Table Talk: Villa Napoli
I try very hard to visit as many restaurants as possible before the short and hopefully very busy summer season begins. It’s pleasant to be able to sit and enjoy many of our area’s finest restaurants, have a quiet conversation, talk to the owners and just plain relax.
For me, dining out during Americade, the car show, or even Fourth of July is not a good experience. Owners are stressed, the kitchen jammin’ and everyone is trying to accommodate our visitors in the best manner possible. We locals are fortunate, we are able to dine at these fine restaurants prior to the influx of visitors whom we all need and welcome.
So on this particular preseason evening, NASCAR Nut and his family joined me on a trip to Villa Napoli. He had heard good things about this long-time restaurant located just off Route 9N on the Melody Manor Resort property. Opened during the summer of 1992 by Rose and Damian Alessi, it’s a sure thing for lovers of regional Italian fare, prepared with high quality, fresh ingredients.
Surrounded by beautiful, lush landscaping, Italian arches and a babbling brook, even the exterior evokes a charming villa in Italy.
There are two dining areas, one very casual and ideal for families while the other is considerably more formal, with a large hand-carved marble fireplace, hand-painted murals, Tiffany chandeliers and a great, huge wine rack built into the wall. A well stocked bar separates the two rooms.
We were greeted by Rose as we entered, and we opted to have one at the bar while noticing a long time friend, Andy, as the night’s mixologist.
After exchanging pleasantries, Rose showed us to wonderful window table overlooking the exterior gardens. Taryn, a 14-year veteran, delivered menus and a basket of wonderful, hot Italian bread.
Chef Nate Dally, now in his third season, is backed up in the kitchen by Lake George’s own Luke Trupia, so Villa Napoli’s menu should please everyone.
Antipasti includes an eggplant caponata with olives and capers, a whole fresh artichoke filled with pancetta, herbed crumbs, Asiago cheese and finished with a lemon-butter sauce. There is a grilled artisan sausage with peperonata and a wonderful antipasto platter, as well as an individual margherita pizza.
Salads include the house, a Caprese with fresh tomato, mozzarella and basil as well as a Sicilian with roasted fennel, olives and onion.
Chef Dally’s pasta list is extensive, including ravioli with a choice of tomato or vodka sauce and potato gnocchi tossed with tomato sauce and parmesan cheese.
Entrees include a balsamic, marinated grilled chicken with smoked mozzarella, veal scaloppini, filet mignon, two choices of fresh fish and a very enticing rosemary and garlic grilled pork tenderloin, roasted shallots, tomatoes and olives in a port wine balsamic jus.
We opened by voting for two apps: the house bruschetta al pomodoro and calamari fritti. Both were handmade with only the finest fresh ingredients. The calamari was wonderful, crispy, lightly fried and accompanied by a very spicy red sauce that “kicked it up a notch.”
NASCAR Nut went rather ordinary with a generous veal parmigiana. It was a wonderfully tender Provimi cutlet, sautéed in olive oil. Fork tender and declared a sure winner. He who had chosen Villa Napoli for tonight’s dinner was more than pleased.
Ms. “I’m never pleased,” surprised us all and strayed from her usual steak entrée and opted for a chicken parm, a generous plump breast sautéed with breadcrumbs and baked with mozzarella cheese. Both entrees came with a heaping bowl of spaghetti and rich sauce.
Miss Human Resources enjoyed a bowl of papparadelle pasta in a rich ragu of meat, wine and tomato, with a homemade meatball to boot.
Yours Truly chose the special of veal osso bucco in rich brown gravy, surrounded by creamy mashed potatoes and mixed veggies. The meat fell off the bone and certainly met my expectations.
NASCAR always has to have dessert even while others are taking doggie bags home. Yours Truly’s very own mother always said “I always have room for dessert,” and like her, we somehow found room as we all teamed up on a huge slice of cheesecake dotted with fresh strawberries and cream.
Taryn delivered efficient and friendly service throughout, filling ice waters and replenishing the bread without being asked.
Last time I visited Villa Napoli was in 2008 and it has only gotten better. Rose and Damian insist on fresh ingredients and creative dishes that rival those served in only a few local Italian restaurants. It’s a friendly, wonderful place to dine anytime during the season.