Villa Crespi is Antonino Cannavacciuolo’s main restaurant, whose popularity has exponentially grown in the past few years. In fact the waiting list is about two months for every day of the week. For the not informed, we are talking about one of the most mediatically exposed chef in Italy: judge in Master Chef and host of our version of Kitchen Nightmares. Direct consequence of his acclaim is the opening of a bistrot restaurant in Novara (you can find here my review in Italian) and very soon in Turin too.
This kind of popularity tends to attract far less demanding customers (if we can say so), and premature estimators may ask themselves if this excess of success (forgive the rhyme) can have an impact on the overall quality of his restaurant.
For sure the amenity of the location was not affected: we are still in a wonderful moorish style villa near the shore of the Orta lake with baroque halls, silver cutlery and long clothed tables with no concessions to the nordic minimalist style. Service seemed a bit in trouble during our last visit, but we also have to consider that the end of the season was near, and the tiredness of the staff was palpable.
We can safely say that the food stands at pre-television levels: tasting menus leverage on Cannavacciuolo’s pieces of resistance like the linguini with baby squids and rye bread sauce and the scampi "pizzaiola" style, in a not-so-suble attempt to please the new not-gourmet clientele. The cooking style, as always based on the fusion of the culinary traditions of northern and southern italy (mainly Piedmont and Naples), can be defined "classic" and in rare occasions even "dated", like the pigeon with foie gras, a dish with a strong French imprinting, penalized by an excess of fatness.
Compared to some years ago, our general impression is that a slight route change has been made (let’s even talk about a voluntary stop), because of the preponderant presence of a new kind of customers, more interested to grab a selfie with one of the chefs of the hour, and then brags to his friends about.
Anyway Villa Crespi remains today an excellent classic restaurant in every respect, and a good entry point to approach haute-cuisine. For more avant-garde experiences you’ll better go somewhere else.
Prices (December 2016)
First courses: 35-40€
Main courses: 50-60€
Tasting Menus: 105-150-175€
Via G. Fava, 18
28016 Orta San Giulio (NO)
Tel. +39 0322 91.19.02
Closed Monday and Tuesday at lunch. November and December also Tuesday at dinner.