The Villa Crespi Review

The Villa Crespi has an outstanding reputation to match its two Michelin Stars.  But is it worth a trip to Northern Italy? Mark Southern found out.

As first published in The Exchange Magazine, 2011

 

Hollywood has taught us many things about Italy.

Firstly, everyone is beautiful, but has a tendency to pout excessively.

Secondly, all these beautiful people travel exclusively by Fiat or scooter – pouting excessively, of course.

Finally, food is one of life’s most important things, and should be savoured, whilst surrounded by friends and family.

This last lesson has been drilled home most forcefully during mob mealtimes from The Godfather to The Sopranos, where eating is the major event of the day (unless that day also includes delivering a horse’s head to a rival’s bed).

And because of this mindset, like Don Corleone lecturing an attentive class of young wannabe mobsters at Mafioso School, Italian cuisine dominates the global gastronomic landscape with a peerless confidence.

But, with this in mind, what does it take to be one of the top restaurants in a nation so consumed with the consumption of quality cuisine? Can the two-Michelin-starred Villa Crespi live up to its reputation, and make me a tasty offer I can’t refuse?

In a word, ‘si’. And how.

Crespi1

Situated on the banks of uber-glamorous Lake Orta, the Moorish villa invites the diner to dream of magical adventures in faraway desert lands. Looking more like a Sheikh’s palace than an Italian food destination, Villa Crespi dominates the serene landscape with its magnificent frescoes and oriental domes, culminating in its ornate minaret touching the sky. All this whilst the grandeur of the lake fills the background of this real-life canvas. Simply, it’s a breathtaking place to be.

The menu offers a traditional Italian food experience, with its signature dish its famous ‘South to North’ menu – offering the diner a taste of every region of Italy.

Like all taster menus, the beauty is in the mystery, and it would take something away from the sensory overload to know too much.

However, it’s pleasing to report that, unlike some other taster menus where a good start descends downhill, here the excellent beginning improves with each course.

It doesn’t ruin the surprise to learn that some notable highlights include the sheer deliciousness of the Edible Flower Pasta filled with Goat’s Cheese, the perfect blend of flavours of the Striped Red Mullet and Emulsion of Sage, and the truly exceptional Roasted Pigeon and Scallops.

Needless to say the accompanying wines from across Italy are predictably wonderful, and perfectly complement the first-class fare served up.

Movies have taught us that the Mafia operate a code of silence called ‘Omerta’. Quite frankly, if anyone who’s eaten at the Villa Crespi wants to keep schtum then I can only suggest booking a session with Tony Soprano’s shrink.

Simply benissimo!

 

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