Longtime Carmel Valley restaurant Villa Capri more popular than ever

By Karen Billing

After 13 years as a reliably tasty Italian eatery in Piazza Carmel, Villa Capri Cucina owner Salvatore Ercolano is still looking for new and exciting ways to bring neighbors in for the first time or to keep regulars coming back.

The restaurant is now offering family-style meals every Sunday night. The family-style menu includes a selection of the “most-ordered” Villa Capri favorites in big potions, large enough to share. Ercolano wants a family of four to get a great deal dining on a family-style appetizer, pasta and an entrée.

He hopes people will skip going to the store and worrying about cooking and cleaning up and let Villa Capri handle Sunday dinners.

Since 1993, Ercolano has opened 17 restaurants in San Diego County, along with his partner Antonio Viscito.

He has enjoyed his time at Piazza Carmel

“I like the quality of the people in Carmel Valley, they have a certain standard here,” Ercolano said. “I complement the look of the restaurant and the consistency of my food for the palate of the people who live here.”

Ercolano still speaks with an Italian accent from his Capri origins, where he learned the ins and outs of the restaurant business from his restaurateur father. Before landing in San Diego, he spent time in restaurants in Bermuda, New York City and Hong Kong.

Ercolano spent a little time in the kitchen and used to make desserts — some of his specialties included tiramisu, ricotta cheesecake, ice cream and flourless chocolate almond cake, a typical dessert from Capri that is a sweet staple on his restaurants’ menus.

“Tiramisu and chocolate almond cake will always be on my restaurant menus,” Ercolano said. “Those two desserts are so good you never hear people say ‘No, I’ve had enough.’”

Ercolano owns eight Come on In Café locations throughout San Diego (two more are slated to open soon, in Chula Vista and one on High Bluff Drive in Carmel Valley) and a second Villa Capri location in Poway, next to Target. Villa Capri 2, which was located in Torrey Highlands Center off Camino Del Sur, is no longer in existence and Ercolano stresses that he is not affiliated with the new restaurant in its place.

Ercolano also does catering for breakfast, lunch and dinner for any kind of event. He does free consultations and will coordinate everything for events from “A to Z.”

At Villa Capri, customers can dine al fresco in a dog-friendly outdoor patio or enjoy meals indoors in the warmly decorated restaurant. The menu is stuffed with traditional Italian dishes from lasagna to fusilli with fresh salmon and leeks in pink vodka sauce; veal scallopini to fettucini with classic Italian lamb ragout.

For those with dietary concerns, Villa Capri can offer gluten-free pasta as well as whole wheat pasta options.

During the weekdays, Villa Capri serves up a prix fixe lunch with six different three-course and dessert options to choose from, ranging in price from $9.95 to $14.95.

The restaurant also boasts a very nice wine list as Ercolano is always on the lookout for great wines at reasonable prices. Mondays and Tuesdays the restaurant offers 50 percent-off wines for wine lovers.

To show his appreciation to customers, Ercolano said people can go online and sign up for a Villa Capri VIP card and immediately receive $15 off their next meal. Every time a VIP card holder spends $100 in one of his restaurants they get $25 off the bill. From July 1 to the end of September, VIP members will get $20 off their meals, a summer “extravaganza and craziness from Salvatore Ercolano” as a token of his appreciation.

Villa Capri also hosts occasional wine dinners and the next Carmel Valley event is upcoming on Aug. 28. The five-course dinner paired with wines will be “an Italian gastronomic ballet,” Ercolano said.

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  1. Villa Capri is open for lunch Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and daily for dinner from 4:30-9:30 p.m.

Via Capri in Carmel Valley is located at Piazza Carmel: 3870 Valley Centre Drive, #301 San Diego, CA 92130; 858-720-8777.