As winter really sets in, we decided to seek some warmth with a trip to the Mediterranean. A deep blue sea, a pleasant breeze, tantalising rustic houses and a jealous Le Corbusier…

Born in San Remo, Italy in 1907, Thomas Edilgo Rebutato is one of the three stars of Cap Moderne*, a beautiful example of modern architecture. Rebutato spent most of his childhood in the village of Beausoleil where he later worked as a plumber and roofer. Rebutato never lost his ties with the Mediterranean and the summer vacations he spent with his wife Marguerite and their two children, Robert and Monique, became a new beginning for the Italian family. The lazy Sundays they spent as a family on the Plage du Buse at Roquebrune Cap-Martin increased their love for the region. At the end of WWII in 1947, Rebutato purchased a 1000 m² plot in Cap-Martin, right next to the modern “White Villa” of Parisian architect Jean Badovici and his then lover Eileen Gray of Ireland**. Rebutato’s dream of owning land by the sea and building a fishing cabin was a step closer to reality. Originally, six cabins were planned on the site, five to be sold and one for Rebutato, however, the project did not go as planned, and in 1949 he decided to transform his cottage into a restaurant.

Rebutato opened the restaurant-bar “Étoile de Mer – Chez Robert” (Star of the Sea) – the fruit of his passion for food, which was rooted deeply in the rich gastronomic culture of the Liguria region. The restaurant’s simple but delicious menu focused on pasta, salads and fresh fish. It was seamen navigating the less known parts of the Cote d’Azur who were his clients. But there were also important visitors such as Jean Badovici and Le Corbusier. This was a turning point as their friendship led to a business partnership. In August 1950, Le Corbusier painted a portrait of Rebutato in a chef’s apron. He named it “At the Etoile de Mer friendship reigns”. Rebutato returned this gesture by hanging the painting in his restaurant. Later, Le Corbusier framed this painting with a mural. In time, the partnership between Rebutato and Le Corbusier grew stronger. Le Corbusier designed the other five cabins in exchange for one plot. This is where he completed the Le Cabanon in June 1952. Le Corbusier’s summer cottage was built right next to the Etoile de Mer, even a connecting door was designed between the two. Le Corbusier painted a mural at the entrance of Le Cabanon after its completion. The pioneer of modern architecture made another painting depicting the Rebutato family on the other side of the wall providing access between Le Cabanon and Etoile de Mer.

Thomas died aged 63 in 1971 after which Marguerite ran the business on her own, serving fine food and hiring the rustic summer cottages until her death in 1987.

*On the other side of the bay from Monaco, there is an outstanding cultural and natural site known as Cap Moderne, consisting of Eileen Gray’s villa E-1027, Le Corbusier’s Cabanon and Holiday Cabins, and Thomas Edilgo Rebutato’s bar & restaurant Etoile de Mer!

** If this story intrigues you, we highly suggest further reading on the turbulent relation between Le Corbusier and Eileen Gray and how this relation reflected on Cap Moderne. Spoiler alert – rumour has it that Le Corbusier was quite jealous of Gray’s architectural talents.