The sun was down as we walked up to a beautifully lit restaurant. Very unexpected, but so pleasantly inviting! In the middle of a strip mall sits Villa Capri Italian Restaurant, nestled into a Italian decorated piazza .

Could this be the Authentic Italian gem in Carmel Valley that we have heard so much about?

Authentic yes! We had the pleasure of meeting the friendly owner, Laura Bottoglia, an Italian who was born and raised on a farm, comes to San Diego 17 years ago from  Northern Italy and falls in love with the San Diego vibe and never wants to leave. But feels one thing is missing. That one thing is the authenticity of grandma’s old fashion, true Italian cooking.

No surprise, Laura’s inspiration comes from her grandmother. Good old fashion Italian cooking with fresh from farm ingredients. That is exactly what Laura wanted to bring to her restaurant.  Which makes her food absolutely irresistible.  Leaving a few of the original dishes but wanting to add her heritage’s flare.  Laura decided to take over Villa Capri and bring her grandma’s style of comfort food recipes to her restaurant.

With that in mind, we decided to let the cool wind blow through our hair as we dined outside, al fresco style in the wonderfully decorated piazza.  

David Lieber Dinning at Villa Capri Carmel Valley

Decor at Villa Capri Italian Restaurant in Carmel Valley

But if you opt to eat inside,
you will be just as pleased
with the contemporary décor
and very romantic atmosphere





Starting with Aperitivo 

Traditionally wine is meant “to open” the stomach before dining.  So you might start with a small dose of Prosecco or a Cabernet Sauvignon,  Villa Capri offers a very extensive selection of wines by the bottle and optional by the glass.  The aperitivo was paired with a specially prepared antipasto plate.  The presentation alone will wow your date, your client or even your Italian grandma.  Laura brought the specialty boards straight from the old country. Without the picture it’s really hard to describe.  It has Italian meats hanging, cheeses, grilled vegetables, artichokes,  bruschetta, and caprese. She says its enough for 2 but I felt it was enough for 3 maybe 4 people.

Antipasti appetizer plate

The Bread is to Die For

Homemade bread is served so tender, warm, and it’s got the perfect crust.  It’s crunchy with a slight chewiness and is so incredibly soft and delightful it practically melted in my mouth. Serve with a what I thought was a tomato paste like you’d find in Spain. But no it was their own special sauce so it’s actually Villa Capri’s special sauce. The ingredients are so secret that not even the employees know what it’s made from. I could of drank the sauce, it was that good.  You can order this special sauce for special events. But you must order a head of time.

Pace yourself I could of easily fill up on just the bread and sauce. I actually had to move the bread to the other side table so i would stop. sopping up the special sauce with my bread.

The Antipasto

We started with the an old-school homemade Italian Cesar salad with a light taste of sardines. The Cesar dressing for those who love homemade dressing you are in for a real treat.

Not all Cheese is Equal…on to the Next Course

Since we came hungry, we decided to sample their Margherita pizza.  With the table bread still impressing us, we couldn’t wait for the pizza, with homemade dough.  And yes, it was wonderful. With a homemade Italian pizza crust very light crispy on the outside and the mozzarella cheese when you bite into it…was just right.  For the cheese people out there, you know what I’m talking about. The mozzarella cheese is what makes it a favorite comfort food.  It’s a mild mozzarella cheese, but that doesn’t mean tasteless, it was lightly salted with a little hint of something extra. And when you bit down the Texture of the mozzarella was smooth yet somewhat firm. It was melt in your mouth, comfort food.

Main Course

Branzino Italian Seabass

I had the Branzino Italian Seabass Crossed with vegetables, carrots, eggplant, bell peppers and zucchini. The sauce is a lemon butter caper sauce and then spinach and mashed potatoes. Everything was cooked to perfection. But I’m going to make a special mention on the spinach because that is an easy one to mess up on. But this spinach was perfectly cooked not under nor over cooked. It had the perfect firmness that cooked spinach should have.

Traditional Lasagna served at Villa Capri Carmel Valley

My partner, building on the classic comfort food vibe, ordered a traditional lasagna. And Villa Capri did no disappoint.   Nice, homemade pasta served over a tasty béchamel, meat sauce mix, with just the right amount of cheese blended throughout.


Dessert at Villa Capri Carmel Valley

With no room to spare, we were presented with the dessert menu.  Crème Brûlée is one of my favorite desserts, and when I spotted it on the menu I just had to say yes.  My stomach was screaming no more, but my taste buds were going, just have a few spoonfuls.   So, with no choice the Crème Brûlée was delivered.  It had a rich custard base with just the right amount of hardened caramelized sugar to top it off, that i ended up eating every last spoonful.  I may have been seen licking the bowl, but promise not to tell Miss Manners.

As my partner watched in enjoyment as i scraped every last morsel out of the bowl, he slowly savored the chocolate decadence of his mouse cake.  The presentation again was top notch, with fresh strawberries adorning the plate and strawberry sauce dripping over the sides, it was the perfect ending to an authentic Italian meal.

As we walked back to our car, in the middle of a strip mall, we both looked at each other and said, “Yep, we found Carmel Valley‘s Italian gem.”  We will be sure to return and so should you.   Follow Villa Capri’s Instagram for specials and dinner ideas as well as check out their website for a full menu listing.  

Authors Heather Winfield and David Lieber
Photography by David Lieber
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For other restaurant and dinner date ideas, see some of the below articles.

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