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The Villa returns for a third time with a rich mix in progress

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The Villa sports bright vegetarian options. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The Villa sports bright vegetarian options.
Today’s Villa isn’t the Villa of the past, but it has ties: In 1956 at this Palmer Lake spot, Roman Villa opened under friends of today’s Roman Villa family on North Nevada Avenue. Years later, the first Villa incarnation (drop the Roman part) launched in 1980, running to 2000.

A couple named Chris and Kerri Bohler met while working there, later launching a revived Villa in 2011, which operated through early last year. Other businesses came and went at the location over all those years, and this past October, the third incarnation of the Villa opened under new proprietor Matt Beck, plus chef Anthony Ramos, who cooked at the Villa for several years under the Bohlers.

So, meet the Villa 3.0, now fully flavored by Brooklyn-born but Colorado-raised Ramos, who tells us he trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Scottsdale and has “cooked all over,” including a stage at The French Laundry and time spent working for lauded Denver chef Troy Guard. Fine-dining aside, he says he prefers Southern comfort cooking and “mom’s Italian.”

Which, all combined, looks like our heavenly heavy baked wild mushroom gnocchi in a black truffle cream sauce, with a topping tangle of arugula. The thick, reduced cream evokes béchamel sauce, given its hint of nutmeg, with a cheese mix of mozzarella, fontina and smoked provolone lending more accenting complexity. It’s a rich and lavish dish.

Or, take the Funghi Pazzi sandwich, composed with a deep-fried portobello mushroom layered with provolone, arugula, tomato and onion on red bell aioli-smeared focaccia bread that’s nicely herbaceous. It’s another vegetarian delight, even if a side mixed-green salad with blue cheese crumbles and sharp vinaigrette is overdressed to wetness. Which illustrates how this Villa appears great at some turns while needing work at others, like service.
Location Details The Villa
75 S. Hwy. 105
Palmer Lake, CO
481-2222
4-9 p.m. Tuesdays; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; until 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sundays
Italian
Our waiters can’t answer basic menu questions, and don’t even present what charcuterie and cheese we’ve received on a meat and cheese board. Meanwhile the wine list includes pronunciation notes for those somehow new to “Pee-noh Nwahr.” If seeking to educate, let’s start with info like cheese type, production methods and finish flavors, not treat educated consumers like children. We’d also prefer better bread than dense, spongy, commercial-feeling baguette with a sandy crust and charred oregano garnish.

Pizza dough fares better with a crunchy crust, evidenced on a roasted chicken-artichoke pie with pesto, ample mozzarella, and pear chunks as the one ingredient I could do without, adding little but distracting sweetness and a discordant note. Tagliatelle pasta also sports fine texture under a Colorado trout special, though what our server calls a Cajun cream sauce is really a fairly bland oil dressing with okra, asparagus and mushroom bits. The blackened fish, though, proves sensational, perfectly seared and spice-bright.

The great/needs-work dance continues into a tiramisu, with beautifully textured ladyfingers and mascarpone, but odd butterscotch and strawberry coulis, and a dreaded Hershey’s drizzle. Somehow the predominant finish flavor is waffle cone. And skip the cloying Italian margarita spiked with pomegranate liqueur in favor of two super sips: a scotch, amaro, simple syrup and orange-zested Godfather, reading like bittered sweet peat; and the bubbly Show Me Your Spritz, with prosecco, pear brandy and St-Germain — elderflower essence folding into the fruit.

Despite the unevenness, there’s plenty to like at this Villa, a warm, dated-but-decorative space that’s reasonably affordable. Hopefully third time’s an enduring charm.

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