Outside the quaint cottage, trees twinkle with Christmas lights, even in summer. Inside, each table is set with a single red rose, and Italian opera plays in the background. A silver heart dangles from the hostess’s bracelet.
The trappings of storybook romance aren’t all Fairfax’s Villa Mozart has going for it. The chef, Andrea Pace, worked in the kitchens at Cafe Milano in Georgetown and Fiore di Luna in Great Falls, and his Northern Italian cooking is elegant and often full of surprise.
An arugula salad with shavings of salty Grana Padano cheese would be perfectly pleasant on its own. But on the side Pace adds a little ramekin of rich, eggy custard flecked with mushrooms. His seafood carpaccio is inventive—translucent rounds of raw scallop dotted with bits of mango alongside octopus tendrils pressed together and sliced crosswise like a terrine.
Pastas, many made in-house, are more satisfying than innovative. Linguine in a rich but simple tomato sauce tastes like something you might make at home save for the curl of langoustine on top. A plate of penne drizzled with butter and balsamic vinegar is made special by nubs of fresh lobster so sweet you’d think it was Valentine’s Day.
Villa Mozart, 4009 Chain Bridge Rd., Fairfax; 703-691-4747. Open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday for dinner. Dinner starters $8 to $14, entrées and pastas $16 to $33.
This review appeared in the October, 2008 issue of The Washingtonian.