La Villa, an Italian Grill and Bar
La Villa Italian Grill and Bar by Senso Holdings is a restaurant situated in the former school premises of River Valley Primary School. Senso Holdings own Senso Ristorante & Bar, La Nonna, and Spizza too. La Villa means “the House” and indeed it was a huge ‘house’ that spans over 2000 square feet including indoor dining area, al fresco dining area, a good bar and an open garden. The place exudes a an air of charm, very nice place for a private date or business lunch; the white washed restaurant and the very nice wooden furniture give you the feeling of dining in a countryside home.
We were seated in a nice cozy corner indoor but overlooking the al fresco and the well kept lawn with a small playground at the far end for kids to play. We also noticed ample parking space. The charming waiter suggested that we try the Mixed Antipasto Platter. This platter had small portions of their individual starters menu – air-dried Bresaola beef with goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, beef carpaccio, parma ham and more. The paper thin, deep reddish purple Bresaola, a salt cured, air dried beef was very lean, sweet, tender and had a distinct musty aroma. The goat cheese and sun dried tomatoes complemented the beef slices. I always believe that if a chef cannot get a simple dish out right, then he is definitely not capable of dishing out the complicated ones. The Tomato and Mozzarella ‘Caprese’ style with Zucchini and Basil was done right with the right ingredients -the tomatoes were red, juicy and flavorful and not overly soft and chilled, basil was truly fragrant and flavourful – not one of those hydroponically grown giant leaves; fresh, moist mozzarella and good quality extra virgin olive oil! The thinly sliced fresh beef carpaccio served with parmesan fondue and tomato dressing along with rocket salad and more grated Parmigiano added the extra glutamates which really amp up the beefy flavor.
The Calamari Pirate was crispy calamari rings marinated with paprika served with ‘puttanesca’ dip. The calamari was not greasy and the puttanesca dip w as a great accompaniment to it. Puttanesca is typically a spicy, intensely flavorful sauce which, as the story goes, was used by the "ladies of the night" to lure men into their houses of ill repute and with a name like ‘pirate’……..I can see why?!
Cappellini Angel hair Pasta with Lobster Ragout ‘Sardinia’ style was made of a very thin variety of Italian pasta. Like spaghetti, cappellini is rod-shaped, in the form of long strands, and thinner than vermicelli. Sardinian cuisine tradition is based on fusing of fresh seafood and pastoral goodies and the foods cooked are usually simple and straightforward so as not to overwhelm the ingredient’s natural flavor and therefore this dish was simple, tasty and satisfying.
The next dish of “entrecôte’’ or beef rib-eye was very French influenced – so much of a bistro kind of food. Somehow I cannot relate this dish to La Villa but then they must be offering this dish for a reason – maybe it is very popular. The secret lies in the Butter Café De Paris I guess. This herb and spice butter is traditionally French and guess what till today nobody was able to get the original recipe that was created in the 1940s. A chef friend of mine who is working in Glasgow once told me that he does his version with condensed milk!! The beef was served hot with a piece of the chilled Butter Café De Paris that melted down its content of butter, herbs, spices and all the French secrets onto it and the surrounding French fries and cooked vegetables. A rich main course indeed!
The grilled black sea cod and grilled Mediterranean vegetables and mashed potato came piping hot. A sprinkle of salt, a bit of olive oil and a dash of freshly ground pepper is all you need to grill or pan fry a piece of cod, yet some people can go wrong. Not the guys at La Villa – the fish came to the table, perfect, super juicy and tender and flaky.
For dessert we had the Hot Dark Chocolate ‘Tortino’ with Vanilla Ice Cream. Well, how would I describe it? Trying to…….brownie-like, mousse like, hot soufflé like and pudding like and when you dig a spoon into it, it trickles out thick melted chocolate and all you have to do is to eat spoon after spoon of this decadent chocolate with the vanilla ice cream that comes as a package! Lemon Parfait served with fresh Strawberries was a mild lemon flavoured dessert, more a pannacotta served with a fan of strawberries. It was quite refreshing. A good Italian coffee rounded off the meal.
Besides the usual menu, La Villa also offers various types of wood-fired pizzas, a classic grill menu and mains. With an outdoor grill station, their chef serves up an excellent selection of grill specialties. During the weekends they have brunch and child friendly tables and playground too.
La Villa Italian Grill and Bar
341 River Valley Road
Tel: 6836 5286