Every once in a while DonQui stumbles across a restaurant which manages to combine great food and perfect atmosphere to create something truly memorable. The Villa Maria restaurant in Ravello is just such a place.
Set on a beautiful leafy terrace overlooking the hills above Amalfi and the sea beyond, the location is truly spectacular.
After sunset the Moon and Venus, being close together in the night sky, create a stunning effect.
The staff are super friendly and very helpful. When DonQui is not entirely sure on which dishes to order the recommendations are spot-on. The waiter gives DonQui a run-down on the ingredients and how the dish is prepared, steering him in the right direction every time.
The wine recommendation is equally helpful, guiding DonQui through the pluses and minuses of the various local vintages. Although the waiter can no doubt discern that DonQui Oaty is a donkey of distinction, he does not linger too long on the first page of the wine list which includes some prime Bordeaux at over €4,000 a bottle!
There are so many tantalising dishes on the menu it is hard to decide which to go for. Most of the are locally sourced with fruit, vegetables and herbs coming from the Villa’s own organic garden.
In the end DonQui opts to start with ‘crunchy ravioli’ filled with local cheese and served on a bed of fresh herby tomatoes. The ‘ravioli’ is more like a super light pastry than pasta — hence the ‘crunch’.
Duchess chooses zucchini (courgette) flowers also filled with cheese, deep fried in a sesame and ginger batter and served with a tomato coulis. Both were superb, although Duchess was a little disappointed not to taste any ginger — something she is rather fond of.
DonQui decides to order Italian style — savouring each course before deciding on the next one.
Wishing something quite light after her appetiser, Duchess decides on ‘Organic garden vegetables with parmesan broth’ for her second course while DonQui tries the waiter recommended ‘Slow cooked amberjack with kumquat, sea asparagus and champagne sauce.’ Not having encountered amberjack before DonQui enquires what sort of fish it is? He learns that it is a large predatory fish with white flesh.
“It is not as delicate as sea bass”, the waiter informs DonQui, assuring him that his local Ravello light red wine will go very well with it despite the accompanying champagne sauce.
The waiter is quite correct. The flesh has an almost bouncy constituency with deep flavour. DonQui finds it absolutely delicious, the taste perfectly set off by the accompanying quartered kumquats and champagne sauce. Sea asparagus turns out to be what DonQui knows as samphire.
The deserts are as stunning as the previous courses. DonQui is rather tempted to try out ‘The mango and the coconuts become Italian classic like the fried egg’, if for no better reason than its enigmatic (presumably mis-translated) name. The chocolate eggplant trunk also sounds intriguing.
On the waiter’s recommendation, however, DonQui orders the the cannolo with Aperol sgroppino (sorbet made from Aperol and prosecco), and the tiramisu. The waiter explains with pride that the tiramisu is ‘not classic’. It has been deconstructed and reinvented, retaining the coffee/marscapone/chocolate flavours served up in a very different way.
Both deserts are incredibly good.
Dinner at the Villa Maria is without a doubt one of the best meals DonQui has experienced. At the end, the bill seems quite reasonable considering the quality and style. Without a doubt he will return one day — perhaps to stay a few nights at the villa as well as once again sampling their delicious food.