Friday, August 27, 2010

Villa Locale: seed to table dining

By CHARLENE DEAN

PVT

There’s only one word to describe Joe Muscaglione and it is enthusiasm. Muscaglione is one of the owners of Villa Locale, the newest restaurant to open at 670 W. Basin Ave.

He is enthusiastic about anything in regards to organic gardening, organic wine and beer, chemical-free meats, eggs and produce — and most of all — Pahrump.

Muscaglione, and his mother, Lucia Sangiorgio, have been in the restaurant business upwards of 20 years in New Jersey. Muscaglione, as a young man, worked in his mother’s restaurant and took it upon himself to travel to their native Sicily to learn the restaurant business. He returned to continue his career as a wine director, a restaurateur in his own right, and has experienced kitchens of the most famous celebrity chefs in the business.

Both Sangiorgio and Muscaglione had sold the restaurants back east, and relocated to Las Vegas where Muscaglione has co-ownership of a wine import and distribution business. He relocated his family here in 2007 and began sustainable, organic farming.

“The concept of the restaurant is to bring the product fresh and without chemicals to the table, and do it here,” said Muscaglione. “If roasted eggplant with tomato sauce is on the menu, we’ve picked the vegetables and herbs that morning and brought it to the restaurant. You will eat it either for lunch or dinner.”

“At home, everything we do feeds some other part of the farm,” said Muscaglione.  “Nothing goes to waste.”

Muscaglione said he doesn’t consider himself as a “go-green” person, but said, “If you take from the Earth, you have to give back to the Earth.”

He said the family invested in worm farming, or vermiculture. The worms make castings which are added to the compost to enrich the soil, which feeds the plants that in turn, provide scraps to start composting again. In between, there are animals to be fed, which also contribute to the composting and nutrition of the soil. “I’m amazed at what we can grow here,” Muscaglione said. “We have herbs, flowers and fruit and nut trees, and heirloom vegetables whose seeds have been in my family for over 100 years, and it all does so well here.”

What the family farm can’t provide, Muscaglione said he either gets the product from Whole Foods in Las Vegas, or he buys from local, licensed growers.

He’s looking for certified farmers who make cheeses and can provide meats for the restaurant.

“The more I can get locally, the better I’ll like it,” Muscaglione said. “It’s a community partnership.”

Being well-connected from his travels and business contacts, Muscaglione has plans to take Villa Locale beyond Pahrump. Celebrity chef dinners, wine dinners and tastings and interactive media meetings are just some of the activities planned for the restaurant.

Starting Monday, and for the next two weeks, Muscaglione said the restaurant will be open for lunch only, gradually adding breakfast and finally dinner. He said reservations are three weeks out.

Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday right now.

Call 751-5830 for more information and to check on extended hours.