Between Lakeside 54 at the Lake Club and the variety of delicious options throughout Jackson County, foodies might find it difficult to decide where to start when visiting Bear Lake Reserve. One spot we can’t recommend enough is Ilda, a local Italian-Appalachian restaurant which recently won Eater Carolinas’ award for 2021 Mountain Restaurant of the Year! Wondering what makes them stand out as a regional favorite? Read on to learn more!
Nestled near the end of Sylva’s picturesque Main Street, Ilda is the artisan passion project of our close friends Chef Santiago Guzzetti and Sommelier Crystal Pace. After meeting and working together in New York, the two fell in love and decided to return to Crystal’s hometown of Sylva where she believes the magic truly lives. There, they took over the restaurant space once owned by Crystal’s stepmother, Karen Martar, whose famous meatball recipe is still on the menu! By combining Santi’s passion for Southern Italian cooking, Crystal’s love of rare and classic wines, and spirits professional Antoine Hodge’s unique cocktail creations, Ilda has quickly become a must-eat (and drink) destination restaurant.
Ilda’s ever-evolving, seasonal menus are focused on Italian-Appalachian fusion and locally sourced ingredients. From pastas like Red Wine Rigatoni with duck confit, roasted cauliflower, and vincotto to desserts like Tiramisu made with moonshine, dark chocolate, and candied walnuts, foodies are sure to find unique and tantalizing choices for every course. Wine connoisseurs will be impressed too, with an evolving selection of rare and classic wines handpicked by Crystal. No matter when you drop by, Karen’s Meatballs are a must-try and if you’re 21+, wash it down with an Ilda Old Fashioned from Antoine!
It’s not just the delicious food and drink that make Ilda a top-notch establishment, either. It’s the heart and soul that Santi, Crystal, and Antoine pour into their craft. They make both locals and visitors to the area feel equally at home. If you’re staying at Bear Lake Reserve in the near future, be sure to visit our friends at Ilda and let them know The Bears sent you! Congratulations again to Santi, Crystal, Antoine, and the rest of the Ilda family!