What happened to the old school of Halki?
Posted by Greeka on 15 Feb 2011
It was Easter 2009 when Maurizio Sacchi and Cristina Wiskemann opened Il Basilico, first a wine bar and then a restaurant. Working tirelessly and enthusiastically on this new move, they had spent the last two years refurbishing the building they bought in Halki, a mountainous village in Naxos.
"That building used to be the old primary school of the village", said Cristina. "It's not unusual that a senior citizen from Naxos enters the restaurant and, "Ah! This is where I spent five years as a young boy!" After that, it was used as a holiday house by a local family. Finally we bought it, and we made our apartment out of the first floor, while the ground floor and the garden were arranged as a restaurant. The restaurant's kitchen is all new, and has been designed for maximum hygiene, and fully open to the customers' sight."
How did the idea for Il Basilico come up?
In the beginning, we had a general idea to open a wine bar somewhere on a Greek island. My husband used to work in international aid programs and as a freelance journalist, and in the wintertime I still work as a saleswoman in the fashion business. But for both of us life in Milan was getting more and more stressful, and we dreamt to spend a longer part of the year on your beautiful islands, where we used to spend our summer holidays.
As for the wine bar, maybe the only critical point in our holidays in Greece had been the fact that it was very hard to find quality wine at an affordable price. So, we decided to offer just what we would have loved to find in Greece at the end of a beautiful day at the beach. At the moment we have selected about 30 different wines, mainly Italians, but with some selected Greek labels, too.
Do you cook Greek or Italian cuisine?
I would rather answer this way: we offer Mediterranean cuisine, which is 80 percent Italian, and 20 percent Greek or inspired to Greek cuisine. Our ingredients are just the opposite: 80 percent are fresh products of the island (vegetables, seafood, beef, pork, poultry, oil, milk, cream and cheeses), while an important 20 percent are imported products from Italy: pasta, prosciutto and salami, parmesan and mozzarella, sundry porcini mushrooms.
Our customers love our warm octopus salad, with sundry tomatoes, pine nuts, rucola and balsamic vinegar, and the seafood risotto with saffron. As for pasta, our line is not to offer the well known carbonara or napolitana, but less usual preparations. There the surprise factor plays a role, together with the fact of changing our menu daily.
What's the special thing about Naxos that made you open a restaurant here?
As I told you, Naxos has a wonderful agricultural production: it is not easy to find an island where you can find local groceries, dairy products, meat and fish, of the best quality. Naxos is so green, so rich in freshwater, that you don't have to depend on supplies coming from the mainland. For a restaurant like Il Basilico, which stresses on the freshness and quality of the ingredients, it is a basic point, and one of the reasons for our choice. But these advantages are also evident in the landscapes and the variety of different situations Naxos can offer to the visitor. It has been said many times that the miles and miles of white beaches are the best item of Naxos. Nevertheless, many Greek and foreigners, too, consider that the inner part of the island is even better. As for me, I don't have to choose: I go for a walk when I feel like, and go for a swim when I want!
Any favorite spots on Naxos?
Well, that's a question! It's hard to choose, but let me try: for a swim I love the southern end of Plaka, or the beach of Parthena near Mikri Vigla, or Alyko. But I am letting out too many places, I am afraid. For a walk, there is the magic of Demetra's Temple, or the breathtaking sight from Apano Kastro, or the green valley of Halki, with its peaceful flower-ridden paths to Byzantine chapels...
We have been here for five years now, and I still seem not to know the half of the island. Well, we plan to be here for a long time anyway!