Article first published as Restaurant Review (Calgary, CANADA): Villa Firenze on Blogcritics.
Experienced hands knead fresh pasta dough as tomato sauce blips and bubbles on the stovetop. This could be a scene, straight from the kitchen of an Italian grandmother but if you are the chef at Villa Firenze, it's just another day at work.
Villa Firenze Restaurante makes the BEST, most AUTHENTIC Italian cuisine in the city of Calgary. If you ask me, it is also at the top of the list of places I have tried in all of North America. They are successful because they understand the meaning of true Italian cooking. It's not about using hundreds of ingredients to create something wild and over-the-top, it's fundamental principle is simplicity. You enhance the natural flavors of each individual ingredient, but you don't mask the true taste. Take tomato sauce for example. By using the finest quality olive oil, tomatoes, onion, garlic and herbs, you create a harmony that cannot be described. And count it - there are only 5 ingredients.
Villa Firenze thrives off of this concept. I have dined there more times than I can count and you cannot go wrong with any of their menu choices. To start, you could try their take on caesar salad, which gets an extra boost of flavour from homemade pesto sauce. Or if you are looking for their specialty, you have to order the roasted portabello mushroom. I am pretty sure it is a secret what they do to make it taste so good, but I am content eating it, no questions asked.
As for mains, I am always torn between the Pesto Gnocchi and the Papardelle with Smoked Salmon. Both are enveloped in rich, creamy sauces. There is always extra sauce remaining in the bottom of the bowl, perfect for drenching your bread with. Did I forget to mention the homemade focaccia bread, warm out of the oven? Don't be embarrassed to ask for another basket-or two-or three.
Whatever you choose, all of the pasta, gnocchi, you name it, are made from scratch. The owner's mother even comes in from time to time to help make a batch. Can you get any more authentic? Villa Firenze is so Italian that the entire restaurant shuts down for the summer to allow for their annual trip back to Italy. You know that they haven't strayed far from their roots.
And the service is always impeccable. They are a family run operation that takes pride in every aspect from the presentation of the dishes to the friendly, welcoming servers.
A visit to Ville Firenze Restaurante is like a trip straight back to Italy where it all began.