BALLSTON LAKE — You can visit Villago for its pizza, but you’d be missing out on much of what they do well — delicious home-cooked Italian cuisine made with top-notch fresh ingredients.
Villago, which replaced the former, longtime Good Times Lakeview restaurant, opened in 2014 after renovations. The dining room is light-filled, with wood floors and a contemporary, simple decor that puts the vista of Ballston Lake, through a wall of windows, front and center.
On a pleasant evening, Kathy and I got one of about a half-dozen tables on the patio overlooking the lake and some top-heavy sunflowers. Our server helped us choose interesting and inexpensive wines by the glass, Belleruche French rose for Kathy ($8), Bacaro Pinot Grigio rosato ($7) for me. We shared the excellent fresh homemade bread served with olive oil and sweet, fruity balsamic vinegar, and thought about trying a flight of wines (four for $15) next time.
You can get pizza or a burger or panini for an inexpensive meal, or go the fine-dine route and enjoy an entree and specialty appetizers, like calamari ($11.99), crispy truffled artichoke hearts or warm Greek salad (both $10.99). Build a pasta dish with one of five sauces and add-ons like sun-dried tomatoes, meatballs or shrimp. House specialties include pork osso buco ($23.99) and veal
Florentine ($21.99), or choose from entrees like lasagna ($17.99), chicken parm ($16.99) and eggplant Napolitano ($16.99).
I started with a plate of eggplant fries ($7.99) that make eating your vegetables a breeze. Kathy called them “light as air.” Peeled eggplant was given a quick deep-fry that browned the batter and cooked the eggplant, then given a vigorous dusting with grated Parmesan cheese. I loved the chunky, tangy marinara and crispy coating.
Kathy had a healthy starter of sautéed kale and yellow lentils ($7). The glossy, lightly cooked greens retained a thin coating of tasty olive oil and were topped with grated Parmesan. “I taste garlic,” Kathy said. “And pepper,” she said, clearly enjoying both flavors. The cooked lentils retained a little bite, enough to make them interesting, she said.
Some reviews of Villago on travel and social media sites mention long waits for food, but that was not our experience. We had good service, with just-right intervals between courses and a server who was smart, friendly and on top of things.
Kathy dug into a beautiful bowlful of meaty, chunky Bolognese served over wide pappardelle noodles ($16.99). She held up an olive-sized chunk of beef. “Look at this,” she said, adding approvingly, “It’s very tasty, very meaty.” The pasta was cooked to her liking and aside from a little extra water at the bottom of the bowl, the dish was perfect.
The server nodded her approval when I’d ordered the haddock pomodoro ($18.99), and now I could understand why. It was a proud Italian flag of a dish, with cheese-topped whitefish served on crispy green spinach and a layer of ruby-colored San Marzano tomatoes.It tasted even better than it looked: The fish was delicate, the cheese-and-breadcrumb topping a bit crunchy, whole leaves of spinach were frizzled and crackling, and the tomatoes were zesty and heavenly. It was like the lightest chicken parm imaginable, I thought, as I twirled angel hair pasta into all that good stuff, mashing crinkly spinach with chunks of crimson tomato and flakes of cheese-topped fish.
Really, really heavenly.
Villago makes some desserts you should not miss, notably an old favorite, bread pudding. Kathy and I shared a blueberry version ($5.99) of the classic dessert, chunks of warm bread that soaked up all the fragrant vanilla sauce by the time we got to the bottom. Lovely.
The tab for our food, without drinks, came to $56.96 before tax and tip.
Al fresco dining opportunities are slipping away along with warm days. Stretch out the season a little longer by visiting Villago soon for an excellent lunch or an early dinner.
Villago Pizzeria & Ristorante
WHERE: 175 Lake Road, Ballston Lake, 518-280-0311, villagopizzeria.com.
WHEN: 4 to 10 p.m. Monday and Wednesday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday to Sunday. Closed Tuesday.
HOW MUCH: $56.96 for food, before tax and tip.
MORE INFO: Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express. Accommodations made for children’s meals. ADA compliant.