My wife and I have been on a diet. And after a week of healthy eating, it was time to break that miserable pattern of unhappiness with something full of starch, carbs, and gooey cheese. Really, Italian food has got to be one of the most efficient ways of killing a low-carb regime. Pasta, bread, cream…it is a gladiator that has been trained to slaughter any cultivated ideas of wholesome nutrition.
Villalba Italian Restaurant is nestled in a strip mall with a few other restaurants (Bojangles, Las Palmas, Subway) and a Publix. Inside, the scene is mostly older folks or those with families (many children were there). They happened to have a jazz trio set up in a corner playing live music, which was nice. It was comfortable – the kind of comfort that seems appropriate for a couple who’ve been going out for a few months, not necessarily a first date kind of vibe. And definitely a bit too comfortable if one has been trying to stick to healthier eating.
The menu was a mix of standard Italian American pasta dishes with some pizza and calzone options. There was a modest wine list, most available by glass or bottle. Every meal is served with a small loaf of their buttery house bread and a warm bowl of their red sauce to dip it in. The best part of the the bread was the sauce. The bread itself mostly served as a plain delivery vehicle for something that exploded with basil, oregano, and crushed tomatoes.
We ordered up two dishes to share: lobster ravioli ($18) in an Alfredo sauce and the lasagna ($12).
The presentation of the lobster ravioli couldn’t be more boring. Sure, it was fairly symmetrical, but the pasta dough and accompanying sauce made for a large plate filled with a similar, off-white color. At the very least, it could have used some fresh crushed black pepper or some parsley garnish to give it some more color. That being said, the flavor was rich with chunks of lobster, the pasta was cooked perfectly al dente, giving it a nice chewy feel. The sauce was liquid butter and cheese – exactly what it was supposed to be. The six ravioli on the plate was very filling from the sheer force of the butter alone.
The lasagna had a similar profile in that they must have used an entire dairy farm’s worth of cheese to create it.
I didn’t know that in advance so when asked if I wanted some freshly grated Parmesan on top, I gladly indulged. I rarely pass up anything free, it’s a good value! Except this time, it was more than I bargained for.
This lasagna is filled with spiced sausage, meat, cheese, and their house red sauce. It was rich in a different kind of way: peppery with lots of basil, fennel, and Italian herbs. Because it was served so hot, the grated cheese on top melted instantly and was absorbed by the gooey mass of cheese underneath to become one large cheese monster resting on the lasagna. It was freakin’ delicious. However, after the many bites of lasagna, the buttery-cheese ravioli, and the bread, that richness became overwhelming and we had to depart on semi-sweet sorrow. The sorry would really be how I felt later the next day after consuming 45 pounds of cheese.
If you’re looking for some Italian American comfort by way of cheese, butter, and tomato, this may be your jam. It’s better than the Olive Garden and it’s definitely better than anything you’d eat on a diet.
Villalba Italian Restaurant, 15568 Old Hickory Blvd, Nashville, TN 37211