J&S Italian Villa

Brothers' restaurant serves up traditional favorites

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Photography by Mara Kuhn

7:15 p.m. … Watching “The Voice”
J&S Italian Villa ranks well in my top 10 list of restaurants in Hot Springs. Sham Afkhami is the owner and chef, and his food just keeps getting better, and his brother Jamal, now retired, seems to spend a lot of his time in the restaurant helping the staff. These are two great guys who love life and love pleasing their diners. This Italian food is the real deal, definitely not an impasta.

J&S is fine dining, yet the atmosphere is warm and inviting. The large bar area has live piano music by keyboard king Mark Ayers on certain nights making the entire experience, particularly with the great food, superb.

Sham keeps the favorites on the menu while continually adding new items, including specials every night. Previously located on Lake Hamilton, J&S Italian Villa has had great success in the Temperance Hill location.

Sometimes I will order a large salad and an appetizer as my meal. The Greek Salad (with feta cheese, Greek olives, red onion, cucumbers and tomatoes on mixed greens) and the Melanzana Rollatini (eggplant rolled with fresh spinach and ricotta cheese, topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese) is my favorite combination. I like these served at the same time, and both are outstanding.

Equally delicious, the Sea Scallops Avocado appetizer is tender sea scallops sautéed in a brandy pink cream sauce over avocado. Add a few pieces of their Cheese Bread and a salad, and you will want to come back for it every week. Sham’s Bruschetta alla Romana is one of the best Bruschetta in Hot Springs, made with grilled bread, diced Roma tomatoes, basil, garlic, capers and virgin olive oil. Several other salads are an option including a very good Caesar and a top-notch spinach salad. A “soup of the day” is always available.local-flavor2

J&S Italian Villa has numerous pastas on the menu. Sometimes I like a side of pasta, such as the fettuccine Alfredo, with any entree. Other times, I want a pasta as my main meal. The Lasagna alla Bolognese is a very traditional dish that you’ll love. The Spinach Ravioli, pasta filled with spinach and ricotta cheese in Alfredo sauce is very tasty. I recently tried a pasta special called Michelangelo Fettuccine and it was stunning. Fettuccine pasta is sautéed with mushrooms, garlic, jalapeño peppers and chicken.

The six veal choices are all very good. The Veal Piccata is sautéed in garlic, capers, white wine and lemon butter. It’s one of my preferences as is the Vitello alla Pizzaiola — veal with garlic, capers and a delicious marinara sauce. The sauce can be made spicy, just ask.

Sham is excellent with seafood! I recently had a Seabass Orgenata which was crusted in an oregano and breadcrumb coating that was phenomenal. He also has numerous shrimp entrees available, and you can’t go wrong with these. My favorite is the Gamberi alla Diavolo; sautéed shrimp in garlic, white wine and a spicy mari- nara sauce. With such a large and diverse menu, you will find many items that you will love.

local-flavor6Don’t desert the desserts here, as a couple stand out. The Tiramisu and the Limoncello Mascarpone are top-notch. The Tiramisu is very traditional and the Limoncello Mascarpone is a cake layered with a limoncello flavored frozen mascarpone cream — awesome!

J&S Italian Villa is a great gathering spot. The friendly and professional staff truly appreciates their customers, and make you feel that way. Wednesday nights, a live music night, is a popular happy-hour spot with a small buffet of complimentary hors devours. With everything considered, J&S Italian Villa should be on your short list of Hot Springs restaurants to dine in the very near future!

8:40 p.m. … I’m blown away by the talent of these singers!

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