Via Veneto Providenciales, Turks and Caicos IslandsRestaurant Reviewed November / December 2013

A photograph of Shrimp with Squid Ink at Via Veneto, Ports of Call, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Appetiser of Prosciutto Wrapped Shrimp with Squid Ink at Via Veneto, second level in Ports of Call

By Mandy Rostance-Wolf

When they say authentic Italian, they aren’t kidding. From the beautiful, hand-painted dishware to the gorgeous Luigi Bormioli stemware to the rather large and very impressive domed, wood-burning clay oven, owner Aldo Della Casa has painstakingly imported virtually everything from Italy … including his two chefs, Matteo Carbone and Tiziano Malandrucco. In fact, our server, Jeannette quipped that almost everything was imported from Italy, even the water. “Except me!” she teasingly added.

A photograph of Antipasti at Via Veneto, Ports of Call, Grace Bay, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Delightful Antipasti of Cured Meats and Cheeses

At Via Veneto, you will experience the finest food products made by Italian artisans whose recipes and techniques have been handed down through their families for generations; meats, cheeses, olive oils, and vinegars. Aldo is proud to have connections to the producers of these high-end products, often made in limited quantities. “They decide to whom they want to sell” Aldo acknowledges. In fact, Aldo is right up there in the company of the Pope; able to offer his diners the same ‘private stock’ extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) enjoyed at The Vatican. Even the music is streamed in from Italy.

The menu is “Authentic Cucina Italiana”, a fabulous combination of Antipasti, Pasta Fresca (homemade pasta, of course) a hearty selection of Secondi Piatti or main courses and an irresistible selection of ‘dolci’. Take pleasure in the ultimate food and wine pairing experience with wines, dessert wines, Grappas, liqueurs and beers, imported directly from the producers in Italy.

A photograph of Lasagna at Via Veneto, Ports of Call, Grace Bay, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Chef's special of Traditional Lasagna at Via Veneto

The black and white décor is striking and chic; and the bar is a great place to start your evening with an ‘apertivo’. Roomy, bench seating and tables are available for inside dining; or relax al fresco on the beautiful deck built around towering palm trees.

The homemade bread had just come out of the oven and anyone within a mile of Ports of Call knew it. It was a fabulously crusty foccacia that prompted my favourite dining companion to reminisce about a previous dining experience. The fresh-baked bread was sliced, grilled, then heaped with mushrooms, prosciutto and cheese and then baked again. Captivated with her narrative, we listened with envy while we enthusiastically dipped and soaked the warm and crusty bread into our individual pools of fruity EVOO and a dynamic balsamic.

To open the meal, frittata ‘bites’ of eggs, zucchini, ham and Parmesan were the perfect ‘apertivo’. Topped with double shards of Parmesan, these tasty bites were full of flavour.

A photograph of Grilled Swordfish at Via Veneto, Ports of Call, Grace Bay, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Perfectly moist Swordfish grilled with Olive Oil and Sea Salt with Black Olives and Fresh Tomatoes

Antipasti is the traditional first course; and an assorted platter of Italian delicacies is a bastion of any Italian antipasti menu. This selection of cured meats and cheeses proffered unsurpassed flavours and extraordinary textures that only genuine, skilled craftsmen could produce. Prosciutto, salami and mortadella; all exceptionally lean, incredibly flavourful and sliced so gloriously thin they virtually melted in your mouth. Cheeses included a creamy Provolone, a sharp and zesty Pecorino and a smooth, rich and surprisingly subtle Gorgonzola.

I love it when chefs use squid ink; it adds drama not only to the palate but also to the plate. Here, an artistic brush stroke of squid ink and a few drops of carrot cream sauce set the eye-catching foundation for four plump and juicy shrimp, wrapped in thin strips of Prosciutto. The Tuna Tartare was delightfully fresh, formed and set atop a crispy toast in the company of a citrus and Umbrian EVOO sauce with orange segments.

