Villaggio's - From Torino to Tampa
Villaggio's of Lutz delivers authentic Italian dishes to the Lutz community.
From Torino to Tampa, Villaggio's current owner and head chef Giuseppe Mascali has developed and refined his culinary skills across decades and continents.
Mascali grew up in Torino, Italy, where his mother, Anna, was a chef. Mascali got his first experience cooking for large groups in the Italian military. That is where he met whom he calls his right hand, head chef Ricardo Ciabatti. Ciabatti and Mascali have been friends and co-workers for 25 years. Ciabatti helped Mascali find work when Mascali moved to the United States in 1989. When Mascali took over Villaggio's in 1999, he eventually brought Ciabatti on board.
"In our 25 years of friendship, the wheel keeps turning," Ciabatti said. "When he first came here (United States) I was in a position where I could get him a job, now it is his turn to give a new job."
Mascali has more than a right hand operating his business. Mascali's left hand, Jimmy Castillo, is the other head chef and has been at Villaggio's for 10 years. Castillo is Columbian-born but has made the transition to preparing authentic Italian dishes seamlessly.
"Italian was something new for me," Castillo said. "Everything Italian is different (than Columbian) the sauce, the preparation."
Yet, Castillo and Ciabatti form a strong tandem that can often be seen running out food to the table, pouring drinks, whatever keeps the restaurant moving. The main engine of the restaurant is Mascali, who also can be seen running food, seating guests, whatever is needed.
Mascali's last piece to the puzzle is whom he calls his, "better half" harpist Jennifer Euliano. Euliano plays the harp on Thursdays through Sundays in the evening, usually between 8 and 10 p.m. Mascali is adamant that his restaurant be relaxing and offer top shelf food and wine.
The restaurant has grown from a 70-seat, 2,000-square-foot dining room in 1999, into a 6,000-square-foot tour of Italy that can seat up to 160 guests. The main dining room is flanked by a lobby on one side and a small bar on the other side. Through the dining room is a 60-seat banquet room used for private events and dining room overflow. Through the banquet room and a door that reads, "La la Land" is the 27-person cork room featuring a massive Lazy Susan, nestled in right next to Villaggio's wine cellar. There is even an outdoor patio that opens when the weather permits.
Mascali, allergic to raw tomatoes as a youth, takes pride in his tomato sauce and claims it as his signature dish. Any guest sampling Villaggio's Chicken Cacciatorre can understand this. Mascali is also very proud of his steaks, veal chops, different cuts of lamb. He even caters his menu to the diverse seafood options available in a coastal city. Main course entrees run from $20 to $25 and Villaggio's is open from 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and open until 11 p.m. on weekends.