Villa Francesca

On Monday night, I had the pleasure of dining at Villa Francesca, nestled in Boston's North End just off of Hanover Street, in the company of some of my favorite bloggers. I got to chat with old friends, make new friends, and enjoy an outstanding Italian dinner.

When I arrived at Villa Francesca, the hostess greeted me outside the restaurant, walked me inside, and directed me to a staircase in the back corner. I descended the staircase to find a spread of oysters and small bottles of Prosecco all chilling on ice as well as my favorite food bloggers standing around, enjoying the spread, and chatting. I jumped right into the circle. I gave a huge hug to Katie (Small Boston Kitchen) who I was finally meeting after numerous online conversations and back and forth commenting on each other's blogs, and I caught up with Daisy (Indulge Inspire Imbibe), Michelle (Fun and Fearless in Beantown), Alicia (The Clean Plate Club), Meghan (Travel, Wine, and Dine), Lara (Good Cook Doris), and Justin (@Justincancook). Throughout the evening I also met Renee (Yesterday Is Over My Shoulder) and Melissa (Foodies At Work).

Katie and me
After we mingled, sipped Prosecco, and slurped back oysters to our hearts' content, we sat at a long table together and began perusing the night's menu.

The waitress came around and offered us red or white wine. I went with the red for a nice change after the Prosecco. I finally had a chance to really check out the restaurant setting at this point. We were seated in a room with a low ceiling and exposed rafters, brick walls, and a quaint wine cellar. It was very cozy and secluded from the rest of the restaurant upstairs. I really liked this atmosphere.

Plates of antipasti were set before us, and as good food bloggers do, we all snapped some pictures before digging in. The antipasti consisted of salami pyramids, prosciutto, purple and green olives, tomato and mozzarella slices, and chunks of cheese. The bits of coldcuts and caprese salad were an excellent lead in to the next course, which turned out to be my favorite.

Antipasti Della Casa
We were served a half portion of the fettucine con gamberi, a pasta dish with a tomato-basil cream sauce and perfectly cooked shrimp. I relished this tender pasta and the bright, fresh flavor of the sauce. The half portion was enough for a whole meal. I don't know how I made it through the rest of the courses!

Fettucine Con Gamberi
For my entree, I selected the pollo Monte, and Daisy, who sat across from me, ordered the sole. We decided to split our entrees so we could both try each dish.

Normally, I wouldn't order a chicken dish, but this chicken was layered with eggplant and topped with artichokes and a white wine sauce -- definitely not your typical chicken dish. I love eggplant so that was mostly what inspired me to order it. (The restaurant also makes this dish with veal sometimes.)

Pollo Monte
I was very pleased with my choice and overjoyed when I tried the potatoes that came on the side and found that they were actually cooked properly! For some reason potatoes like this are often undercooked, and it drives me nuts because I love potatoes. The chicken was moist, the eggplant was tasty, and the sauce pulled all the components together.

The sole was very tasty as well. I loved how it was served simply with tomatoes and basil.

Sogliola Alla Meditteranea

And no dinner is complete without dessert. I don't think any of us were surprised to see that the dessert for the evening was cannoli (we were in the North End), but I think we were all surprised to find out that our cannoli were being filled tableside. Bill Ranauro, owner of Villa Francesca, filled my cannoli himself and topped it with powdered sugar and chocolate chips as I had requested. (We were given a choice of powdered sugar, chocolate chips, and/or walnuts.)

I think Justin and Daisy really enjoyed their desserts!

Justin and Daisy showing off dessert
And I really loved mine too. Bill explained to us that the shells and filling are made in house, and the filling is simply sugar and ricotta. Many places add flour or other ingredients to the ricotta to make it go farther, sacrificing the quality of the filling. There was definitely no lack of quality in these cannoli, or any part of our meal for that matter.

I had a really fun evening, and I know I'll definitely stop into Villa Francesca when I'm looking for a hearty and satisfying Italian dinner in the future.

Thank you so much to Kristen Haley, also known as Beantown Socialite, for inviting me and to Bill and all the staff at Villa Francesca for hosting us, feeding us, treating us, and making us all feel so welcome and at home. This dinner was complimentary. All opinions are my own.

Have you eaten at any restaurants in Boston's North End? Which ones? And what did you think?