I had first been to Villa Vito four or five years ago with a friend during one of our ghost hunting excursions in the quaint-yet-haunted river town of New Hope. I did not remember much except a small dining room in the front of the building and that we literally stopped in for one slice of pizza each. Service was extremely friendly, and despite our minuscule order, treated us as if we had just ordered a five course meal. As was the theme of our visit that day, we had asked if the restaurant was haunted. My friend and I were then regaled for what seemed like a half hour with ghost stories and sordid tales, most of which occurred on the upper floors. I left there always wanting to return. Despite numerous visits to town over the years and walking past it many times, I would not get a chance to actually eat there again until this past weekend. The occasion was an 80th birthday party for my friend Walter, who used to manage the restaurant Wildflowers and has been featured several times on this blog.
One thing that was the same was the service: it was extremely friendly and attentive. In the beginning, they walked around with appetizers and were always at the ready to remove a dirty plate or get a drink for you from the bar. However, for the party, we were seated at the outdoor patio behind the building which I never knew existed. There was an area sectioned off for the bar with a couple of high-top tables and one long sit-down table. Another seating area was also partially closed. The majority of the space was open-air and contained tables with umbrellas. It was a hot afternoon, but there was plenty of shade.
The patio area was rustic and cute. The bar was tiny and their only whiskey was Jameson, but I won’t hold that against them. The bartender was easy-going and friendly, and drinks were cheap, especially for the area. Going into this, I had read some recent reviews of Villa Vito which are not exactly sparkling. I did not know what to expect, but I am someone that takes Yelp/Google reviews only with a grain of salt. In actuality, I found myself thoroughly enjoying all the food that we had. The appetizers were delightful: a shrimp ring and the classic raw veggies platter was accompanied by homemade stromboli, some excellent crab-stuffed mushrooms, stuffed eggplant (kind of like a dry rollatini), and something called “Taco Dip” which was heavenly when spread on toast points they provided—it was specially made by the chef’s sister I was told. I’m not even a fan of eggplant, but I found myself going back for more even after entrees were brought out. There were a few more items which I did not try.
Normally, I would not review a restaurant based on a party, but since almost every dish present was on the menu, I figured it would be alright. Hell, if food sitting in trays above sterno tastes good, then actual meals in the dining room must be as well. There was an array of Italian mainstays: chicken parm, veal parm, chicken Francaise, sausage and pepper platters separately done hot and sweet, meatballs, and baked ziti. I could not resist the veal, as it is something I have only eaten once or twice in my life. It was absolutely delicious. The veal itself was fall-apart tender, the breading was light, sauce flavorful, and there was just enough cheese. I thought the ziti was solid as well, as was the sausage. There was nothing I tried which I did not like.
A few drinks and some great conversation with friends old and new later, it was time for dessert. Walter requested Yankee Doodles (a childhood favorite) with candles in them for everyone rather than a cake. The restaurant then provided additional cupcakes, watermelon slices, and Ambrosia.
You will not find the “fine dining experience” at Villa Vito. What you will find is, instead, an old school Italian red sauce joint which has not bowed down to the pretentiousness surrounding it. I love New Hope and consider it almost a second home, but sometimes you just want some down-to-earth homecooking. Walter is a dear friend of mine, and this restaurant has been very close to his heart for decades. It was an excellent party and this restaurant did its part in making his special day truly special. I am going to give them 4 out of 5 stars and hope they stick around for a while…and don’t change a thing.
Originally posted here on my food blog.