Built in 1906, the building, inspired by an Italian villa, was originally a private home. More recently it has housed offices and commercial space, before being renovated in 2001 as an upscale bed-and-breakfast inn.
A variety of spa services are offered at The Villa — and it is indeed a lovely setting in which to get a manicure or a massage — but it was the restaurant that prompted a visit on a recent Saturday night.
While the gracious atmosphere has remained the same over the years, the focus of the restaurant’s menu has changed mightily. An original emphasis on such meats as elk, boar and pheasant gave way to Mediterranean-inspired fare. A healthful “spa cuisine” orientation then banished butter and rich desserts.
Now, however, the menu reflects an Italian focus, which seems particularly appropriate, given the building’s history. And while the meal was admittedly uneven, we nonetheless enjoyed the evening.
Appetizers provided a great start. We enjoyed the wild mushroom bruschetta ($9), which included an abundance of mushrooms and roasted garlic atop rosemary foccacia. We also liked the portobello caprese ($9), which featured marinated portobello mushrooms and roma tomatoes topped with fresh mozzarella. Both were flavorful, substantial starters, easily enough to share.
Salads, however, were not as successful. While flavorful, both the mixed greens field salad ($8) and the classic Caesar ($6) suffered from an overabundance of dressing.
The meal rebounded, however, with the entrees. The Villa’s dinner menu, which on the night of our visit included eight items, features traditional Italian specialties such as spaghetti and meatballs ($16), fettuccine alfredo ($18) and shrimp scampi ($22).
We quickly settled on two dishes that sounded intriguing: a salmon cucumber coulis ($25) and pancetta tortellini ($19).
The salmon, served with rosemary potatoes and garlic broccoli, was nicely cooked, though its coulis topping could have been more flavorful. The potatoes and broccoli could have used more flavor as well. While both were fine, neither the rosemary nor the garlic was particularly noticeable.
The pancetta tortellini, however, was rich and flavorful, with plenty of cheese-filled ravioli and chunks of pancetta in a creamy garlic and shallot sauce.
The dessert menu listed only three choices, cheesecake, creme brulee and a chocolate torte. Predictable, true, but, according to our excellent server, all made in-house. The creme brulee ($8) was rich and tasty, though with a sugar topping that was not completely caramelized. The fruit-glazed chocolate torte ($8) proved to be the favorite. Served with coffee ($3), it made for a fine ending.
Though dinner did prove pricey — without wine, tax or tip, the tab hit nearly $100 — The Villa remains one of the city’s loveliest dining rooms, the perfect setting for a romantic splurge.
Where: 1456 N. Delaware St.
Hours: Breakfast 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday; and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday. Lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Dinner 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.
Price range: Lunch entrees are $10 to $14; dinner entrees $16 to $29.
Info: (317) 916-8500; www.thevillainn.com.