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Lancashire Life Luncheon - Villaggio Cucina, Birkdale

PUBLISHED: 00:00 03 August 2015 | UPDATED: 09:44 20 April 2016

Villaggio Cucina interior

Villaggio Cucina interior

Archant

A chef from Ormskirk runs a restaurant producing the sort of Italian food mama would love. Roger Borrell reports. Photography by Kirsty Thompson

Front of house team; Sara Artibani, Francesca Rimmer, Siobhan Jones and Sophie Mistry Front of house team; Sara Artibani, Francesca Rimmer, Siobhan Jones and Sophie Mistry

In the film Wall Street, Gordon Geko said: ‘Lunch is for wimps.’ This always confused me because he also said: ‘Greed is good’ and the two things seem mutually exclusive.

To be honest, I’m firmly on the side of the wimps and if lunch involved regular visits to Villaggio Cucina in Birkdale, I’d happily sign up to be a fully paid-up member of the big girl’s blouse brigade.

This smart little restaurant, with pavement seating for sunny days, was the venue for our latest Lancashire Life luncheon, attended by business colleagues from around the area.

I’d tried to mug up on my Italian before going and while Villaggio seemed obvious, good old Mrs Google had me stumped with so many definitions for Cucina – cook, stove, kitchen – that I gave up. No doubt the chef, owner or waiting staff would have enough Latin blood coursing through their veins to fill in the woeful gaps in my education.

Step forward the owner with the decidedly un-Italian name of Lorna Kemp. What’s more, she’s blonde, interestingly pale and comes from Ormskirk. However, her passion for Italian food is unremitting and that part of the world tends to be her holiday destination of choice.

Lorna’s cooking pedigree is good one having spent several years as part of Paul Heathcote’s team before setting up in Birkdale three years ago.

This village is now coming out of the shadow of Southport and its popularity as a home for professional footballers and their families means it has an air of affluence. There are several good independent retailers and some interesting looking places to eat, not least Villaggio Cucina.

Lorna started running the business more or less single handedly as patron and chef but she now has a talented kitchen team including chef, excellent waiting staff, with the well-informed restaurant manager Annalisa Devergori leading by example.

The first part of the venue has a lovely old wooden bar which looks straight from a Victorian ale house and you move through to the back restaurant. While the food might be rustic this is a modern space with contemporary decorations and not a chianti bottle in sight. You can imagine the place has a real buzz on busy evenings.

The food is excellent quality. We started with some really first rate, wafer thin garlic bread – one with tomato and garlic and another with dolcelatte and sun-blushed toms. The main course, chargrilled chicken breast with wild mushroom risotto and rocket was a beautiful main that would please the most demanding Italian mama. Dessert was vanilla and ginger cheesecake with passion fruit puree and brandy snaps. Outstanding.

On reflection, this was no lunch for wimps. It took great fortitude to make it through all three courses but I’m proud to say we acquitted ourselves with great enthusiasm and returned many empty dishes. w

Villaggio Cucina, 31 Liverpool Road, Birkdale, PR8 4AG. 01704 564564

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