Even before you get to the restaurant, Villa Amalfi prepares you for a special experience with a scenic drive through the rocky hills of Norco. That’s because the restaurant is located in the clubhouse of the Hidden Valley Golf Club, which maintains some of the best landscape around. The interior, however, may be a little disconcerting, since it doesn’t feel like a restaurant, offering only a handful of sparsely placed tables. Still, the view from the window cannot be beat, with rollicking fairways stretching as far as the eye can see.
The dimensions of the dining area are a bit small, but not uncomfortably so. It may, however, feel awkward to share the area with the full bar, as two large flat panel televisions display the latest sporting event in the corner of your eye at all times. Furthermore, depending on the time of day, you may have to contend with golfers passing through. Other than the obvious foot traffic, the restaurant is fairly cozy and intimate.
Villa Amalfi’s menu covers the typical categories one expects to find at Italian restaurants, items such as pizza, pasta and seafood, as well as a few surprises, like sandwiches and breakfast options. Though the daily specials may include fish, regrettably, the seafood options are limited to mostly shrimp entrées.
To start, the fried calamari ($9.95) was served accompanied by a warm marinara sauce. The appetizer was well prepared and ultimately tasted just fine, but the breading had little seasoning, thus making the dipping sauce a must-have. Be advised: the calamari is portioned to satisfy two diners.
This was followed by a fresh and delicious Caesar Salad (small $3.95/large $9.95), and then the Zuppa del Giorno ($4.95)—in this case, minestrone. The soup was delightful because it wasn’t one of the over-the-top versions you’ll find at big Italian chains, but it was also odd because it was prepared with a chicken base instead of a vegetable stock, giving it a buttery flavor.
For mains, the Meat Lovers Pasta ($12.95), prepared with assorted meats (beef and pork) over penne, and the Fettuccini Alfredo ($9.95) were served. The Meat Lovers entrée was a hearty meal and can’t help but defy a hungry person to eat it in a single sitting, however, it was just a smidge uninspired—with a little imagination, the average person could probably come up with something very similar at home. The Alfredo dish, on the other hand, was very flavorful, with cream sauce that wasn’t overly thick (in fact, perhaps a little watery for some tastes).
Perhaps any of Amalfi’s shortcomings can be remedied by the level of service it offers. Truthfully, this is some of the best, most genuine service you will find in the Inland Empire. The server was more than happy to recite the available desserts and offer coffee as the meal wound down, and the bartender personally came out to apologize and confess when he didn’t know how to make a drink, and took directive well. All food was served hot to order, and in a timely manner. Villa Amalfi is one of the few places where the customer truly is king.
Make the trek off the beaten path to the Hidden Valley Golf Club for a meal, and you’ll see how good food, beautiful views and sharp service all make for an enjoyable experience.
Villa Amalfi, 10 Clubhouse Dr., Norco, CA, (951) 737-1010, Sun.–Sat. 6AM–8PM, Average Price for Two: $50. AE, D, MC, V