Sunday, July 18, 2010

Villa Gallace, Indian Rocks Beach, FL

In spite of the fact that I lived in the Indian Rocks Beach area for years and drove past Villa Gallace many times, I was never inspired to stop in.  Maybe it was because the restaurant doesn't look like "all that" from the outside, or maybe it was because (in all fairness) Italian is not the first style of cuisine I think of when I want to dine out.  Typically, I tend to think of most pasta dishes as not-that-special and meals that can easily be made at home...but that's just me. 

The spousal unit recently heard a rave review about Villa Gallace from a since we were spending the weekend in the area with friends, we decided to check it out (especially after having this review confirmed by the bartenders at the beach hotel where we were all staying).  When we entered the restaurant, we were pointed in the direction of our table by the maitre d' (as opposed to being escorted there personally), which seemed a little brusque to me...but hey, the place is pretty small.  The interior was cozy and dim (also a little nicer than I expected).  Our server was very good and quite accommodating.

The bread that came out first was was hot, crusty on the outside and marshmallow tender on the inside.  The herb-infused dipping oil that came with it was also exceptional.  There was a noticeable dash of red pepper flakes combined with the herbs that gave the oil a little heat and a zesty kick that everyone really liked.

Our starters, for the most part, were also quite good.  Villa Gallace's Homemade Gnocchi in Gorganzola Cream Sauce was a real crowd pleaser...absolutely delish!  Someone couldn't resist digging in even before I could get my camera out, but I did manage to capture the dish before the initial presentation was totally trashed.  Some folks just don't appreciate the seriousness of my little food hobby.

The Fried Ravioli with Marinara Sauce was total nirvana...crispy, deep-fried goodness on the outside; melted cheesy decadence on the inside...and the dipping sauce was divine and super-fresh tasting.

While I was excited to see escargot on the menu, the dish was a bit disappointing.  The snails seemed overcooked and were all but lost in a sea of artichoke hearts, pearl onions and mushrooms (the latter three of which could make a nice dish on their own, I think, without mitigating the escargot). There was also a weird block of puff pastry floating in the midst of it all.  However, the lemony white wine sauce that accented the lot was very nice.

For all of us, the house salad was the low point of the evening.  Bag-O-Greens were piled high and tossed with an incredibly boring vinaigrette of  some kind.  The only accoutrements I was able to dig out of that bland mess was a lone cherry tomato and a paper-thin slice of cucumber.  A McDonald's side salad is more exciting. Every salad at our table was removed by our waitress practically untouched.

Redemption time!  My Veal Canneloni really was better than your average pasta dish.  The pasta was tender and delicious and there was no skimping on the veal filling or the zesty, fresh-tasting marinara sauce and melted cheese.

The hub-unit's 22 oz. Veal Chop was beautiful, and he cleaned every scrap of meat off of the bone (like a good caveman!) in spite of the fact that it was a little more well done than he had requested.

There was a lot of duplicate ordering within our group, so we only got to critique two unique entrees.  Everyone agreed that the dining experience was a positive one, but I doubt we'll be rushing back.  I'd give Villa Gallace a solid 7 on a scale of 1-10, but it really takes at least an 8 to keep me coming back.  Still, a good time was had by all.

Villa Gallace Italian on Urbanspoon

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