Friday, July 10, 2009

Seal the deal at The Villa.

This restaurant closed in October 2012.

More permanent mergers and deals that have meant big business (to relationships, that is) at The Villa over the past 50+ years than you can count. From its start as a small dark little dater’s hot spot on Hayes (which later would become University Avenue), to a brief 90s stint in the Holiday Inn on Shackleford, to its current haunts at Rock Creek Square at Markham and Bowman, it’s stayed that way.

Almost. While I was utterly thrilled to be able to rub two dimes together 16 years ago to share my first special date there with the man who’d become my husband, it was a more intimate experience -- and so dark inside at night that it was hard to determine the color of the tablecloth. Ah, that could just be memory talking. It was probably bright as day and I just remember it different.

Today, it IS different -- in that while yes, it’s still one of those date-night places, you tend to see more kids there, more families. There’s even a special kids menu wrapped in cellophane for the young’uns. The walls are brightly painted, there’s plenty of space for an impressive display of available wines, and you can even dine outside if you like (and be waited on; I suppose you could have ordered out at the old restaurant and eaten in your car, but what the heck would that have done for you?).

Chicken Parmigiano.

And the sauce? Oh, it’s still the same. The rich tomato sauce has a deepness to it, while still tasting fresh, something so many other Italian joints just miss.

Chicken Vatican.
The mushroom sauce is to die for.

And the minestrone? I’ve never had better.

Soup and House Salad.
Thing is, while we’re once again in an economy where it’s hard to find dimes (or dollars) to rub together, there is an option that can get you back to The Villa: lunch. You can go in for any number of good Italian items like pasta or calzone or salad or whatnot, and get out for less than $10. You could even go for something as good as that Chicken Parmigiano ($7.99) and enjoy breaded chicken and spaghetti served up under that old familiar sauce, with the minestrone soup or that excellent Caesar salad, and with all the fresh bread and butter you can muster.

Marty's Cavatapi
Eggplant Parmigiano.
And yeah, there’s probably someone brokering a deal at the next table. Could be for another date… could be for a contract or a job… or it could be a deal to just split the check. Who knows. The Villa’s open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday -- and closed on Sundays. (501) 219-2244... and they have a Facebook page.

This is a version I'm trying out to see if Hunter-based kid reviews will work.

The Villa Italian Restaurant has stickers to play with, interesting food for kids and loves families.

Mom and Dad and I are starting to make a habit out of going to The Villa Italian Restaurant. They get all gooey-eyed talking about going there on one of their first dates. Aren’t parents funny that way?

I like The Villa for a lot of reasons. For us kids, they have a special menu that opens up and has stickers inside. That’s really cool. Kids have a choice between spaghetti, chicken tenders, or a meatball on a stick served up with “potato smiles” or a 7” pizza. Their pizza is actually a pizza made right there, not one out of a box like at some places we’ve tried.

Last time we went, Mom ordered the Meatball on a Stick kids meal ($4.99) for me. That didn’t sound like a whole lot of food, so I was looking forward to sharing Dad’s dish of Marty’s Cavatapi ($7.99 lunch, $13.49 dinner) with all that gooey Mozzarella cheese. Or Mom’s Eggplant Parmigiana ($6.79 for lunch, $11.99 dinner), which I like because it has eggplant in it. I ate a lot of that yummy fresh baked bread and butter and some of the cheese and lettuce out of Dad’s salad while the rest of our food was cooked.

And you know what? That meatball on a stick was huge! It was the biggest meatball I’ve ever seen! It was like a meat lollipop. The potato smiles came with a little container of ketchup. It was fun to eat!

When I was smaller and didn’t have my teeth yet, Mom and Dad brought me one night so they could have a dinner out. Our waitress came over and asked right off the bat if I could have some spaghetti noodles to eat. She brought a little plate with plain noodles on it. I’d never had spaghetti before, but it didn’t take me long to work out how to slurp up the noodles. Then Mom gave me a little bit of bread with some of that marinara sauce on it. That was so good I closed my eyes and sucked the sauce right out of it. Their sauce is really tasty!

I like their Canneloni, which is a pastry filled with a sweet cream. It’s easy for me to pick up and hold. Dad’s a big fan of their chocolate cake, but I can’t tell you what it’s called because it has a word I’m not allowed to say in it. Mom likes the Boston Cream Pie.

For leftovers, they take the bread away and then come out with a neat aluminum foil swan. I want to learn how to make that!

One time we went and somehow I left behind my stuffed monkey, and our waitress ran out and brought it to us at the car. That was really nice.

Toasted Ravioli.
Every time we go, there’s another baby somewhere in the restaurant. That’s okay, since there are so many high chairs there. I bet other kids beg their parents to take them, too. I wonder if they know about that giant meatball.

High chairs: Yes, a lot of them
Baby changing station: Ladies room only
Kids activities: Stickers
Specials: Free kids meals Tuesday nights
Kids Menu: Yes!
Interest level: Moderately high (spaghetti is fun!)
Prices: Moderate
Food: What’s more fun than a meatball on a stick?

Mom’s hints: The wait staff is awesome. They seem to make a special effort for small children and their parents. They are great about letting you share your plate. Older kids will also like the bread but be warned: it makes great bread balls. The ladies room is a one-seater but large enough to take in a child without getting squished.

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