Taking our time, and great pleasure in our antipasti courses, we appreciated the pleasantly dry and full-bodied Bellosguardo Chianti. You just can’t go wrong with Chianti; a classic that can stand up to and complement the many complex and passionate flavours of Italian cuisine.

A photograph of Dessert Chocolate Tart at Via Veneto, Ports of Call, Grace Bay, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Via Veneto's capri-style Chocolate Tart

As my eyes darted from one scrumptious Pasta Fresca dish to another, a magic word appeared on the menu that instantly made me smile and salivate … truffle. It’s downright scandalous what these edible fungi can do to a dish. Each bite of perfectly al dente fettuccine yielded a veritable extravagance of sumptuous flavours; an ethereal richness and earthiness complements of the truffle; and palate-blowing morsels of pork cheek all gently smothered in EVOO from Umbria, topped with a marvelous scattering of Parmigiano. I was smitten.

Utterly engaged in my fettuccini fantasy, I found myself drifting off into culinary nirvana when I was awakened by: “It’s the Bechamel … so smooth, rich and creamy” and a polite nudge from across the table. An eternal Italian classic that I have always loved, this lasagna animated my palate to new heights. Abundant with beef and porcini mushrooms, the Bechamel sauce was relentless, gushing and oozing throughout the lovely layers of interleaving pasta.

A photograph of the second level dining deck at Via Veneto, Ports of Call, Grace Bay, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Beautiful evening sunsets at Via Veneto on the elevated out of doors dining deck

The Swordfish was a spectacular vision of Mediterranean splendour. This is what fresh looks like. Grilled with just olive oil and sea salt, thick wedges of swordfish loin were layered between grilled slices of bread and served atop a Mediterranean menagerie of black olives, tomatoes and peppery arugula. As I sank my teeth into the mouthwatering fish, my favourite and newly clairvoyant dining companion knowingly smiled and said, “You’ve never had swordfish like that, have you?”

My husband enjoyed the evening special of Scallops; which were coated in a crispy bread crumb and herb crust and served with that lovely carrot cream sauce, but with a delectable twist; this version was studded with crispy bites of Prosciutto.

Aldo returned, swiftly surveyed the table and said with a smile, “I see empty plates, everyone is happy”. We were actually delirious, and we hadn’t even experienced dessert yet … or should I say, dolci.

Mine was for adults only. Baba al Rum con Crema al Limone e Amarene. You don’t have to speak Italian to get the gist of that. The ‘babas’ were six soft and spongy mushroom-shaped ‘cakes’ saturated in rum, together on the plate with dollops of a silky and delicate lemon custard cream and a scattering of rich, dark and luscious Amarena cherries. With each intoxicating bite I took great indulgent pleasure in ‘extracting’ the rum from each little baba; truly decadence to a new level. The homemade gelatis are lusciously smooth and incredibly full of flavour; and the Capri-style chocolate tart and Tiramisu? Viva Italia!

A photograph of the Italian marble bar at Via Veneto, Ports of Call, Grace Bay, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Imported Italian marble bar and inside dining areas at Via Veneto

And to end this absolutely superb Italian culinary adventure, a ‘digestivo’ to sip and savour. Many are made from distilled herbs and not only help ease digestion after a long meal, but are delightfully aromatic and satisfying.

Oh, and that rather large and very impressive domed, wood-burning clay oven? One night a week Via Veneto becomes a ‘pizzeria’ and Aldo’s chefs take on the roll of master ‘pizzaoli’s’. Temperatures can soar to a scorching 500C, and this hot commodity can bake a pizza in about a minute flat. Not only are the very thin crust pizzas an authentic and fabulous Italian indulgence; the excitement of watching these artisans at work around the massive oven is a sizzling, colourful and entertaining display.

We could all learn a lot from the Italians; and you can certainly begin at the dinner table. Italians make dining an art form. Each meal is like a feast, warm and full of life; an event to be appreciated and unhurried; to be savoured and enjoyed. Buon Appetito!

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