You’ve heard of the food, but the art Vintage Cave holds is equally intriguing.

Entering Vintage Cave for the first time is a transcendent experience. After passing through the gated entry and descending down a dimly lit staircase, you arrive at the threshold to the multi-million-dollar private society, where arched hallways covered in thousands upon thousands of handmade bricks and floors made of sleek granite tile make it nearly inconceivable to think that, really, you are in the basement of the Shirokiya in Ala Moana Center.

Originally envisioned as a members-only club, Vintage Cave made its grand debut on the Hawai’i dining scene in December 2011. Today the restaurant is open to the public for both lunch and dinner, but there remains an air of exclusivity that can make the uninitiated feel a bit out of place.

To make our virgin voyage less overwhelming is Charles Yoshida, general manager of Vintage Cave and our jovial tour guide for the evening. Known simply as “Charly” to those who visit the cave,

our knowledgeable leader pulls open the heavy wooden door-a thick slab of solid Balinese teak-and we carefully tiptoe into the grand dining room, afraid that our footsteps will disturb the paintings, sculptures and various other articles that fill its halls.

this massive cache of art is culled from the private collection of Japanese developer Takeshi Sekiguchi, the financial backer behind Vintage Cave who is best known for building the Grand Wailea Resort on Maui and the Four Seasons Hualalai on Hawai’i Island’s historic Kona coast.

“There are probably thousands of pieces, more than you can count,” says Yoshida of Mr. Sekiguchi’s enviable collection, which is valued at an estimated $1 billion. “He has quite a bit in storage, and every month he rotates everything out, except for one or two items,” Yoshida adds. However, Vintage Cave’s true intent was never profit-related.

Ask Sekiguchi why he created the space, and you’ll receive a simple, “I never built this [Vintage Cave] to make money.” the venue was intended to showcase his life.

The crowning jewel of Sekiguchi’s collection also is the first piece of art we come across on our tour: The triptych “And there was Evening and there was Morning, dedicated to Hiroshima” by Mordecai Ardon, a ghostly three-part series that shows the town of Hiroshima before, during and after the explosion of the atomic bomb.

After pausing in respectful admiration of each panel, we proceed further into the cavernous space.

As we do, we pass displays of crystal stemware culled from the French houses of Lalique and Baccarat, including a champagne set from Baccarat’s Marie Antoinette collection, whose softly curved flutes and goblets are rumored to be modeled after certain parts of the teen queen’s anatomy.

On the wall, we are treated to the first of several Picassos curated within the cave. ~ is particular wall contained an 18-piece series titled Les Deux Femmes Nues and depicts the shifting shapes and forms of Picasso’s muses through a gradual transition from realism to cubism.

In the adjoining room that serves as the bar lounge are two more Picassos, “Francoise sur Fond Gris” and “Tete de Femme,” both of which are portraits of Francoise Gilot, one of Picasso’s lovers and mother of the famous jewelry designer Paloma Picasso.

Also in this room are three massive portraits of the subject “Lojos Basci” (which are, in fact, three separate paintings titled I, II and III) by famed painter Anton Molnar.

In fact, as we continue our tour, we come across more and more Molnars, including several still lifes, nudes and the painting “Lucky Cats,” which the artist painted after being intrigued by the meneki neko he would encounter in Chinatown shops during a visit to Hawai’i.

We also find that the deeper we dig into the cave’s troves, the more diverse the art becomes. Native American pottery and clay work sit across from prints by Ting Shao Kuang. Ornately jeweled tigers, elephants and other exotic wildlife by Jay Strongwater are housed mere steps away from Kyohei Fujita dream boxes and Yaichi Kusube vases.

In one room, an ethereal watercolor by Angeles Cereceda transports us to a fantastical garden where whimsical sculptures by Nano Lopez roam and the light cast by a custom-made Swarovski crystal chandelier cloaks the space in an absinthe-green glow.

Then, we are back on a tropical island, surrounded by bronze sculptures by Ken Shutt and the dreamy landscapes of tanned women and verdant jungles painted by Zhou Ling.

Just when we think we’ve seen all there is, one of the last stops on our tour is a back room used to store newly acquired works from an array of artists, both well established and new to the scene.

There are paintings by Gia Revazi stacked next to artwork by Karen Hoepting and Jennifer Markes. Sort through the pieces and you’ll uncover more Molnars and Lings, along with a few from up-and-comer B. Miller.

In addition to the original prints we see on the walls, Sekiguchi also has lithographs and serigraphs of these masterpieces, which he often displays, as well.

As we say our thank-yous and reluctantly prepare to return to reality, Yoshida treats us to one last treasure: a drawing by Japanese Francophile Leonard Foujita, a simple, yet striking image that will have to sustain us until our next visit.

IT TAKES A VILLA

Fifteen years in the making, Honolulu resident Princess Dialta Alliata di Montereale’s recently released book, My Mother, My Father and His Wife

Hortense Provenance: Villa La Pietra, is a love story well worth waiting for. In this fierce and moving book,

Dialta tells the story of her grandmother and mother, Elsie and Liana Beacci, the lifelong love and the illegitimate daughter, respectively, of the legendary Renaissance art collector and Anglo-Florentine Il Barone Arthur Mario Acton. Drawing on research and sources that include her grandmother’s richly erotic diaries, Dialta recounts the intimate details of a great and enduring love affair and a family saga played out against the backdrop of Florence’s magnificent villa. The story encompasses an appalling betrayal, the fate of Acton’s billion-dollar estate, and the continuing fight to restore justice and dignity to Acton’s legacy and the Beacci family name. L’ unione fa la forza (unity creates strength) is the rallying motto of the Beacci women, and the fascination of this page-turner lies in the many secrets and surprises that are reveled as Elsie’s story unfolds.

My Mother, My Father and His Wife Hortense – Provenance: Villa La Pietra is available at www.amazon.com. – By Jefferson Finney