PUBLISHED: 13:59 13 March 2008 | UPDATED: 15:03 20 February 2013
Joao Ruivo at La Vista, Gt Baddow
GENERAL manager Joao Ruivo has been working with Suzanne and Antonio for almost four years now. Originating from the undulating plains of Alentegjo - the bread basket of Portugal, he's been in the UK for so long, that two weeks on the sunnier shores of his homeland are now enough to find him pining for Essex. He began his career on a very different path, serving in the Portuguese Army as a crack-shot marksman, his father teaching him to shoot on days out hunting from an early age.
As we sat awaiting for our lunch I took in the surroundings, which were completely refurbished when the Viscariello's took over the Grade II listed building in January 2007 and opened it as La Vista in March 2007. The interior is spread over four rooms on three floors and is a chic, Italian restaurant with black and white leather and chrome plus real wood floors. The two rooms at the rear of this grand building are used for private functions, both business and pleasure, offering buffet-style catering with no charge for room hire. A new Italian head chef, Diego Burzotta, joined the team in January of this year and his speciality is fish, so if you haven't visited for a while expect to find a brand new menu.
New main courses include loin of swordfish rolled and filled with Parma ham, sun-dried tomatoes, mint, parsley, pine kernels and garlic, pan-fried and garnished with rocket leaves. You can of course opt for some fabulous pasta dishes and downstairs in the pizzeria they have a more relaxed dining space for freshly made pizza and pasta and even a take away service.
For my luncheon with Joao I enjoyed goats cheese and saffron panacotta with a spicy roasted pepper coulis, it was delightfully creamy with enough cheese to give it bite and then the spice of the coulis cut through to give the dish a great edge. Pan-seared swordfish followed, on a brightly-coloured bed of roasted peppers, cherry tomatoes and rocket, my two generous steaks of fish with their criss-cross searing were moist and succulent and the salad had plenty of flavour.
The dreamy dessert to finish our meal, was a three-tiered chocolate cheesecake, very light not a bit heavy or cloying as you might expect, made with dark, milk and white chocolate in layers set upon a crisp biscuit base, its worth visiting Antonio and Suzanne just to sample that one dessert alone.