If you’re on the hunt for some flavorful Italian food, you’ll find it right off of Highway 11.
Owned by Sicily-born Sam Mazzarisi, Villa Pizza and Family Restaurant offers a varied selection of pasta and sauces, pizzas, steaks and sandwiches.
You wouldn’t know this was an Italian restaurant from the outside, but the brick façade with its large windows looks like it has been recently updated, and the large parking lot is neat and clean.
Villa Pizza’s interior is austere with creamy yellow walls, red upholstered chairs and white tablecloths that give the casual dining room a cozy feel. There also is a lounge, an inviting space consisting of a bar, an intimate corner with a large sofa, a big screen TV and a few poker machines.
We were immediately greeted and seated at a four-top in the dining room. It had been a long day, and we were in the mood to relax. We selected some red wines from the list: chianti ($5.25) and a pinot noir ($5.50).
With glasses in hand, we perused the menu. For starters, we opted for the deep-fried ravioli ($8). Before long, a plateful of crispy, breaded cheese ravioli arrived with a yummy house-made red sauce.
As we debated what to order, we noticed some of the entrees on the menu were highlighted in pink. Our server explained these were the chef’s specialties and, when we asked, she confirmed that all of the sauces are homemade.
Having previously sampled Sam’s sauce (I had visited before and had the spaghetti), I knew that although the menu appeared fairly standard, the flavor would be far from ordinary. With so many delicious options, we ended up focusing on the Italian specialty dinners and decided to come back another day to try the pizza and calzones.
Jennifer chose the cacciatore ($14.79) which is usually served with chicken. At Villa, however, diners have the choice of chicken or Italian sausage, so she had to go with the sausage.
A heaping bowl arrived with mostaccioli noodles, generous slices of sausage, hunks of green peppers and onions in an earthy, rich red sauce. It was divine.
Meals come with choice of soup, salad or cottage cheese. Jennifer ordered the salad with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing that was both sweet and a bit tangy.
I selected the Taste of Italy ($13). The thin angel hair pasta was perfect with the light and flavorful wine sauce, and there were pieces of mushroom, onion, asparagus and sun-dried tomato all pulled together with shrimp. I have never had anything like it.
Although she was tempted by the steak Sinatra (a 12-ounce, garlic-crusted New York strip), Nikki decided instead on an Italian classic: gnocchi ($12) with a salad. Again, the sauce was wonderful. The dish was served with two large meatballs and was a hearty, filling meal.
The chicken artichoke pasta ($13) with a side of cottage cheese was Helene’s choice. It was a huge amount of food, with a good balance of artichoke, chicken chunks and mostaccioli. The white sauce was flavorful with an herb that none of us could define, and it was absolutely delicious. Coupled with the marinade from the artichokes, it really made for a tasty dish.
We also were served a loaf of soft French bread, which was was the perfect vehicle for sopping up sauce. Because we all ordered distinctly different dishes, we took our time sampling and comparing each other’s sauces, trying to identify the secret ingredients. It was hard to pick a favorite as they were all amazing.
When finished with our meals, we were pleasantly surprised when our server brought a tray of complimentary, bite-sized cream puffs, eclairs and cheesecakes. It definitely hit the spot. We were too stuffed to order from the actual dessert menu, but some of the tantalizing treats offered included cannoli ($2.25), an Italian cheese and chocolate filled pastry delight, as well as a wide variety of cheesecakes such as peppermint chocolate chunk ($6), caramel apple ($4.25) and white chocolate raspberry ($4.75).
So, if Italian food strikes your fancy, Villa Pizza and Family Restaurant is definitely worth checking out. It’s just a quick drive out on Highway 11 and, if our experience is anything to go by, you will leave satisfied with some fabulous leftovers.
The Four Dishes—Nikki Bolka, Helene Ramsdell, Jennifer Spangler and Beth Webb—review regional restaurants for The Gazette.