Monday, June 28, 2010

Visiting the Villa: A Suburban Farm

According to MaryJanesFarm, there are many types of farmers, hence farms. Honestly, before finding this magazine serendipitously at Barnes & Noble on a casual stroll to the Starbuck's concession, I would not have considered Frank, Cathy, and Uncle John's contiguous properties a farm. How wrong I have been. Judging by the blogs on MJFs website, we visited a suburban farm, Italian style. And what a delight it is!

My husband met the Sarullos and John Virella decades ago when they opened Villa Virella. I met them only a few years ago, when we became regulars about twice a month, plus special holidays, and we always stayed at their cottage. When they retired and sold their business, luckily we remained friends and even celebrate holidays together. It is always an event when we are invited to visit, and the food is beyond fabulous. It is very difficult to see the lights, but they are made from bottles of fine Italian wine, the bottoms cut with a tile cutter, then sealed in thin copper strips. Beautiful upcycling. They did something similar with creating a candle holder.

We were invited for pizza, but what an array of food. Bruscetta with grilled eggplant and roasted peppers, with optional marinated slivers of garlic. Add artichoke hearts, Bellinis (echoes of Venice and Harry's Place), olives, fresh basil, and an assortment of red and white wines, and you have the first course. Then the pizzas: sauce (homemade) and cheese, artichoke, sardine, eggplant and a mix of all of the white pizza ingredients. Fabulous. I should have known better; then pork tenderloin cooked in the pizza oven, and garden-fresh salad. Desserts included a lemon semi-something--can't remember anything except the goodness of it all. Cold for a hot day. A wonderful pound cake from Philadephia (a noted bakery I can't recall), and shortbread. Cathy's famous fresh blueberry pie. What an amazing feast.

The pizza oven is actually a small room, with a heated tile floor for winter, and two areas, one to the left of the oven with a granite surface (soon to be installed) and a sink set in matching granite (also soon to be complete). When finished, it will be a self-contained room that adds auxiliary heat for the farm kitchen in winter. The entire concept from start to finish took a good year and became a post-retirement project for Uncle John, aided by Frank and Cathy. Everything is a family affair with them, and their closeness is enviable.

Returning to the Villa, now as always, a center for family gatherings, no longer a business, but the name lingers. It is synonymous with the finest hospitality, the best cuisine, and a piece of Italy at home. It is almost like being back at the Villa for a weekend, only instead, just for a day, but a lovely long day. I love the people, and visiting is always coming home.

When they return from a month in Italy, their next project, commencing probably next year, is to make a screen-in roofed balcony that you enter from the pizza room. I can hardly wait.

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