La Villetta RistorantePosted: 04/26/2012
Having spent the entire day (and the day before that) studying for my finals, it was definitely time to take a break from the university food and unhealthy snackage I was ingesting too much of, and go for a nice meal with the fam. Since I was up at SFU, we decided to go to La Villetta, an Italian restaurant on the corner of Hastings and Ingleton.
I didn’t actually know which restaurant this was until I looked it up on Google Maps– turns out I pass by this place every Sunday on my way to church, but we’ve never been (probably because it isn’t open for lunch anymore… and if it were, my cousins’ picky eating would definitely prevent us from going in). The restaurant was really warm and cozy when I entered, which was great because the weather that day was supremely miserable. The decor is reminiscent of a B&B… very woodsy and rustic, and with all the candles and couples, it seemed slightly too romantic for a family meal. Whoops.
Upon getting seated, we were presented right away with a basket of warm and crusty homemade bread. By now you probably know about my love for bread… would it surprise you that both my grandma and my mom love bread too? So much so, they were raving about how warm and delicious and soft it was all night long. My dad just sat there looking very amused, but he probably thought we were crazy.
Anyways. The four of us ordered 3 pastas and an appetizer to share. First up was the appy Vongole a la Marinara–steamed clams in a sauce made with tomato, white wine and garlic. The good thing about this dish was that almost all the clams (except for 3) were open and very fresh, albeit on the smaller side. The sauce, however, wasn’t to our liking at all as it was far too bland. It tasted like the juice from a can of diced tomatoes, only a little thicker, and I couldn’t taste the wine or garlic at all. I think we were meant to dip our bread (they had brought over a second basket) in the sauce, but all that resulted in was bland, soggy bread. Definitely not that great a start to our meal.
Our three pastas arrived shortly after the clams did, which meant that our small table was getting a little crowded, what with all the dishes and cups. We dug into the vegetarian Linguine Della Casa, which was tossed with sun-dried tomatoes and a variety of mushrooms in an olive oil-tomato sauce, and topped with fresh bocconcini. The slightly melted cheese tasted mild and fresh (as it should), and there was a plethora of mushrooms and tomatoes in the pasta. However, there was far too much olive oil used in the cooking process, so that the tomatoes ended up being oil-logged, and there was a rather unpleasant-looking thick coat of oil left in the plate after we had finished the dish. I know it says in the menu that the sauce is made with olive oil, but I didn’t think that there would be THAT much of it… so I’m not sure if it was a misunderstanding on my part, or if the restaurant overdid it. The dish definitely would have been better if there was less oil, though.
The waitress had recommended the Cannelloni to us, so we ordered that as well. This pasta was stuffed with veal, spinach and ricotta cheese, then baked in a tomato cream sauce. I thought that the cannelloni itself was well executed, in that the pasta was al dente and that the filling tasted quite good. However, this fell short again in the sauce department. We thought that the sauce had a weird, mealy consistency to it, and tasted more cheesy than tomato-y, which was a bit of a turn off. I mean, the dish was fine if we scraped off the sauce, but really… we shouldn’t have had to do that, especially if it was a recommended dish!
At this point in the meal I was feeling a little bleh about the place, but our final dish, the Linguine Pescatore, helped redeem the night a little bit. Loaded with mussels, prawns, clams, scallops and salmon and cooked in a white wine-butter sauce with garlic, this pasta was definitely our favourite of the night. In terms of the sauce, this one tasted like it should, and wasn’t too heavy despite the butter. The seafood tasted fresh (though the scallops were a little on the overcooked side), the pasta was al dente, and everything just meshed well together. I ended up dipping my bread into this buttery and garlicky sauce because it was just that good.
By the time we were done with the pastas and the 2 baskets of bread we were feeling quite full… but then the waitress came by and asked us if we wanted dessert. It turns out they had Spumoni Ice Cream, which is one of my favourites (I would buy a gigantic tub if I knew where to get it). For those who don’t know, Spumoni is a three-flavoured ice cream much like Neapolitan ice cream– both have chocolate and vanilla, but Spumoni typically replaces the strawberry flavour with pistachio. You might have had it before if you’ve gone to the Old Spaghetti Factory, but the “authentic” version of the ice cream usually contains candied fruits or nuts. Our plate of ice cream came with a little dollop of whipped cream and cinnamon, and there were candied fruits (like in a fruit cake) in the vanilla layer, and chopped nuts in the chocolate layer. The pistachio and vanilla flavours were both really light, which really let the creamy and rich chocolate layer shine. This is definitely one of the better ones I’ve had!
So La Villetta was a bit of a hit and miss. I thought the prices were pretty reasonable– although the dishes seemed small at first, we ended up getting really full off of what we ordered. The pastas themselves were alright, but there were some pretty big execution problems in terms of the sauces for most of our dishes, which to me is a bit weird at an Italian restaurant. The servers were also hit and miss– we had one who was really nice, and another who was a little brusque and made us feel rushed. Perhaps it was just that night and those dishes that didn’t showcase the quality of the restaurant (many people do like it on Urbanspoon)… in any case, I would be willing to return sometime in the future to try the other items on their menu, but I think I would try some other Italian restaurants in the area so I can get a better picture of the cuisine first.
La Villetta Ristorante
3901 East Hastings Street