For: cheese and charcutiere
7145 Main St., Clifton
Marcus Silva, owner of Riely Construction, hired Joe Ortega to manage his first restaurant, Trattoria Villagio. Oretga’s previous experience includes Outback Steakhouse and Bonefish Grill and the corporate force is strong at this Italian-style restaurant.
While the space feels cozy, mangers and hosts wear headsets, making it look more like Cheesecake Factory than a spot in downtown Clifton. But some of the dishes buck the chain mentality. Shrimp cuddles into a tomato and gorgonzola sauce that reigns in the funk of the blue cheese for a simpler, cream-forward feel. A cannellini bean soup appears as a chunky puree brimming with soft beans that is pure, homey warmth. Spaghetti carbonara is piggy all over, thanks to ample pancetta. (The menu says every pasta is handmade, but as of March, only half of them actually were.) Villagio imports its charcutiere and cheese from Italy and the platters are a smart starter, especially sitting at the bar with sampling as an option.
“It’s run very corporate, very structured,” says Oretega. But it’s this way, he says, so “we’re able to develop other stores.” Maybe you can never go home again, but mimicking mom and dad’s touch isn’t a bad thing. -Stefanie Gans