It’s easy to want to hold hands at Villetta, the ambiance alone—with its dark woods, beige tones, warm candles, topiaries and touches of sliver—is enough to wrap you in a snug cocoon of romance. But couple that with the most incredible Italian food on the Westside and you too will fall head over heels for Villetta.
By Taylor Van Arsdale
When co-owner and restaurateur Antonio De Cicco spots my boyfriend and I gazing starry-eyed at each other at his jewel of a restaurant, Villetta, the first thing he says is, “That’s what I like to see, two people holding hands and in love. You don’t see enough of that today.” It’s easy to want to hold hands at Villetta, the ambiance alone—with its dark woods, beige tones, warm candles, topiaries and touches of sliver—is enough to wrap you in a snug cocoon of romance. But couple that with the most incredible Italian food on the Westside and you too will fall head over heels for Villetta.
For De Cicco, Villetta is a labor of love and a dream come true. “I worked at Toscana for 14 years and I was looking for a place to open but wanted to do something totally different. I wanted a place where both couples and families could feel at home.” Four years ago, he found the restaurant’s current location but alas, it was not for sale. However, after three years of persistence De Cicco convinced the owner to sell and spent a year renovating with interior designer Donna Rabin. One look past the rustic wrought iron gates into the hidden grotto of greenery and to the exquisitely appointed rooms will tell you it was worth the wait. “I’m very proud of what we accomplished,” says De Cicco. Indeed, De Cicco was able to transform the former French country restaurant into a relaxing, serene and classic setting that both charms and invites. “I wanted people to have a “little home away from home” which is what ‘Villetta’ essentially means,” explains De Cicco.
The thing about Villetta is you do feel at home immediately. What’s different however is that you could never possibly hope to recreate such delicious food in the privacy of your own kitchen. For that, De Cicco hired Executive Chef Pippa Calland—formerly of Le Madri and Luna Park in New York City. He brought her to Capri, to the Amalfi Coast to show her his vision for the restaurant; then Calland came up with the menu.
The style is Southern Italian with the fresh California tradition; fresh produce daily. You hear the buzzword “fresh” in a lot of restaurants these days but at Villetta it’s taken almost religiously. The menu changes daily depending on what is available and in-season at the local farmer’s markets; a challenge that Calland rises to and accomplishes effortlessly.
Villetta also endorses a “whole animal” program. “If we get a baby lamb in, we have four lamb shanks on the menu because there are four lamb shanks on that animal. Nothing is wasted. Our menu is based on what is available from that animal,” explains Greg Gerber, the maitre d’.
We started off with anise pumpernickel bread, and a delicious brioche made on site. We then indulged our palettes with tuna sashimi in ponzu sauce with shaved radish and Japanese spinach. For the second course, we were delighted to sample the best pizza in Los Angeles. A moment about the pizza: It is Napoletana style; which means it’s baked for 60–90 seconds in a 485 °C (905 °F) stone oven with an oak-wood fire. De Cicco has employed two brothers from Italy whose sole task in the restaurant is to make pizzas ~ need I say more? We sampled a burrata cheese and artichoke pizza with cherry tomatoes, olives, and basil pesto. It was heaven. That was followed by a salad of raw and roasted artichokes with pine nuts, aged manchego and wild arugula. But the piéce de résistance was the pasta tagliatelle with white veal, sausage and porcini ragu. If my boyfriend and I weren’t already in love with each other, we certainly were after that meal.
Wine connoisseurs will be thrilled to know that Villetta has one of the most extensive wine lists and boasts some the finest selections available. We opted for the Nebbiolo Angelo Gaja Dagromis ~ a 2005 Barolo and it did not disappoint. Of special note is Villetta’s bar, a convivial watering hole open until 2 a.m. that provides specialty drinks and late night fare.
De Cicco, a most gracious and charming host, stops by all the tables ensuring that his patrons are tended to and their needs met. It is clear he loves what he does and he does it well.
So whether you are looking for a romantic evening with the one you love or a meal that will sweep you off your feet you will surely fall for Villetta.