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Beyond Sandy Hook Center’s hustle and bustle, The Villa Restaurant is quietly tucked away just east of the intersection of Church Hill, Washington, Glen, and Riverside Roads. The gray, stone building is nestled between the scenic foliage and landscaping, making it an oasis for guests.
Inside, the friendly staff mainly comprises owner Vito Kala’s family members. As Mr Kala operates the restaurant, his sister Patty Latifi manages the waitstaff and doubles as hostess. Both of the siblings had their children work at The Villa while attending school. Now their nieces and nephews of age have continued the family tradition, including their young nephew, Brandon Vejseli, who works as a busboy.
It all started, though, with their father, Nebi Kala, better known as “Pops.” He had originally been in the restaurant business and supported Vito’s dream of The Villa (whose first restaurant incarnation was called Pizza Villa back in 1981). The Villa we know today, which serves up Northern Italian Mediterranean cuisine with an American flare, was established in Sandy Hook in 1998.
When explaining the lineage of The Villa, Ms Latifi said with a grin, “We’ve been in the restaurant business all our lives.”
A photo of Pops hangs across from the bustling kitchen and commemorates his profound impact on their business. The plaque is titled “Our Foundation” and shows Pops smiling as he works in the kitchen. Below the photo, it tenderly labels him as a “Chef, Short-order Cook, Father, and Best Friend.”
A variety of refined paintings adorn the walls the main dining room, which seats 96. The walls are a warm red hue with hanging lights and chandeliers illuminating the space. A white fireplace adds to the ambiance of the dining room, next to the hostess booth.
To the left of the entrance is the Octagon Room, a quiet, secluded space with faux stone painted walls, large glass windows with elegant drapes, and a domed ceiling that depicts a light-blue sky mural. The room can seat up to 36, and it is frequently reserved for small banquets, bridal or baby showers, birthday or anniversary parties, business conferences, or other private gatherings.
The Villa also offers outside dining on its large patio area, bringing its total seating capacity to more than 150 patrons.
Ultimately, it is not just the staff that is family, but many of the customers who frequent the restaurant. Ms Latifi said, “Because we have been here so long, people know us. We feel like we are part of the Sandy Hook community — not just as a restaurant. We have roots here.”
A Sample Of The Menu
Appetizers: Among the different appetizers offered is a grilled flatbread option for $9 topped with the choice of fig jam, prosciutto, Gorgonzola cheese, and arugula or with pesto, fresh mozzarella, and grape tomatoes.
Soup: Every Friday and Saturday The Villa serves its signature lobster bisque, which has become a customer favorite.
Salads: The baby green salad with Gorgonzola cheese, walnuts, and honey balsamic vinaigrette is a standout, as is The Villa grilled chicken Cobb salad, which is made up of chopped mixed greens, Gorgonzola cheese, pancetta, avocado, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, and creamy Italian dressing.
Special Menu: The new midweek lunch special runs Tuesday through Thursday, from 11 am to 3 pm. It includes a soft drink, a soup or salad starter item, and an entree, for $10.95. The entrees to choose from for this deal are: eggplant or chicken parmigiana; a baked Italian combo; red or white clam linguini; lasagna; a sausage, meatball, green pepper, and cheese casserole; or a personal-sized cheese pizza.
Seafood: A popular seafood dish at The Villa is the seafood risotto.
Pizza: There are more than ten different gourmet pizza options, as well as traditional pizza selections that all come in small, medium, large, or personal sizes.
Entrees: Entrees ranges in price from $13 for penne vodka to $26 for herb rubbed rack of lamb, which comes with garlic mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, and a pomegranate demi-glace sauce.
Desserts: All desserts are prepared fresh daily. There are three signature desserts you can always count on at The Villa: tiramisu, cannoli (filled upon ordering), and chocolate mousse dressed with a raspberry sauce.
Kids’ Menu: All kids’ meals are just $10 and come with a soft drink. Choices include a personal pizza, pasta with tomato sauce, macaroni & cheese, chicken tenders and french fries, or burger sliders and french fries.
Martinis, Wine, and Beer: The signature drink is The Villa-tini, a refreshing martini with ruby red vodka, a hint of citrus juices, and a splash of cranberry juice.
The Villa, at 4 Riverside Road, is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 11 am to 10 pm. Closed on Mondays. Takeout, catering, and seating reservations are accepted by calling 203-426-4740. Gluten-free entrees are available upon request. For additional information, visit thevillarestaurantofnewtown.com.