Good solid red-sauce Italian in an historic building downtown.
First visit: March 25, 2012
Villa di Capo Ristorante Italiano is located in the J. A. Skinner Building, a registered historical landmark. Situated on the old “Route 66,” it represents one of the few examples of art deco design in Albuquerque.
The building, built in 1931, was designed as the main store in a chain of family owned groceries, and has always been divided into two stores (now two dining rooms). The east dining room retains the original pressed metal ceiling and ceramic wall tile wainscoting with geometric motifs, and the original school-light ceiling fixtures.
The main facades of the building on the North and West are surfaced in imported terra cotta. The display windows are divided by pillars with a stylized papyrus design, framed by volutes and topped by several bands of geometric design, Just above are bronze covered transoms which are glazed with small squares of opalescent glass in a green and black pattern, reminiscent of the depression era. The name “J. A. Skinner” is etched into the North facade of the building.
The interior seems fitting for such an historic downtown building. There are two main dining areas inside and an outdoor patio that beckons on warm days. We intend to return some evening and eat calzones and sip some draft beer with good friends. It’s that kind of place.
The room on the east is high-ceilinged with banquet-sized tables and a beautiful embossed tin ceiling. The west room has modern light fixtures and booths along two of the walls. Sit by the windows facing Central and watch a slice of life walk by. Walking into this place gives a feeling of being transported to a ’50s fancy Italian restaurant like those i knew in Brooklyn, NY.
As you walk in the door, you will find on your left a fully restored antique Austrian sleigh with a stuffed effigy of a cook. The doll is named Guido, after the owner of Villa di Capo. Sweet.
We had just come from a masterful production of Eugene O’Neill’s disturbing play Long Day’s journey into Night, and needed a peaceful and old-fashioned place to restore our sanity. Villa di Capo’s comfort did the trick.
All entrées here come with fresh Italian bread (be sure to ask for olive oil) and a small house salad. This salad is better that what you will get in lesser places. Seasoned croutons, red onion, cucumber slices, bits of tomato, a slice of prosciutto, two kinds of lettuce, and a very tasty house dressing — an Italian vinaigrette that was just right. And the bread was toasty warm and soft on the inside with a moderately chewy crust.
Seems like all Italian restaurants (as well as many others) serve fried calamari as an appetizer. Not all of these dishes are successfully prepared, but Villa di Capo’s kitchen does this better than lesser places. The calamari hiding under the breading was delicious and properly fried — neither tough nor rubbery, but just right. I prefer lemon squeezed on top (ask for extra), but the dipping marinara was quite nicely done. Good spicing, fresh, and not too sweet. A good start.
Ravioli and Meatballs
Jane is a ravioli freak. She loved this ravioli and meatball dish smothered in a fresh and tasty red that is made fresh from scratch each morning. Jane is from the Monongahela Valley south of Pittsburgh, home of many Italian settlers, and she declared this ravioli to be second only to that served at Rigo’s in Charleroi PA on the Mon River, whigh is also my favorite. High praise indeed. The meatballs were tasty, but a tad too mushy. The sauce was masterful.
This dish is not on the menu. Carbonara is, but I prefer mine over rigatoni, and the kitchen obliged. Ask for what you want and you’ll probably get it. Nicely done oasta, and the sauce was not too thin. Often I have been served this dish swimming in a thin sauce, but this version was just fine. Very large portion. I still can’t believe that I ate the whole thing, but I did. Next time I’ll restrain myself and save some room for dessert. See the dessert tray photo below, and you will see why.
I just had to try a side dish of Italian sausage in a marinara. Sure glad That I did, waistline notwithstanding. This was excellently spiced sausage, and the sauce was magnificent. Better than anything that I had in Baltimore’s Little Italy where I lived for twenty-five years. You really want to drink some Sangiovese. I did (Jane drives).
More, but untried so far
The lasagna is a house specialty. Comes in several versions. Lasagna in on my list for a future visit.
Oh yeah — I mentioned desserts. The photo below shows
- Cheese Cake topped with caramel and nuts
- Double Chocolate layer delight
- Bourbon Pecan Pie
- Cheese Cake
- Homemade Cannoli
- Creamy Spumoni Ice Cream
Sure look tempting.
This is an old-fashioned, basic Italian restaurant that serves just what you want. If you are downtown and hungry for some Italian, be sure to drop in here. Pretend that you see gangsters in silk suits chomping on a fat stogie. You might become captivated by Villa di Capo. I was.