Ibiza holidays

Ibiza lockdown diaries #4

Owner of beach restaurants Amante and Aiyanna, David Piccioni

Owner of beach restaurants Amante and Aiyanna, David Piccioni likes to believe he and his team can plan for anything, but the events caused by the COVID-19 crisis were definitely not something they expected. Here, he shares some lessons learned during lockdown.

Originally from the UK, but describing himself as 50% Italian, 50% South African and 100% Nomad, David Piccioni has been a pretty permanent fixture on the Ibiza scene since his early days as a DJ and record label owner. In 2009, he switched gears and moved into the restaurant industry, when he opened the now iconic beachfront fine dining destination Amante Ibiza on the intimate cove of Sol d’en Serra. Life as a restaurateur suited him, and in 2017 he launched Aiyanna Ibiza on the shores of Cala Nova.

While both restaurants were closed for the winter, David took an invigorating motorbike trip to Uganda, followed by a chilled Christmas. “As soon as January kicks in, it’s time to get ready for opening,” he explains. “It’s all about planning. We like to think we plan for anything but we certainly didn’t plan for this!” With an April opening date pencilled (pretty firmly into the diary, David quickly realised he may have to adjust a lot of his careful planning as he could see he effects of COVD-19 making its way through Europe. “I have a lot of friends in northern Italy, so unfortunately I knew what was happening,” he explains. “We could see that it was going to spread pretty quickly.” Here, he shares his state of mind and some lessons learned during lockdown.

Describe your current Ibiza lockdown situation?
I’m fortunate that at the moment I can go to the office everyday, which is necessary as there are so many summer events, weddings and the like that need rearranging and relocating. One weird thing that’s happening at home is that my cat seems to have developed a liking for me. Even more worrying is that I’m actually beginning to like her too, despite the fact that biting me is one of her favourite pastimes.

What is your daily life like now?
I have to say that in some ways daily life is better; I always practice yoga and meditation in the morning. Finally now I actually have time to do all of the practices I like to do before going into the office.

How are you feeling on a personal level right now?
I’m good in a crisis; I think I was made that way. It’s actually a life of routine that gives me anxiety, so I’m fine.

Who or what do you miss most right now?
Well I don’t miss my carpenter or my plumber – I think I’ve just about fixed everything in my house that needs fixing! Furthermore, I don’t even think I will ever need to call such a person again. It’s amazing how easy things are to fix when you put your mind (and YouTube) to it instead of just calling someone and paying them to do it.

What’s been most the challenging thing for you throughout this experience?
Not eating chocolate.

Has there been anything about the lockdown experience you’ve enjoyed?
Space and time. It’s always there, but we always choose to fill it or ignore it. Why do we do that?

How do you keep in touch with the outside world?
I’m super interested in world affairs, so normally I’m constantly reading the newspaper and catching up with world events. However for the first time in my life, I stopped watching any TV news during this period. I found there was little information on there, just lots of emotional button pressing. Emotional stability is crucial in any crisis, and TV news and social media is a destroyer of that, so I stayed away. Yes, I’m one of the millions of new Zoom users, which was indispensable for keeping in touch with our team, and I’ve found that I’m having a lot more meaningful conversations with friends and family.

What’s been entertaining you during this period?
I’ve been listening to an insane amount of music, which is something that I regret not having enough time for usually. As an ex-vinyl DJ, I’ve always had an aversion to using digital platforms that don’t pay artists for the music, but I have to admit, Spotify is amazing for discovering new artists and music. I’m not a big Netflixer, but I have managed to catch up on some films I’ve been dying to see for a while.

What’s been educating you?
The Financial Times and The New York Times daily pretty much do it for me. It’s direct and to-the-point information and that’s all I need. I pay for them both, as I think most news that’s free is either there for entertainment purposes or has an agenda. I check social media now and again just to see what other people are talking about, but I can honestly say that the amount of useful information that one gets off there is minimal. One has to be careful not to indulge in information overload in a time like this. It can become addictive, and we can all start to follow lines of thought which excite us, even if it’s complete bollocks.

What’s made you laugh during this time?
The nightly Trump White House briefings were comedy gold. That was before my self-imposed TV ban.

How is your general health and wellbeing right now?
I’m one of the super-lucky ones; I’m fit and healthy with nothing to complain about!

What are your eating habits like these days?
God, I miss some of the dishes from my chefs at Amante and Aiyanna. I’m buying a lot of organic and local produce, but I’m not sure if that’s for health reasons or because the shop is far away from my house and so I have a legal excuse to go to another part of the island!

Are you factoring exercise and movement into your time spent indoors?
I seem to be doing a lot of dishwashing. And laundry actually. Where does it all come from?

Have you set yourself any goals during this period?
Nope. I’m a goal addict, so I’ve used this opportunity to be happy and content having no goals whatsoever and its been a revelation. I love it!

How has the lockdown impacted your business and industry?
Well, it’s had a massive effect. We’ve never had a situation like this where planning is impossible because the future is so uncertain. It’s been tough for those customers who have had weddings and events organised at our venues, so I really feel for them. In terms of the restaurants, our attitude is that we just have to get on with it and deal with whatever comes our way.

How do you manage your stress levels during such uncertain times?
I play darts.

What are your hopes for Ibiza in the future?
The same as my hopes are for anywhere really – that people become more accepting and tolerant of each other despite their differences.

Do you have any fears for the future of the island?
That the opposite of the above will happen.

What about your own future – how is that looking right now?
At Amante and Aiyanna we have always focused on allowing people to come and really appreciate the simple things in life, to facilitate a connection with the natural beauty of Ibiza through food, drink, music and socialising. I think people may appreciate these things much more now that we have all had an enforced time of reflection.

How do you feel Ibiza has come together (while staying apart) as a community during lockdown?
Well I haven’t seen many people apart from my team, and we are a super solid unit, so I guess this will make us even stronger and more bonded. I hope so. I think a crisis like this makes those who are kind, kinder; those who care, more caring; those who love, more loving; those who are bitter more bitter – and those who are angry, more angry. Extremes again, it has opened some people up and it’s lovely. Some have gone the other way unfortunately. But I guess we all react differently to stress.

Do you feel safe here? Is there anywhere else you’d rather be quarantined than Ibiza?
I feel safe anywhere, it’s a state of mind. I guess objectively speaking though, there couldn’t be a better place to be than Ibiza, although I do miss my family in the UK.

What are you most looking forward to when the restrictions are lifted?
Having our Amante kitchen team prepare a feast for me and my close friends. I’m dreaming of an enormous roasted sea bass from our Josper charcoal oven, and our pastry chef Gabriela’s world-beating cheesecake.

Is there anything you might miss?
Not being rushed.