I love all things Italian. The food, the men, the cars. To be honest, the non-driver in me would of purchased a Vespa years ago if I didn’t strongly feel it would lead me to weekly trips to A&E. It’s no surprise then, that my favourite restaurant in Basildon is Villagio.
Let’s get this out of the way first, the location isn’t exactly ‘pretty’. Villagio is in the Festival Leisure Park, which as my friend from Birmingham described it ‘is like a giant carpark’. But the one plus of this, is that because it is located on the town’s only entertainment/industrial park, the transport links are great.
Thankfully, when you step inside, you can easily forget you are ‘in a car park’ once you enter the restaurant. The warm and rustic interior will immediately make you feel relaxed and cosy. You can see the pizza oven as you walk in, and they have ‘booths’ which offer just enough privacy without making you feel claustrophobic.
Recently, a Bella Italia has popped up on the same estate, so you will probably be wondering what I am going to tell you about Villagio that will make it better than it’s chain restaurant counterpart.
Yes, isn’t it weird that the main reason you go to a restaurant is to eat? I always thought it was for the prosecco, but there you go. Myself and my Mum tend to often visit Villagio when we have something to celebrate, or if one of us has had a particularly bad week. I’ve tried many a dish, and there are loads I could easily recommend. The Pollo Milanese just packs in everything you could want in one meal. Chicken, tomato sauce, cheese and spaghetti. I’ve found some Pollo Milanese on previous occasions to be quite dry, due to the breading of the chicken and an inadequate amount of sauce, but Villagio get the balance just right.
I also like their Penne Arribiata as I am a fan of spicing up my life wherever possible, being that picking something spicy when I go out to eat or shouting ‘Spice up your life’ to strangers out of my friends car window. When I’ve been to other Italian restaurants and had this dish, I’ve always felt they are not brave enough to go for it with the chilli. I mean, I can understand they don’t want people to die in their establishment (you wouldn’t believe how many forms they would have to fill out if that happened), but seriously, if you pick chilli, you want chilli. Well done Villagio for being out there and actually putting enough in to taste.
Although these are my favourites, the day of my most recent visit last Friday, I didn’t think I had room to tuck away a full carb loaded meal. This was the day in the office that ‘Cheeseboard Friday’s’ were born, so I opted for something lighter, a chicken, bacon and avocado salad.
It has always been my belief that salad is a punishment. If I ever have kids, this is exactly what I will use on them if they draw on the wall or shave the cat. It’s never been something I’ve enjoyed eating, but after doing near on an entire block of Wenslydale with Cranberry something had to give. The Villagio salad comes with a honey and mustard dressing, which is a win win. Not only does it compliment the meat and avocado, but when you get to the boring leafy bit it tastes nice too.
I’ve never been one for dessert, but my Mum always does the taste test for me and if you want an indication of how good they are, just check out this cheesecake.