It seems that Brentwood just can't have too many Italian restaurants. The newest on the horizon: Villetta, slated to open next month in the former Chez Mimi space across from the Brentwood Country Mart.

Locals were saddened when Chez Mimi shuttered (the owners are still looking for a new location), but there's a lot to look forward to with this new venture headed up by general manager Antonio DeCicco, the former maître d' from nearby Toscana, and chef Pippa Calland.

For one, the space, a designated historical landmark designed by John Byers in 1926, still holds all of its Mediterranean villa-like charm. The three red-tiled buildings are all completely intact, with the main dining room and its new bar in front, and two rooms in back for private or group dining. All have original fireplaces, and a new contemporary art collection (from the chef's mother's NYC gallery) graces the walls. The courtyards are lined with new fruit trees, bay hedges and potted herbs, all to be harvested for cocktails, desserts and house-made gelatos.

Fresh grapefruit for that Greyhound?

Fresh grapefruit for that Greyhound?

Calland, an L.A. newcomer, received acclaim for her menus at Le Madri, Luna Park and Poetessa Ristorante in New York. Fans of The Food Network's Chopped will also recognize her–she was the first-season winner. And while Italian is her specialty, Calland will be sourcing ingredients from our local farms for her highly seasonal, market-driven menu. After working at The French Laundry, Craft (here and NY) and SF's Quince, her exec sous chef, Michael Magliano, knows his way around an heirloom carrot or two, too.

“We're mining the fertile crescent between Southern California and Southern Italy,” says the chef (can you tell she was an English major?). “The climates are similar, the way we eat is similar.”

Avocado plants

Avocado plants

Locally pastured meats and produce will be used for house-made pastas like braised oxtail and parsnip lasagnettes, heirloom salads and grilled steaks. There's a new wood-burning oven for pizzas, and her young pizzaiolo hails from Naples' L'Antica Pizzeria Da Michele, often referred to as “the sacred temple of pizza.”

The menu will change constantly, but don't look for anything molecular or trendy. “We're just going to serve food as it's meant to be,” says Calland. “Simple, clean bright flavors. Just letting the ingredients live up to their full potential.”

If all goes according to plan, expect Villetta to soft-open in February, with a possible debut on February 15.

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