It's family and friend's week at the newly renovated Getty Villa in Malibu and I felt quite privileged to tag along this afternoon for an early view. Although, apparently booked until the end of July, a lighter attendance occurred today because of the weather which was an added treat. Others will argue the effectiveness of the wandering actors in togas portraying Dionysus and the sirens or the wreath making exhibit. Purists will no doubt frown upon the kids center where they create their own ceramic pottery. But everyone seemed to be having a great time. We headed straight for the cafe which is part of the new addition, set on the upper level looking down at the museum and with a spectacular view of the ocean beyond. Bon Appetite Management handles the chores here. They were heavily staffed, efficient and good natured. (An additional, smaller food outlet is available in what's called the North Campus Building.)
We waited about twenty minutes in line taking in all the vistas before we reached the counter where you place your order. We opted to try a patio table and lucked out as the sun came out moments later. (Another impressive feature is the amphitheater structure that starts at the cafe level and makes its way down to the front of the main building.)
The damp cold demanded that I try the vegetable soup with Italian sausage for $4.25 which was both hearty and flavorful and the fritto misto with a lemon aioli for $6.95 was the surprise of the day. It's hard to find a good one in an Italian restaurant let alone an institutional setting but this one more than satisfies. An eggplant panini for $6.95 was tasty enough on some well seasoned foccacia but the Villa salad with the addition of grilled chicken for $9.25 was pretty much a miss with a tart yet innocuous lemon dressing. I missed both the pinot grigio and the merlot my host had but we both commented on the nice stemware. As we finished I strolled over to the coffee cart to secure a latte and an excellent brownie but I imagine desserts will be available at the cafe once they actually open at the end of the month. Perhaps the nicest surprise was that everything was complimentary today as the food service folk wanted to test the waters as well. Pricing listed here comes from their printed menu.
As we started our art tour we overheard a group exchange, "You want to eat here or get real food?" Of course, the Villa is not going to shake that rap but given the setting and the pricing (even when they are charging), you might as well, when in Rome...