Villanelle refers to a 16th-century Neapolitan style of melodic poetry consisting of 19 lines. The space has a subdued, earthy look with pine beams running along the bar area, and white brick walls and gray banquettes in the dining room.
We stopped by one frigid evening to have dinner and started off with cocktails that run the spectrum from creative takes on classics like the Paul Revere – a nod to the period and it’s a fantastic, smoked version of the Old Fashioned. The Merciless Beauty, as we were informed by the wait staff, a take on the martini. While it has clean, balanced flavors from the pear and apple infused Vodka, strawberry shrub, and dry vermouth, it felt light and berry forward for a cold winter’s night. I would prefer to drink this for warmer temps. Same applies to the Indian Summer, an IPA beer cocktail.
The house’s warm, pillowy soft whole wheat honeyed rolls topped with large flakes of sea salt were delicious. The sake butter served along with had this clean acidity from the sake makes it unique and it worked with the rolls.
The food menu by Chef Nick Licata is heavily inspired by the Union Square Greenmarket that’s a few blocks away from the restaurant. The fare is both served a la carte or you order a 4-course prix fixe for $75, which is a very good deal (once you see the food and it’s overall delicious).
Starting off with creamy chicken liver mousse on crunchy chicharron topped with black trumpet and black cherries that is both savory and delicately fruity. These were great little bites. The preserved Atlantic tuna topped with allium, poblano on thick cut Pane Siciliano. It’s a simple toast but it’s delicious and has great balance of flavors between the tuna and onion.
The crispy octopus with cauliflower and light green curry and topped with mint was the prettiest and lightest take on an octopus dish I’ve ever had and I mean this as a compliment on the latter. The green curry sauce had this bright acidity that works beautifully with the tender fried octopus. The colorful florets of crunchy cauliflower and fresh mint was delicious and unexpected in terms of flavors.
The risotto with chanterelles, Parmesan and thyme was textbook perfection. The rice was creamy and not too mushy and it’s perfectly seasoned.
The final savory courses were Berkshire pork loin and Colorado lamb. The pork had a similar touch like the octopus by having something acidic or bitter to contrast a potentially hearty dish. The pork is served with a creamy Swiss chard with dainty, cloud-like gnocchi and refreshingly bitter horseradish to lighten the dish. The Colorado lamb was tender and it had a sweet glaze but contrasted nicely with the bitter greens and delicately spicy mustard sauce.
For dessert, we had the quince tart with quince ice cream and kambocha s’more. The tart was simple and very tasty. Buttery, flaky puff pastry crust and the tender slices of quince and the warm spices of the sauce was very good.
The kambocha s’more almost looked like a toasty pavlova. It’s a layered dessert starting from top to bottom, it’s a creamy, not too sweet chai ice cream, a warm, mildly sweet puddle of kabocha puree flecked with cacao nibs, layer of toasted meringue that’s filled with dark chooclate ganache. While the dessert was good but it’s missing the graham cracker element for it to be considered a s’more.
We finished the evening with a tequila spiked Mexican hot chocolate topped with torched marshmallows. This was the dessert or sweet nightcap I thought was the most successful and it’s dangerously good. The hot chocolate wasn’t too thick or thin with milk. There’s a good bit of tequila and the toasted marshmallows were a nice touch.
Overall, we had a very good dinner. Service was friendly and knowledgeable of the menu. The food was very tasty and the portion size were perfect that you would leave full and the drinks were good in its own right and balanced. I would definitely come back to eat here with a couple of friends for dinner again or try out their brunch soon.
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15 E 12th Street
New York, NY 10003
Phone: (212) 989-2474