fashion, the rich homemade tagliatelle is smothered with generous shavings of smoky rich truffle.
The contrast between the two is beautiful. The earthy undertone of truffle is incredible. The bounty of the forest meets the beauty of the pasta in a pas de dueax of intoxicating elements. Each tender bite is a revelation, as the essence of black truffle becomes intertwined with the senses. Simply beautiful.
Mimmo Jodice: A wine cellar for the ages
The evening is accompanied with an outstanding 2010 Amarone Valpolicella from the Venato province of Northern Italy. A blend of three grape varietals, Amarone is famous for being harvested late on the vine to allow a greater concentration of flavor profiles.
Sommelier Giuseppe Buonocore, who has been with the hotel for 10 years, compliments us on our choice, confessing that it is one of his favorite wines. It opens wonderfully with a fulsome nose, and then blossoms over the course of the next two hours into a full bodied fruit forward expression of classic Veneto wine making.
Mimmo Jodice: the main courses
Black suckling pig from Caserta cooked at low temperature with crispy skin, gratinated potato tart and touches of fig jam is a wonderful main course. A lovely pork chop sits next to a fabulous loin of pork, each succulently juicy, gorgeously prepared. Accents of fig jam add a subtle sweetness in a lovely combination of flavor and tenderness.
Marchigiana veal slices in tomato and oregano sauce with crispy potato brings the meal to a wonderful climax. The veal is medium rare, thin slices of tender meat with a center of pink wonderment. Each bite, especially when paired with the now fully open Amarone Valpolicella wine, is a succulent combination of flavors. Rich and powerful, no one element overpowers the other.
Panna cotta of mango with yogurt mousse on coconut dacquoise, with a wild berries sauce and a sidce of pineapple sorbet is a fabulous dessert course. It combines beautifully with a dish of lemon sorbet and several shots of expresso as the evening comes to a close.
Mimmo Jodice: A memorable experience
Sommelier Buonocore takes us on a tour of the 14th century wine cellar far below the restaurant, a cave of cobblestone brick and the air of antiquity. He discusses the range of Italian wine, how Brunello and Barollo get all the attention, but that Campania and Sicily make great wines as well.
Each excursion into an Italian restaurant is a chance to extend our wine knowledge and we pledge to taste the wines of Campania and Sicily over the next several days along the Amalfi coast.
Saying goodbye to Angelica, whose piano playing has been a personal joy throughout the meal, and to our waiter Manouella, whose sparkling personality has enhanced the proceedings immeasurably, is a reminder of how a fine dining experience is so much more than the food.
Setting, ambience, atmosphere and staffing is essential to the complex reality of an evening of exquisite food and wine. Under the steady guidance Restaurant Manager Gaspare Gargiulo they have achieved that balance at Mimmo Jodice.
Bellevue Syrene: the Russo family legacy
Maria Gabriella Russo, part of the Russo dynasty that owns Bellevue Syrene, greets us in the lobby as we leave the hotel. She is the living embodiment of generations of the Russo family, who have taken centuries of tradition at Bellevue Syrene and brought it magnificently into the modern era.
Here on the cliffs of Sorrento ancient Roman history has been merged with 19th century classical Roman architecture and the luxury trappings of a Relais & Chateaux resort. Under the guidance of the Russo family, this historic property has found a fabulous modern expression. The essence of impeccable style, a gorgeous destination resort, accented with the truly elegant fine dining experience at Mimmo Jodice.
Mimmo Jodice at the Bellevue Syrene www.bellevue.it/ @BellevueSyrene
Relais & Chateaux. www.relaischateaux.com @RelaisChateaux
Joel Berliner is a travel writer based in Los Angeles. @JoelBerliner
All photos by Alison Reynolds @BigAlPeoplesPal