Passports are not required to dine at Villa Romana but reservations for this award-winning dining spot are suggested.
Since its opening in 1985,Villa Romana has been a Grand Strand go-to spot for Italian food. The restaurant has been garnering awards, sincere compliments and rabid fans among locals and visitors alike ever since Rome native and head chef Rinaldo Montrosse and his wife, Fran, began the enterprise here.
The interior of the restaurant is that of an imagined Roman villa, although once you taste the food you may think you have actually been transported to Italy. Rinaldo and Fran and their capable and loyal staff work together to achieve that magic formula of consistency, quality and great service that make hospitality a reality and keep the customers coming back.
This family-owned establishment uses finest ingredients, prepared simply yet with imagination. The fare is consistent in quality, using both his own innovations, traditional and family recipes from Montrosse's mother, Lucia, who was a vibrant part of the restaurant until her death in 2005.
Rinaldo stays true to that heritage.
"We don't precook anything. We even make our own bread, grind our own meat, pound our own vela, great our cheese and make a lot of our own pastas. There are no leftovers at the end of a day since we cook everything to order. We do things the way my mother Lucia did. Her recipes for gnocchi and bread and pasta are the ones we use here. We make things the same way she did it, but in larger quantities."
All of this is served to each and every diner with the same sort of wonderful hospitality one would enjoy if invited to the Montrosse home. All beef, chicken, pork, fish and veal entrees are accompanied by a pasta side dish. Every main course is served with a piece of fresh tomato brushcetta, dipping sauce a bowl of home-made straciatella soup, homemade rolls and a salad.
The various courses are delicious and help keep you occupied while you wait for your order to be prepared and brought out.
Rinaldo and Fran intensify the feeling of home and hospitality by making the rounds of tables each night.
"I come out as soon as my kitchen duties allow," said Rinaldo. Every diner, first-time guests and regulars, receives personal attention insofar as the kitchen duties allow.
An added benefit to the wonderful food and service are the soothing tunes provided by accordion player Michael Del Gardo, who has been working at Villa Romana since its 1985 opening. Every night except Monday he sings from his station at the front of the restaurant and makes the rounds of the tables to play special requests. Del Gardo's repertoire of Italian melodies is unequaled but his fingers are just as adept at eliciting other :standards: for the enjoyment of all around.
In the 10 years my husband and I have lived along the Strand, I have enjoyed most of the veal and chicken specialties, sampled the pork osso bucco. I still swoon over my two favorite dishes, Chef Rinaldo's own creations of Shrimps San Marzano and Chicken Fiorentina all'Arancia.
The shrimps are jumbo and wrapped in a paper-thin slice of zucchini that also contains a bit of provolone, mozzarella and prosciutto. The dish is baked in a blended San Marzano tomato and wine sauce. It is so light it would float off of the plate.
I usually request penne since I prefer it to spaghetti. I have yet to finish my portion, so I can readily attest to the fact that the leftovers are good right out of the refrigerator or slightly heated.
Chicken Fiorentina all'Arancia may sound like it comes from Rome's northern Tuscan cousin city, but it is the Rinaldo's own invention. This succulent yet light dish blends the best of a cream sauce with orange flavor over two delicate chicken breasts that are wrapped around a tasty combination of spinach, prosciutto ham, provolone cheese. The light but delectable sauce is enhanced by julienne cut mushrooms and pine nuts sprinkled on top.
My husband is partial to the osso bucco (made from pork), the veal repieno and the veal marsala. But he has sometimes ventured into other areas and has never been disappointed.
One thing we both know for sure - no matter what we order something we have enjoyed today will have the same wonderful quality and flavor when we next order it. Consistency and quality are hallmarks of Villa Romana meal.
For those whose dietary needs are not met by what is on the menu, Rinaldo is always ready to improvise. In fact, he goes above and beyond to meet the needs of every customer, no matter the allergies.
He shared the story of a recent customer, a woman, who revealed allergies to gluten, tomato, cheese and mushrooms. Despite such a challenge to traditional Italian cooking, he was able to fashion a meal that pleased her and avoided any allergens. Gluten-free is never a problem since he keeps gluten-free pasta on hand and rice flour to use to make the chicken and veal parmigiana in a gluten-free manner.
The restaurant's hospitality and commitment to personal service extend beyond the four walls of Villa Romana into the community. Since the restaurant is open for dining only (from 4:30 to 10 p.m. daily) Rinaldo often opens at lunch for charity affairs, donating 100 percent of his personal expenses, the food and the use of the building to the charity.
"We have raised thousands of dollars for various charities on the Grand Strand ranging from cancer research to the American Heart Association, and many more," he said.
Villa Romana uses the best, cooks with love, and makes every meal a celebration of cuisine and hospitality. Buon appetito!
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