At Villa Crespi with Chef Antonino Cannavacciuolo

Villa Crespi Orta panorama

After longing for it for so long, we finally had lunch at Villa Crespi with Chef Antonino Cannavacciuolo. And it was wonderful.

Villa Crespi is a charming historic residence on Lake Orta, since 2012 part of the prestigious international association Relais et Châteaux.

Of the structure, the imposing minaret, the Middle Eastern architecture, the Moorish-style decorated facades, and the arabesque inlays immediately catch the eye.

The memory goes to the architectures of Baghdad and the Alcazar of Seville.

Villa Crespi Orta panorama

But we are in Italy, in the wonderful setting of Lake Orta, with the trees in full foliage and the Island of San Giulio like a pearl in the lake.

In such a romantic panorama, Villa Crespi is definitely the place not to be missed.

And so here we are. The gate opens, the fairy tale begins.

The large centuries-old park surrounding the villa is ideal for hosting refined events, from gala dinners to exclusive weddings.

Inside, the rooms are intimate and elegant, leading to the veranda overlooking the outdoor area with a view of the lake.

Villa Crespi Antonino Cannavacciuolo sala ristorante

 

THE MENU AT VILLA CRESPI CRAFTED BY CHEF ANTONINO CANNAVACCIUOLO

The two Michelin-star culinary experience begins with “Buon Viaggio” by Antonino Cannavacciuolo: a tasting shared by all tables, where the chef tells his story through small delicious tastings from south to north.

The advice is to follow the order. So let’s start with the crispy Maccheroncino made of phyllo pastry filled with Neapolitan ragù.

And with the first bite, we are already captivated.

In just one small and crispy bite, the chef has captured all the flavor of Sunday lunches at grandma’s house.

It’s already confirmation of his philosophy: “Cooking, for me, is feeling the call of the places where I grew up.”

The amuse-bouches are a true wish for a bon voyage, a presentation of the chef, and a warm welcome to his kitchen.

 

CHEF ANTONINO CANNAVACCIUOLO’S APPETIZERS AT VILLA CRESPI

After this first tasting, the appetizers begin.

With the Sicilian Scampi “pizzaiola” style and octopus water, color comes to the table.
The dish, of an intense brilliant red, is a demonstration of great technique and passion (it takes 3 days just to obtain the tomato gel).

Equally delicious is the Amberjack in bread crust, watercress and strawberries.
Played in shades of green, it combines the freshness of raw amberjack with the fragrance and aroma of the bread crust.

 

THE SIGNATURE DISH OF CHEF ANTONINO CANNAVACCIUOLO

For the first course, we couldn’t miss trying the Linguine from Gragnano, baby squid, rye bread sauce: one of the signature dishes of chef Antonino Cannavacciuolo, on the menu at Villa Crespi since 2005.

The idea of the bread sauce, which perfectly coats the pasta, stems from the desire to reclaim a humble ingredient and pair it with products from the chef’s history.

The pasta is boiled in water for just three minutes and then risotto-style until it reaches optimal cooking and extreme viscosity.

“Dipping bread is allowed… indeed, it’s almost mandatory.” We’re happy about that because the bread sauce has an intensely delicious flavor.

With the arrival of the main course, a herb-layered puff pastry is served, a tempting butter brioche that is impossible to resist.

In each dish, the highest quality of the raw materials is maximized.

The cooking methods, textures, colors, the aesthetics of the dish, everything speaks of technique and heart to achieve perfection.

The ingredients converse with each other and compose a precise portrait of the chef, from his Campanian origins to his experiences in France, to the Piedmontese products, his adopted land.

The experience at Villa Crespi with Chef Antonino Cannavacciuolo is all-encompassing, satisfying all the senses.

Moreover, there is great teamwork; the service in the dining room is absolutely on par with the kitchen, attentive, knowledgeable, not cold.

 

Villa Crespi Antonino Cannavacciuolo brigata

 

The tasting continues with the sumptuous cheese cart, complete with carefully paired labels.

In the villa’s cellars, there are two wine cellars: one dedicated to red wines, the other to whites, sparkling wines, and champagne.

The selection boasts around 1800 labels, constantly evolving, featuring both classic and contemporary choices.

 

THE DESSERTS FROM VILLA CRESPI’S MENU

Finally, the desserts… yes, in the plural.

It’s Federico Pascale‘s turn, pastry chef at Villa Crespi since 2020.

His pastry is “contaminated,” as he likes to define it.

We find spices and aromatic herbs, cooking techniques, creativity, and experimentation.

The space dedicated to sweets is rich, fun, varied, with surprising proposals.

We feel pleasantly spoiled and almost caught in an endless game of tastings.

“If it were a lemon delight” is the pre-dessert, a delicious and fresh creation to cleanse the palate after the cheeses.

Its appearance is that of a popsicle, but the flavor it encapsulates is the gourmet response to the classic citrus sorbet.

Chef Cannavacciuolo himself recounts: “Delights with lemon are a dessert that I am very attached to. In 1988, my father proposed his version of it in a national competition. I remember he said goodbye to mom, saying ‘I’ll participate, but I’ll never win.’ And yet he came home with the first prize. I was thirteen years old and proud of my dad, just as I am today.”

Among the proposals on the dessert menu, it’s really hard to choose.

There’s the reinterpretation of the Pastiera in a deconstructed key. A Neapolitan classic dedicated to Antonino Cannavacciuolo’s origins.

Then there’s Viva l’Italia, a tribute to Italy’s symbol dish: pasta with tomato sauce.

Mondo nocciola, all focused on the gentle round hazelnut from the Langhe.

Oil, olives, and sea buckthorn, a play around the complex world of olive oil.

Next is the petit fours, another demonstration of technique and personality, where an epic cream pairs excellently with the Rum Baba and a generous Neapolitan Sfogliatella… and we go back to the origins.

 

AT VILLA CRESPI BY CHEF ANTONINO CANNAVACCIUOLO

The experience at Villa Crespi by Chef Antonino Cannavacciuolo is pure delight and fun from the first to the last bite.

The chef is almost always present in the kitchen despite his numerous commitments and gladly comes out to greet the guests and take a photo.

Even during the periods of television program recordings in which he participates, he makes sure to return to the restaurant in time for the evening service.

And customers appreciate it; every day the restaurant is fully booked.

Tasting his dishes makes it clear why he’s been so successful: so much experience, so much technique, so much heart.

Cannavacciuolo’s cuisine is a perfect balance of textures, flavors, colors, and plate architecture.

The raw materials always remain the protagonists.

There are no excesses or flights of fancy, which keeps the menu accessible in terms of taste.

A fulfilling lunch, a chef with great personality, a refined and sumptuous location where it’s also possible to stay overnight, for a 5-star luxury experience on Lake Orta.

 

| Image credits: Villa Crespi – Antonino Cannavacciuolo |

 

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