Nestled in the heart of Lakeside Village, Villa D’Este has been upholding tradition, family, and a hearty appetite since opening its doors in 1978. Today, owner Ramone Oropeza still greets each customer with a smile as hungry visitors continue to stop by the outlying Lake Merced neighborhood for a taste of Italy.
The building has been in Lakeside Village since the 1930's, according to Oropeza, and features some colonial architecture. The building made its restaurant debut in 1942 during World War II, opening as the Townhouse Restaurant, according to Woody LaBounty of the Western Neighborhoods Project. The courtyard supposedly served as a victory garden.
After Townhouse's owner William Kabeary passed away in 1975, the restaurant closed down and Harlow's New Orleans cuisine moved in. A few years later, Villa D'este opened.
The Villa is one of few remaining Italian restaurants in the city that still have a full seven-course dinner, according to Oropeza. “The restaurant is old fashioned," he said. "So, we try to provide that [the full] experience." According to him, "the full dining experience" at Villa D'Este takes between two and three hours.
If you’re pinched for time but are still interested in stopping by and experiencing Villa D'Este, the restaurant offers simpler plates during their Sunday brunch. Omelets ($10.50-11), egg dishes ($11-14), pasta ($10.50-11.50) and lunch entrees ($9.75-12.25) including Filet of Sole Dore, Chicken Parmigiana, and Chef Salad are featured on the brunch menu. Everything comes with fresh fruit, a muffin and a glass of champagne.
However, if you have the time, stop by for the Villa's Chicken A La Romana (a chicken breast stuffed with prosciutto and cheese, $19) or the restaurant's best-selling Petrale (sautéed fish, $20) at dinner. Every entrée includes antipasto with mixed green salad, soup, pasta Bolognese, coffee, and ice cream.
Along with Vill'a plentiful menu options, the restaurant also provides live music. Friday nights feature pianist Peko Yamaguchi and vocalist Johnnie Brooks, and what was originally started as a treat for patrons has become a staple of the restaurant. “Friday night is a big party here,” Oropeza said with a smile.
Villa D’Este hosts banquets during non-dinner/brunch hours for parties of 30 or more, with a 150 people capacity, or 60 during dinner hours. The restaurant and bar is open for dinner Sunday-Thursday from 4pm-9pm, Friday and Saturday from 5pm-10pm. Sunday brunch occurs between 11am-2pm.