Vegan Girl Dreams of Villa-O

by Melissa Brenner

There are almost innumerable reasons that I love dining at Villa-O, but I am going to list just a few, in no particular order, that I think will compel you to book your table today.

You’re on a boat. (Yes, I’m totally singing the song and laughing if it’s now stuck in your head) Having grown up on the Gulf Coast (the Florida side), there is nothing more nostalgic for me than sitting on a boat during a breezy and balmy evening. While there is no glassy, clear blue water anywhere near Dallas, the décor of Villa-O allows you to feel like you’re cruising the sea on a fantastic yacht (you just have to ignore the people walking by as they tend to ruin the fantasy….unless you’re accustom to people walking on water).  

Creative organic cocktails. The superb and friendly bar staff can make you anything your heart desires, but make sure and try one of the house specialty drinks. Two of my favorites include the Peach Queen: Organic Snow Queen Vodka, St. Germain Elderflower (one of my addictions), peach puree and fresh peach and Martini Ananas: Organic Snow Queen Vodka infused with pineapple juice for at least 7 days, blended, strained and served with a fresh orange wedge.

Fran Curtain and his staff. Fran is easily the nicest and most accommodating host I have had the pleasure of encountering in Dallas. His staff follows suit, always taking the time to double check all options to verify they are vegan, making sure everything is to your liking and doing so with a smile. Dining with Fran at Villa-O has always been a pleasure. It is sometimes difficult to ask for menu alterations for your diet, some restaurants are unwilling or unable (due to everything being made with dairy or animal stock bases) to prepare something that you can eat. You never have to worry about this issue at Villa-O.

Ok, here’s the thing you really want to know about: The FOOD. If there’s one thing I know about my vegan friends it’s that we love to eat, despite the omnivore view that we hate food. So, all I really need to say is: organic, local, vegan. Now, if you’re not planning your net visit by now, the following food details are sure to seal the deal.

What’s on the menu? More than your average non-vegan restaurant and more than a salad (although they do have two salads that I’m going to recommend). To start, try the Portabella Mushroom Fries. They are super hearty, without being overly filling, and a nice alternative to other fried veggies.  I know fried veggies are a big thing in Texas, and I think if you’re going to eat them you should definitely try the fungi. If you’re not into the fried food, then dive into the Bruschetta or the Tuscan Pizza Bread. Fortunately, the bread at Villa-O is vegan, so you can finally get your bread fix out in public.

The salads here are true to the spirit of the restaurant: fresh, light and simple but never disappointing. Mama Colombo’s Italian Salad has some of my favorite elements. Roasted peppers, artichoke, tomatoes, garlic, cucumber, and romain tossed in a freshly squeezed lemon juice with olive oil. This one is an excellent combination of earthy and citrusy flavors that go perfectly with the Roman beer of choice: Peroni. The Organic Tomato, Onion and Cucumber Salad is one that never goes out of style. Every time I have it, I get a little nostalgic for summer lunches on the beach with the family and it makes me think of my mom.  The Zuppa del Giorno is almost always a safe bet. I last enjoyed the Tomato Basil, which was light and fragrant with fresh basil leaves. The soups are almost always, 99% of the time according to Fran, made from a vegetable stock base. You can generally tell if the soup is acceptable (cream soups are always a pass), but it’s best to verify with your server before committing to the soup.

What’s on the menu? More than your average non-vegan restaurant and more than a salad…

For your entrée, you can do either pasta or pizza safely. You may mix and match the Rice, Buckwheat or Dry Pasta with the Marinara and Organic Basil, Basil Pesto, Vodka Tomato or Garlic and Herb Infused Organic Olive Oil Sauces in whatever combination suits your fancy. Both the pastas and the sauces are made in house, producing a freshness that you just don’t get with the processed and canned products that you are served in some other restaurants (also saving you the unnecessary and unwanted overload of sugar and salt – those of you that know me are keenly aware of my feelings here so I will avoid the rant). If you’re really hungry, you can opt for the addition of Organic Vegetables to your pasta construction. Going the pizza route will be a cheese free experience. Currently, Villa-O does not carry Diaya or any other vegan cheese option. The good news is (THIS IS WHERE YOU WILL WANT TO TAKE NOTE AND ACTION) that Fran is willing to add the option if there is enough demand and support. So, if you really want a “cheesy” Organic Veggie pizza then please go in and make your wishes known….this is one place that will actually listen and provide you with what you want.

Other items of note: safe sides include the broccoli sans cheese and the green beans, as they are made without butter. If you happen to wander in for lunch rather than dinner, ask about the Daily Risotto Special; it may or may not be available for your dining pleasure. To fill in the cracks, ask if there’s a vegan dessert option….you can probably get some lemon ice and fruit or something similar.

What’s not on the menu? Specialty service is something that comes free and easy at Villa-O. Although everything I have had here has been tasty, sometimes I just don’t want pasta or bread. I’m one of those crazy vegans that really doesn’t like too much starch. What happens then? The awesome kitchen, with my complete trust, whips me up something off the menu. Sometimes surprise meals are the most exciting. This was the case on my last visit, where I was presented with a gorgeous plate of grilled eggplant, zucchini, squash, portabellas and sautéed spinach. It was so delicious and exactly what I wanted without even knowing it.  (PS: everyone (even our fabulous waitress) wanted to have a taste.

When you go in (I say when confidently) be sure to ask for Fran, introduce yourself and tell him I said “Hello”.  After you’ve been, zip me an email and let me know your thoughts.

Send Melissa, the Crave Vegan Girl a note at vegangirl@cravedfw.com

4 Comments

Filed under chefs, Crave, Melissa Brenner, Vegan Finds, Vegan Girl

4 responses to “Vegan Girl Dreams of Villa-O

  1. Susan Migdol

    I’m surprised that you have such a favorable review of them. My experience was completely horrible in every way, which was surprising considering how in love I am with Trece. I would be curious to revisit them knowing that they have a new chef. My overcooked cold mushy risotto was like bad rainbow gathering food last time.

  2. Melissa Brenner

    Hi Susan,

    I suggest you try out the new chef and see if your opinion changes. Honestly, if there is anything that is not perfect during your experience, you should let them know immediately….they always make things right.
    Unfortunately, I cannot give you a comparison on Villa-O and Trece. Even thought they are owned by the same company, the only items available to vegetarians and vegans at Trece are guacamole and the house salad (without the honey roased carrots). Upon attempting to dine there, I was informed by the chef that all items (even the seeming vegetarian and sides) are prepared with chicken stock, dairy or animal product (I assume lard or fat).
    If you are vegetarian or vegan, this information may sway your view on Trece.

  3. Lawrence Charles

    I just love your articles. Great job!

  4. Hey girl– fun to read. I Love Villa-O and I am vegan/high raw. LOVE LOVE LOVE Mama’s Columbo Salad with EXTRA artichoke (even if they are canned) and red pepper flakes.

    While I am not extremely blown away by the decor, I love the sea glass water glasses and the staff. The staff is unbelievably accommodating and they do not look at me like I am crazy when I order a side of steamed broccoli as an entree.

    Check out: http://www.diaryofanutritionist.com. I am a Dallas transplant/Nutritionist/Foodie.

    🙂

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