From the moment they bring the bread until the last bite of pumpkin cheesecake has been enjoyed, La Villa restaurant, 82-07 153rd Avenue in Howard Beach, will keep your taste buds in a constant state of bliss.
My guest and I dined at La Villa recently and sampled its extensive list of Italian treats. We sipped fine Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Grigio, along with complimentary onion bread, served as tasteful companions as we perused the menu.
The bread, however, was a meal in and of itself, combining a crispy exterior and soft interior with the sweetness of red onions. At La Villa, filling up on bread doesn’t seem like such a sin.
But, difficult as it was, we made room for appetizers, beginning with the Organic Salad ($9). Made with gorgonzola cheese, toasted walnuts, beets and mixed greens - and made without pesticides or added chemicals - they found a tasty balance between sweet (beets, walnuts) and sharp (cheese, croutons).
We moved on to the fried calamari ($10) - a dish usually available despite being called a special - and then embarked on our path through La Villa’s diverse and sizeable menu: Focaccia della Nonna, Pollo Balsamico and Penne Gamberi.
The Focaccia della Nonna pizza is $23 for a large, thin-crust Sicilian style pie. The dish is kid-friendly - what kid doesn’t love pizza? - but sophisticated enough for any connoisseur: made with homemade mozzarella, crushed San Marzano tomatoes, basil, and a touch of fresh garlic and Tuscan olive oil, the flavors come together in a rich, well-constructed manner. Like all of La Villa’s pizzas, it is baked to perfection in an authentic brick oven.
The Pollo Balsamico ($18), boneless, oven-roasted chicken served over saut/ed spinach, is marinated in a robust balsamic vinegar, the dish’s main flavor. The Penne Gamberi ($18), perhaps the highlight of the evening, accentuated its naturally subtle flavors with well-pronounced additions of garlic and oil. The dish, comprised of gulf shrimp saut/ed with broccoli, basil, chopped tomato and Tuscan olive oil served over penne, is a rather light meal, though not at the sacrifice of any flavor.
After a hearty Italian meal, it can be daunting to attempt dessert, but my guest and I found the strength to try La Villa’s Pumpkin Cheesecake, as well as my personal favorite, the Chocolate Polenta.
A slice of Thanksgiving, the Pumpkin Cheesecake embodies the holidays in pie form. The Chocolate Polenta - though not actually made from polenta - provides a rich, flavorful venture into the depths of gustatory sin.
After a meal at La Villa, you may not want to stand up, and not just because you’re trying to digest. The atmosphere at La Villa is warm, inviting - the sort of place you’d like to stay at for awhile. Spacious, airy, and painted with light colors, the establishment feels more like a living room than a restaurant. Renovated just last year, La Villa also offers outdoor seating, as long as the weather permits.
With winter on the horizon, though, weather may not permit for long - so take the short trip to La Villa as soon as you can.
La Villa Pizzeria
82-07 153rd Avenue
Hours: Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.;
Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 10 p.m.
Prices: Pizza and pasta dishes $10-20, meat dishes $17-18 and salads $8-17
Major credit cards accepted
Parking: Lot in front