Our friend Rita gave us a heads-up on Villagio, a small Persian cafe, that she couldn’t say enough good things about and gave us the motivation to go check it out. Villagio opened its doors in mid-December, 2013 in a retail space on York Road in the Stoneleigh neighborhood previously occupied by a Sam’s Bagels.
Inside, Villagio has its own character with a mix of different types of tables and chairs; somehow it works and has a nice feel to it. The menu includes a dozen appetizers (most $4 – $5), five soups ($4 – $5 – Our friend Rita particularly praised the Lentil Soup), six salads ($4 – $6), a dozen entrees (many chicken, beef & lamb kebobs at $10, some seafood and special combinations at $12 – $17 – all entrees come rice pilaf but you can get 1/2 rice and 1/2 Persian salad for $1 extra).
With help from our waiter, Adrian, the four of us decided to start by sharing two appetizers – Eggplant Villagio and Dolmah (Persian take on stuffed grape leaves (both $4.50 and include hot naan bread)
Our appetizers arrived with a basket of triangles of naan bread warm from the oven…
The dolmah were warm and very good – and very different from the standard Greek style equivalent. The warm mixture of rice, onions and mint were tasty – the special creamy dressing surprised us with a sweet edge that we all decided was great and worked well with the dolmah.
The “Eggplant Villagio” dip quickly got a big “Thumbs Up!” – scooped on triangles of warm naan bread (or even scooped up with some of the lettuce from the dolmah plate!), it provided an unusual but compelling set of flavors. The menu says that it is a combination of roasted eggplant, whey, garlic, onion and mint – Yet, there’s some seasoning at work that we couldn’t figure out (but really liked)
For our main course, Tom selected the Veggie Stew ($8) with a special Shirazi Salad ($4), Paul opted for the Lamb Koobideh Kebab ($9.50), Marty decided on the Shrimp Kebab ($14) and John opted for the Chicken Soltani combo with both chicken and beef kebab ($12). Both Marty and John also decided to splurge an extra dollar and get the half rice/half salad option instead of all rice.
Villagio doesn’t have a liquor license – but is “BYOB” (and it seems like that there isn’t a corkage fee!) Marty and John decided to try a special “made here” Persian yoghurt-based drink, “Doogh” ($2); the taste of yoghurt was predominant and neither of us could pick up on the presence of the mint which was supposed to help flavor it. We were less than thrilled with the “Doogh”. Marty even tried adding a packet of sugar but that didn’t seem to do the trick. Our waiter suggested perhaps Doogh was an acquired taste! Perhaps he was right!
Tom’s Veggie Stew looked delicious (though he found it a bid bland). His special tomato salad had more taste to it and together with his rice pilaf, he had a full meal!
Paul’s spicy ground lamb kebob with pilaf proved to be very good (and a very generous serving! He ended up taking half of it home with him!)Marty’s shrimp came with a special rice pilaf, a roasted tomato and a Persian salad with bits of feta, cucumber, onion mixed with dark greens and a creamy dressing. He really like what he ordered (but he finished off the six shrimp and wished his dish had come with more! He may have been a tad envious of the particularlly generous portions that Paul and John had! <Wink>)
John’s combo included a chicken filet kebab and ground spicy beef kebab along with a roasted plum tomato, a salad and rice pilaf. The beef was very tasty but the chicken – which probably had been marinated as well brushed with some special sauce was memorably spicy and tasty (if you’re fond of mild, plain chicken, this is probably not the dish for you!). John liked it so much that next time (yup, there definitely will be a next time! <Wink>), he’d be likely to order just the chicken instead of the chicken and beef combo. A definite “Thumbs Up!” dish and highly recommended!
Marty started a conversation about why there weren’t more shrimp on his plate with our waiter – Somehow… Adrian charmed Marty out of being curmudgeonly about wanting more shrimp into being new friends!
The generous servings of appetizer and entree didn’t leave us with much room for dessert. We decide to share an order of Persian Ice Cream ($4). Topped with a large mound of whipped cream, the rich ice cream with bits of pistachio nut and flavored with “Rose water” proved to be very good. (It was SO good that we forgot to take a photo in our eagerness to sample it!)
The very good tasting food (and quite reasonably priced with more than half of the menu items under $10!) , excellent service made a big impression on all four of us and we left having decided that we’d be back for sure for another meal at Villagio! (Judging from the pretty busy dining room with more than half the tables full at 8:30 on a Thursday summer evening, we’d have to guess that we’re not the only ones who have decided that they like Villagio!)
And lest we forget, a BIG thanks to our friend Rita for telling us about Villagio Cafe! <Wink>
FACTS: Villagio ; Stoneleigh ; 6805 York Road (about a mile south of Towson University); 410-372-2201 ; http://villagiocafe.net/ ; No alcohol but “BYOB” ; Vegetarian options; Open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner: Mon – Sat from 11 am to 9 pm; Sunday from 12 pm to 8 pm; on street parking only.