Prosciutto and parmesan are two ingredients that have to be the real thing if you’re talking Italian cuisine. Where better to go on a taste trip to Italy than Villa 47 on Bree Street, recently opened by Rialto Foods, who have been importing the best Italian ingredients for 17 years.
How it began
Owners Luciano Previtera and Michele Mirotto decided it was time to showcase their products the Italian way and they are doing this in style. Teaming up with chef Clayton Bell, formerly of Constantia Uitsig, they came up with not one but three food concepts for the historic building. The ground floor is Locanda, a contemporary informal eatery serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Next up is Stuzzico, an evening tapas bar on the first floor, and due to launch on the top floor in September is The Restaurant, with an intimate and elegant modern dining atmosphere. “Chef Clayton has a phenomenal palate,” says operations manager Peter Douglas. “He developed the menus in consultation with the Italian owners and team to get the authentic flavours and feel.”
Locanda was bustling and vibrant at lunch time. Tables spill out onto the pavement and there is a spacious enclosed courtyard at the back with an olive tree and bar. Chef Vittorio Bianchi, whose family makes cheese near Parma, was skilfully slicing prosciutto in the glass-walled cheese and ham room. At first taste of our shared cheese and meat platter, I was transported back to my years working in Italy: delicate Parma ham, sweet and rich Grana Padano, creamy gorgonzola, and juicy green olives from Puglia.
Next, the risotto with peas and pancetta, topped with crispy Parma ham was a perfect balance of sweet and savoury. There was a tempting fresh pasta with buffalo mozzarella on the specials menu, but for nostalgia I went for the imported tortellini stuffed with minced Parma ham, served with a meaty ragu sauce that scored full marks for authenticity and robust winter flavour.
We admired the appetising main courses delivered to the next table – seared tuna and a saltimbocca with polenta chips, but after the generous portions of pasta and risotto, dessert called – a classic tiramisu, light, rich, creamy and very moreish, and a creative panettone bread and butter pudding with home-made ice cream. Excellent coffee and a peppery but smooth dash of Nardini grappa, rounded off a thoroughly satisfying Italian lunch.
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Words: Kit Heathcock | Images: Kit Heathcock & Supplied