Architecture Over Dinner at Villa Godi Malinverni
in Vicenza, Italy
by Richard Frisbie
Palladio is the Italian Architect responsible for the classic look of the
buildings in Venice and Vicenza, and from there all over the world. Sixteen
villas expressing his elegant classical design are gathered in the Vicenza
region where they are designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. His buildings
are well known in Europe and in North America, where perhaps the most famous
example of the "Palladio Style" can be seen in Thomas Jefferson's home,
The Palladio Villas were
built for a leisured and moneyed class. They were considered the epitome of
style and design for rural (often Summer) residences. Those used year-round
were elaborately painted with murals on the interior walls and ceilings by
the top painters of the day such as Gianbattista Tiepolo.
Andrea Palladio designed the perfectly proportioned Villa Godi Malinverni
now housing the restaurant Torchio Antico. The original kitchen there is
singled out as a fine example of Palladio's setting of service rooms. The
brick-floored, barrel-ceilinged room was the site of our dinner. The walls
were hung with antique copper utensils and tools. There was a huge stone
sink against one wall, with a fireplace and an ancient wood stove on two
others. The tables were set in the center of the herringbone pattern brick
floor. The setting was exquisite!
began the evening with a sparkling Italian wine apéritif accompanied by hors
d'oeuvres. I'm so tempted to say champagne, but it was a dry and crisp very
local Lessini Durello (DOC) dei Vescovi, too far from the chalk soils of
France to be called Champagne, but very reminiscent of its fine taste.
Walking through the
extensive formal gardens enjoying the hometown bubbly was the perfect
exercise for building an appetite. I'm so glad I did! The gardens were as
elegant as the Villa - formal, with ancient marble statues and a water
element. It was a lovely evening.
Sometimes dinner is more than a meal. In the Villa Godi Malinverni we were
eating the freshest of local ingredients, elegantly served in an historic
setting. This was an event! When we were seated in the old kitchen, a
Gastaldia 2005 Breganze Bianco was served to go with the pasta dish. The
still white wine from the sun-drenched neighboring hills was refreshing and
light, but I preferred the sparkling wine we had earlier and switched back.
It served equally well for the entire meal.
The chef made delicate little
raviolis stuffed with spinach and farm cheese. They were served with finely
chopped tomatoes, chives and zucchini, sautéed with small cubes of swordfish
in an herbed wine & olive oil sauce. It was an aromatic and flavorful
combination that made me wish the portions were not as petite as the
raviolis - subtle and superb! There was a second pasta course (I guess the
first was the fish course) of ground veal, in a creamy almost bolognese
sauce, with mushrooms. It had a common, "Girl Scout Stew" look to it, but
the homemade pasta in that rich sauce was phenomenal, and could have been a
dinner in its own right!
As a meat course we had
veal tenderloin, grass-fed, tender and served rare. It was accompanied by
roasted potato wedges and a sautéed vegetable medley of celery, red peppers,
zucchini and carrot sticks. The veal was coated in roasted sesame seeds and
topped with a pineapple-ginger sauce. Again, a simple looking dish that was
more than the sum of its humble parts, and very tasty. The fruity sauce
really made it pop.
The very pretty dessert
finale was not pedestrian at all, and rather unusual looking. The white
mousse was strongly cantaloupe flavored, served on a whole wheat pancake,
and not really complimented by a mint sauce. Still - it looked great, and
the mint didn't hurt it that much. But, you have to remember that I'm not
really a dessert guy. Others loved it.
The whole dinner event was
to promote "Palladio by Night", uniting the c1542 Villa Godi Malinverni with
3 other Palladio designed Villas in the neighborhood in an illuminated
series of evening open houses. They will include local wines, food, even
musicians, in a dramatically lighted interior and exterior tour of his
classic designs. Each villa creates an atmosphere-rich candlelight tour for
The Molino Stucky Hilton (rooms from $200)
is in a beautifully restored 100 year old brick flour mill occupying
its own island across the Canale della Giudecca from Venice. With 380 rooms,
many retaining the architectural details of the original mill, and a rooftop
bar with views over the bay and the skyline of Venice, it is a convenient,
high profile place to stay. Their Aromi Restaurante serves American fare and
Veneto specialties both inside and on the expansive waterfront landing. The
Molino Stucky Hilton also provides a free shuttle boat to St. Mark's Square
every half hour. It is a 25 minute boat ride from Venice's Marco Polo
Hotel Palladio in the heart of Vicenza is a very stylish conversion of an
ancient building into a chic boutique hotel. Original 15th century
architectural details remain, juxtaposed with extremely modern touches and
all the conveniences one expects in a very good hotel. It is within walking
distance of all Vicenza's major attractions. Offering free wireless
broadband internet access, the 23 rooms start at 130 euros.
The Vicenzia region is to Venice what the State of New York is to the City
of New York, the second home and vacation area that produces all the goods
and services that keep the city running. From ski resorts in the Italian
Alps to world class Palladio architecture, from excellent vineyards in the
midlands to organic farms on the lowlands, this region is a tourist
destination in its own right.
Molino Stucky Hilton
The Vicenzia Region
Andrea Palladio, the Italian Architect responsible for the classic look of
the buildings in Venice and Vicenzia (and from there all over the world) is
celebrated for almost 400 years of enduring architectural design.