Eating well in Chile’s great outdoors: Calypso and Bramasole
This is Chile visits the best gourmet outposts in Cajón de Maipo, where rural countryside meets fine dining. This week: Italian food, with handmade pastas and pizzas.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Bramasole in the Cajón de Maipo serves thin-crust pizza and handmade pastas. (Photo by Jackie Seitz)
After a day enjoying the fresh mountain air in the Andes, nothing beats handmade ravioli and a stone-fired pizza to warm you up.
Luckily, two great restaurants - Trattoria Calypso and Bramasole - offer authentic Italian fare just minutes from the base of La Palestra del Manzano, the Cajón de Maipo’s most popular rock climbing spot.
Nestled near the banks of the Maipo river in the town of El Manzano, the simple wooden tables at Trattoria Calypso are often filled to overflowing. The restaurant is open Friday, Saturday, Sunday and holidays, and attracts a loyal crowd of local gourmands and Santiago residents who make the trip for the house-made pasta, pizza, cheese, bread and desserts.
“Sooner or later, everyone comes to eat here, and I meet them: professors, doctors, young, old, tourists from Brazil, the Netherlands, Italy, the United States, Argentina, Peru,” said Olaf Bercic, the son of the original owners.
Olaf, who was born in Italy, described the restaurant’s story to This is Chile in English, explaining how his Croatian father and Dutch mother came to run one of Santiago’s tastiest Italian restaurants. When asked how the family arrived at the Cajón de Maipo, he responded with a smile: “Just luck.”
And the best time to enjoy the restaurant? “In spring,” he said. “September, October, November, when it’s not too hot, and everything is green.” The restaurant closes for the month of February.
The food: fresh agnolotti, pizzas on Saturdays, and homemade ice cream
Once you’re seated, take a look at the generous wine list and consider the simple and delicious appetizer platter of house-smoked cheese, mozzarella, tomato and pesto. Olaf recommends the agnolotti, pasta dumplings filled with squash, cheese and aromatic herbs, topped with the burro e salvia sauce with butter and sage.
The menu is in Spanish sprinkled with Italian; if you get stumped for a translation, ask for Olaf (“I’m always here,” he says), who can explain any item on the menu and give you a quick rundown of local environmental politics, as well.
Prices: Salads cost around CP$7,000 (US$15) and pasta dishes run between CP$7,000 and 8,000 (US$15-17). A glass of the house wine will set you back CP$1,700 (US$3.50).
Owner Christian Bravo opened the Cajón de Maipo’s best pizza joint four years ago in the little town of El Canelo, on the land where his father used to grow potatoes. He designed the menu to feature what he loves - pasta and pizza - and used a recent six month in Tuscany to refine all the little details, from the recipe for the pizza dough to the ceramic kitchen tiles.
The large, open dining room gives you a good view of the kitchen and bar, where Christian trained local cooks to make the Italian recipes. “There’s not a single decoration on the wall,” Christian said on a recent Saturday afternoon, “so there’s no distraction from the architecture.” The antique oak beams support thick walls filled with bales of straw - a natural insulator - topped by a special ceramic technology Christian brought back from his trip to Italy. In the summer, ask for a seat at one of the tables on the patio out the back.
The food: handmade gnocchi, thin crust pizza, and organic arugula
For thin-crust pizza lovers, Bramasole is a gift from heaven. The 12” pizzas feature a perfectly-chewy dough topped with gourmet ingredients. Take the Girolia: roasted tomatoes, kalamata olives, onions, goat cheese and mozzarella. Meat eaters will enjoy the gourmet prosciutto, but vegetarians will find the pizza divine without it. Similarly, the handmade pasta caseritos can be enjoyed with or without meat; the vegetarian version de capresse features pastas filled with tomato, basil and mozzarella cheese, floating in the sauce of your choice.
The English language menu is almost ready, Christian says. In the meantime, take advantage of the owner’s English, or practice your Spanish with the friendly servers. A tip: queso de cabra is goat cheese, and you can’t go wrong with the goat cheese served here, straight from Patagonia.
Prices: The extensive salad menu sticks within the range of CP$4,500 (US$9.50), and bruschetta appetizers are all about CP$3,000 (US$6). Pizzas range from CP$6,000 to 7,000 (US$12.50-15). To drink, try the house speciality: fresh seasonal juice, CP$1,700 (US$3.50). Desserts like housemade tiramisu, panna cotta, profiteroles and apple strudel are all under CP$4,000 (US$9).
By Jackie Seitz