Villaggio never fails to please the palate 1

Waiter Bobby holds up two entrees: filet mignon cabernet and veal scaloppine at Villagio in Whitestone.

It’s always wonderful to go back to a favorite restaurant and discover all over again why you like it. That’s definitely the case with Villaggio Ristorante in Whitestone, an Italian dining experience that will never let you down.

Opened almost 10 years ago in a former bakery, Villaggio is located at 150-07 14 Road, near the Cross Island Parkway. You enter to a cherry wood bar and brick-oven pizza-making area, a warm and cozy spot during this blustery winter.

The dining room is filled with paintings, murals and attentive waiters. It’s like being in a charming home in Italy with impeccable service. There is also an enclosed sunroom with a fireplace, but most diners these days preferred the cozier main room.

Our waiter, Bobby, who has worked at Villaggio for six years, is a great guide. He’ll tell you the specials, the favorites and advises that special orders, such as no salt, are welcomed.

We started with an assortment of hot antipasto that included fried calamari and shrimp, baked clams and eggplant rollatini.The combination was well balanced and satisfying. We also tried Mom’s famous meatball in marinara sauce that is pure comfort food for the winter-weary.

And finally, we ended our appetizer sortie with a house special, melanze Villagio, consisting of breaded eggplant with mozzarella, prosciutto, basil and fresh tomatoes baked in a tomato sauce. This has a totally different and delightful taste from the traditional eggplant parmigiana.

My guest and I couldn’t resist trying a Caesar salad and we weren’t disappointed. The dressing was especially tasty — understated and delicious with a hint of anchovies and garlic.

For our pasta course we had two standouts: penne del sindaco and rigatoni alla siciliana. We couldn’t rave enough about the penne, which featured bacon, onions and mushrooms in a vodka sauce. It was the hit of the evening. The rigatoni included eggplant, black olives and tomato sauce topped with goat cheese.

For entrees, we tried veal scaloppine and the filet mignon cabernet. Both satisfied our meat cravings. The scaloppine came with asparagus, shiitake mushrooms and sage in a cognac sauce. The steak also included shiitake mushrooms and sage in a red wine reduction with a dab of cream topped with mozzarella. The cheese atop the filet was a nice and unexpected touch.

Sides included sauteed zucchini and roasted new potatoes.

Even though stuffed, we couldn’t resist dessert and tried tiramisu and a lemon tart. Both hit the mark for flavor.

Villaggio is open seven days a week, noon to 10 p.m. and until 11 p.m. on weekends. There’s free parking too. For information, call (718) 747-1111.

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