Villetta – Santa Monica

We rarely go to a new restaurant soon after its opening. We generally wait until the “kinks” have been worked out. We have a long history with this restaurant space. It was originally the restaurant, Camelions with Elka Gilmore as the chef. It was terrific. Then the space became Chez Mimi and it was mediocre. Now as Villetta the space has undergone a 3 million dollar restoration and it is charming, inviting and lovely. Originally built and occupied by renowned architect John Byers, this is truly a landmarked gem. You can choose to dine in the lovely garden outside, the bar area, a small outdoor lounge or one of the two smaller dining areas.

The garden area

One of the small dining rooms

Outside lounge area

The other small dining room and where we sat

We got to Villetta as soon at it opened and this turned out to be very fortuitous as we got to meet and chat with the chef, Pippa Calland and GM Antonio De Cicco. Their philosophy regarding cuisine and hospitality mirrors our tastes exactly.

Pippa Calland was formerly the chef at Le Madri and Luna Park in New York City. She has  3 key words for her cuisine – focus, restraint and concentration. “What’s not on the plate is just as important as what is.” She is committed to getting the very best of fresh-from-market fish, meats and seasonal produce. For example, all meat is from whole animals and delivered 3 days after slaughter and butchered on site.

All the art is from Pippa’s mother’s extensive art collection.

Antonio De Cicco, the former Manager of Toscana Restaurant is a terrific host who gives back the real meaning of hospitality. We were treated as if we had been dining at Villetta for years and certainly didn’t feel this was a brand-new restaurant.

Champagne from their list

Complimentary white bean puree with parmesan crackers

We ordered one dish at a time and split each dish – our normal “one for two”

Seared blue fin tuna a la nicoise with fava bean puree, black olives, frilled red mustards and a hard cooked quail’s egg – absolutely delicious and the quality of the tuna was sashimi grade. Pippa explained (Pippa was our waitress and delivered the dish herself!)  that the tuna was over $30 a pound at her cost. The fava bean puree was the perfect accent to the tuna and the quail egg had a soft slightly runny yolk – perfect.

Pippa insisted that we try one of the pizzas and since she noticed that I have a “thing” for eggs (she heard me wax poetic over the soft yolk in the quail’s egg), she choose the pizza with asparagus, speck, sottocenere and sunny side up egg – The guy in charge of making the pizza is from Naples and this is a true Italian pizza. Again each component worked beautifully and John has plans for take-out pizza in his future.

It was lovely to dip each slice of pizza in the runny yolk.

BYO Wine

Santa Barbara spot prawns a la plancha with garlic,lemon zest, crushed red pepper, cannellini beans – another winner, executed perfectly – the shrimp heads were meaty and full  of roe and equally delicious were the cannellini beans.

Tagliolini with Santa Barbara Uni, parma butter and Meyer Lemon – an A+ dish – the pasta is fresh and made in house – perfect. Again the whole far exceeded each component – a terrific marriage of ingredients.

We consider Villetta a real find and we can’t wait to go back. Next time we will just let Chef Pippa chose our menu.

Their site here:


1 Response to “Villetta – Santa Monica”

  1. 1 toddrickallen May 16, 2011 at 8:07 am

    A very thoughtful and well-written review. I can’t wait to try the pizza!

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