The best meal I’ve had so far this year was prepared by Executive Chef Stefano Mazzone of Capri’s Grand Hotel Quisisana. And, while, the setting wasn’t Italy’s Amalfi coast, the private dining room at Catch restaurant at Santa Monica’s historic Hotel Casa del Mar, where we enjoyed a view of the Pacific, was a not half-bad alternative. Both luxury properties are members of the Leading Hotels of the World. Chef Stefano would be doing a weeklong pop-up at Casa, and the media were being treated to a lunchtime preview.

Every dish was simply and beautifully cooked and plated, a testament to fresh, pristine ingredients (some from the nearby Santa Monica Farmers Market) and perfect technique. I’ve been raving to friends about the menu ever since: eggplant parmigiana; lobster with a lemon aioli; linguine with clams, olive oil, garlic and parsley; grilled sea bass served with a tomato consommé; prime fillet of beef with peppercorns, and, for dessert, a delicate chocolate cake with almond gelato.

We could have lingered for hours, sipping perfectly chilled Sancerre, gazing at the ocean, trying to coax some cooking tips from Chef Stefano (sear the fish, flip for ten seconds, then put in the oven, skin side up). But, alas, this was a workday and not a Capri vacation. What made the rest of the afternoon a productive one was that the dishes were light, the portions modest, and the entire experience transporting. It’s the type of meal that would beautifully break up and enhance a day of executive meetings.