il Villagio (East Rutherford), July 13, 2007
Danna and I worked late on a beautiful but steamy Friday and were starving when we finally connected at the Secaucus Junction. We couldn't wait to get home and eat yet struggled to think of a place that wasn't a diner or fast food joint on the way home via Rt. 3 or Rt. 17.
Then a light bulb went off in Danna's head and she suggested il Villagio, located right on Rt. 17 North, not far from the remarkably outdated Fiesta, a wedding factory/disco/cocktail lounge.
This place looks like Artie Buco's restaurant in both style, staff and presumed clientele and therefore Danna, my Italian princess, fit in just fine and with welcome arms from the maitre d'.
Our waiter's accent was thicker than the individual slab butter served in a typical ceramic monkey dish. He read off a specials menu that was longer than most diner menus.
We both started with the spiedini but for different reasons. Danna remembers this as her favorite dish at this restaurant, which is where her grandfather, Conrad "Popsie" Policastro used to come all the time. I still have yet to have a better version than the one they serve at Aldo's in Wyckoff, and am therefore on the hunt for a superior version. This didn't beat Aldo's but scored big for its baked (as opposed to fried) version with an appropriate (read: not swimming in it) amount of anchovy/bechamel sauce.
Danna had a pasta alla vodka for her entree and I had one of the specials that stuck out - a striped bass livornese. Having had success with the softshell crabs livornese at 'Cesca (and softshell crabs tempura at Jean Georges earlier in the day), I decided this would be a good time to compare livornese sauces. 'Cesca's beats this one out, but not by much. I think it's a case of ingredients more than execution. The striped bass was as good as one could expect though perhaps was slightly overcooked from sitting in the sauce. Alas, a very good dish and one I'd recommend.
We skipped dessert although the hand made zabaglione looked and smelled delicious. Next time for sure.
Service was efficient and very gracious. The room was a bit dated, but they are working on that - a huge addition/renovation is underway. Overall, a very good experience.