A Taste of Italy Close to Home
By Carl Lavo
Bucks County Magazine, October 2006
Every once in awhile you make that euphoric, discovery: a fantastic restaurant close to home.
Villa Barolo Ristorante & Wine Bar on Route 611 in Warrington is just such a find.
The experience begins at the front door as you enter a veritable palace – checkered green-and-gold marble floors, marble-based mahogany columns, stained glass walls with natural oak touches; a dine-in bar exuding intimacy, comfort, and luxury; a spacious dining room capable of seating 165 around a central raw bar; and a private banquet room for 54 that seems like a slice of old Tuscany.
Even the restrooms are dazzling, with glass counters rippled with gold leaf, marble floors and walls and stalls completely enclosed in floor-to-ceiling mahogany.
Lunch and dinner menus are vast and not too expensive while boasting “world class” preparation, presentation, and service.
Appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, desserts, and entrees of pasta, risotto, seafood, chicken, beef, lamb, veal, and fish abound. Ideas include cockle clams sautéed in a white or red garlic wine sauce, tortellini rings stuffed with veal in a cream or tomato sauce and fresh Norwegian salmon grilled in homemade lemon vinaigrette.
All pastas and sauces are made to order. Menu additions include organic, exotic, and wild fare such as free range Muscovy duck, farm-raised ostrich and antelope. There is also a late night bar menu. At least 140 wine labels (an astonishing 36 by the glass!), martini specialties and draft and bottled beers from around the world are on hand.
Owner Chef Lo offers tableside grilling and filleting of whole fish during dinner hours.
The 38-year-old Jamison resident is a native of Hong Kong where he trained in French/European cuisine. “When I moved to the States 20 years ago, I noticed right away how much more popular Italian cooking was. So I decided to concentrate on it.”
His repertoire grew under European-style chefs at the Hershey Hotel, Portofino, and finally, La Veranda at Penn’s Landing where he became executive chef. He made three trips to Italy, and 10 years ago, he founded Jenkintown’s Café Marco Polo.
Last October, he sold it and relocated to the former Marabella’s, which he remodeled into Villa Barolo, named after Italy’s more expensive red wine.
Says Lo, “We want to make this a neighborhood destination where you can trust that we do the right thing every day.”
If our visit is any measure, Villa Barolo meets that standard.
“World class” jumped out at us as we savored melt-in-your-mouth crispy calamari ($6.50). We were impressed with Farfalle Rosa ($9.50), al dente bowtie pasta tossed in a pink Cognac cream sauce with smoked salmon and baby shrimp scamp. The seafood risotto ($11.95), a house specialty, was liberally laced with jumbo and baby shrimp scamp and sea scallops.
The veal filet ($13.95) nearly filled the platter, about a quarter-inch thick and extremely tender in a red wine sauce with a Parmesan cheese sauté with fresh asparagus and string beans.Villa Barolo Ristorante & Wine Bar – corner of 611 & Bristol Road, Warrington, 215-491-9370; fax 215-491-9261; www.villa-barolo.com. * 11:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. Mon-Thu, 11:30 a.m. – 11:30 p.m. Fri-Sat, 2-10 p.m. Sun * Northern Italian cuisine * Lunch, $9-$18; dinner $15-25. Some kid selections * All major credit cards * One smoking room * No reservations except large parties * Disability access * Live entertainment