Villago Pizzeria and Ristorante
WHERE: 175 Lake Road, Ballston Lake, 12019, 518-280-0311, www.villagopizzeria.com
WHEN: 4-10:00 p.m. Monday; 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday
HOW MUCH: $26.60 with tax and tip
MORE INFO: Parking, all major credit cards, accessible
If you are seeking an evening of quiet dining and you’re not a racing fan, being anywhere within 40 miles of Saratoga Springs on Travers Day is probably a mistake.
Nevertheless, Gail and I figured if we arrived early at Villago (which means “villa on the lake”) Pizzeria and Restaurant on Ballston Lake we’d avoid the crowd.
We arrived about 5:30 just as the main race began. Patrons’ and employees’ attention was focused on the two large screen TVs temporarily paralyzing normal restaurant business. We decided to go with the flow.
Villago only accepted reservations for six or more guests, so we were unable to sit near the already spoken-for front windows overlooking Ballston Lake. In retrospect, we should have requested one of the dozen tables on the patio, where it was quieter despite construction still under way.
Ballston Lake would probably provide adequate natural ambiance for the large dining area lined with a bar and windows. We found the Adirondack “memorabilia” scattered throughout superfluous.
Server Sarah seated us at one of the 16 indoor tables and took our beverage order. Studying the dozen appetizers on the menu, Gail ordered Crispy Truffled Artichoke Hearts ($10.99). Since vegetables were not included with entrees, I chose the Wedge Salad ($10.99).
A mountain of artichokes arrived, hot and crispy. Gail found them a little oily and I concurred. Served in a wide shallow bowl, my ample salad of iceberg, bacon, tomatoes and gorgonzola crumbles was uncharacteristically unconstructed with a side of gorgonzola vinaigrette.
Based on name alone, I might order the Bambino Buco ($7.99), Korean BBQ pork wings (so pigs DO fly!) next time.
We brought home the uneaten portion of our appetizers. Gail appreciated the servers boxing the leftovers in the kitchen instead of bringing out the empty container for the customer to pack.
Entrées were chosen from three categories on the menu: Entrees, House Specialties and Pasta Creations. Pasta Creations allows the diner to build his own dish from a half dozen pastas (with a choice of regular, whole wheat or gluten-free), additions and sauces.
Gail chose Eggplant Napolitano ($16.99) “Modern Parmigiana,” three thick layers of lightly battered eggplant stacked with fresh mozzarella, marinara and basil from the Entrees category.
More than enough
The attractive creation was nestled in a bed of rigatoni and garnished with sautéed basil. Flavorful and impressively tall, it was beyond anything she could manage in one sitting.
My Linguini with White Clam Sauce ($16.99) arrived steaming and topped with seven small clams on a mound of al dente linguini swimming in virgin olive oil and a generous amount of minced clams and garlic. I found the flood of oil and clams as overpowering as marinara can be on seafood.
Gail suggested that some warm Italian bread from Perreca’s would have been welcomed to mop up the sauces remaining from our entrees.
Having saved room for dessert, Gail opted for the Fresh Strawberry Shortcake ($6.99) on the daily features, while I chose the Key Lime Pie ($5.99) from the regular menu.
Unconvinced that the strawberries on the shortcake were fresh, Gail described the smallish baking powder biscuit as tasteless and dry. My Key Lime Pie fared better, though it was sweet without the balance of the limes’ tartness. Topped by an inch or two of meringue, it was more like a lemon meringue pie than the traditional key lime version with a small dollop of sweetened whipped cream garnish.
The menu was extensive. Depending on the time of day and one’s mood, a diner might order anything from pub food to full dinners. Besides the already mentioned appetizers, entrees, salads and desserts, you can order soup, side dishes like Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese or Sauteed Kale and Red Lentils ($7).
Pizza comes in an array of sizes and toppings with a choice of regular, whole wheat or gluten-free crusts. Calzones ($10-17), Strombolis ($8-12) and Hot Focaccias ($8.99 to $11.99) are available, along with burgers described as half-pound black angus short rib and chuck beef served on a brioche roll with French fries and a pickle ($9.99), and available with a variety of cheeses and toppings.
We’re thinking about returning to Villago when the leaves are turning and the horses have headed south. I still want to give those flying pigs a shot.
It may be unfair to compare a new restaurant with its former existence. Nevertheless Gail noted that the former place on the lake where she had good times and radiated warmth from its fireplace was now replaced by the cold sterility of two large screen TVs and a noisy bar.