On Saturday night, Nové Italian Restaurant was crazy busy.
“Buonasera,” the hostess said warmly, as she whisked Hubby and me to a table that we had reserved on their website.
In the dining room, we noticed people of all ages laughing and lingering over their food. Nové is family-friendly, with a devoted crowd of regulars. Near the front door, a couple dressed in flannel, fleece and jeans were enjoying their dinner at the bar.
If you’ve driven north up Route 9 from Saratoga Springs, you’ve seen this place. A larger-than-life-sized statue of a rearing black stallion looms outside the one-story white building. In the summer, you can play bocce behind the restaurant.
Long Island racehorse owner Louis Lazzinnaro called his Italian-American restaurant Sergio’s when it opened in 1999.
Four years ago, he took the business up a notch and rechristened it as “Nové,” the Italian word for “nine,” and last year, Nové’s wine list was recognized by Spectator magazine.
Nové Italian Restaurant
WHERE: 707 Route 9, Wilton. 583-8877, www.novesaratoga.com, Facebook
WHEN: 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Thur., 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri. and Sat.; 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.
HOW MUCH: $58.30 without tip
MORE INFO: Children's menu, takeout, delivery
Stefanie, Lazzinnaro’s wife, is known for her European-inspired cheesecake, which is served at the restaurant all year round.
We were impressed with the army of servers, outfitted formally in black and white, who closely monitored our table and delivered our food.
First to appear were warm, hefty squares of a soft, flour-dusted ciabatta-type bread, along with big bottles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
We caught the aroma of our appetizer, Baked Clams Oreganata ($11.95), before it was set down next to our tea-light candle.
“It’s really garlicky. I like that,” said Hubby.
Six littlenecks, nice and hot, capped with crunchy seasoned bread crumbs, got even better when Hubby baptized them with juice from a big piece of lemon that came in its own tiny squeezing pouch.
Next to arrive was my Arugula Salad ($8.95), which a healthful-eating friend had highly recommended as “big enough for a light meal.”
Baby greens, grape tomatoes, pine nuts, shaved Parmesan and, something you don’t often see, hearts of palm, all tossed with a balsamic dressing, and served with a half-dozen avocado slices fanned at the edge of the plate.
Several friends raved about Nové’s pizza, so when Hubby decided he was in the mood for Veal Parmigiano ($18.95), I ordered a personal 12-inch pie ($10.50) with eggplant ($3).
From their brick oven onto a big white dinner plate, this pizza was the real deal. With every bite, strands of gooey fresh mozzarella stretched away from the crust. The thin, small slabs of eggplant were slighted crisped but not breaded. Even the sauce had character.
My only quibble was with the crust, which was perfectly crisped but flavorless.
“That’s what you get for ordering a whole-wheat crust,” Hubby observed.
He’s right. It's not "real pizza" crust, and very few places get it right.
His Veal Parmigiano, with a more than ample side of spaghetti, had a bigger problem. When I tried to sample a piece, I couldn’t cut it with a fork. It just wasn’t tender and required a knife.
“But I really like the sauce. It’s a sweet sauce,” he said.
We will return to Nové.
The pizza was dreamy, and you can order it thick or thin, white or with toppings like broccoli rabe, prosciutto, basil and ricotta.
We loved the casual, neighborly atmosphere.
Because of the generous servings, we skipped dessert. Next time, we’ll save room for Stefanie’s cheesecake or homemade tiramisu.