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The new restaurant on the block: Decatur's Villagio Italian Kitchen

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This past December, Villagio Italian Kitchen took occupancy of the Clairmont Road space (just off the Decatur Avenue intersection) previously occupied by Capozzi's for the past five years.

With a combination of chef Elliott Hollinger's training (exclusively for Villagio Italian Kitchen) by way of master chef John Kanady--a top trainer at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, coupled with al fresco dining thanks to the recent break in weather, Villagio is on par to become one of Decatur's hot spots!

A seven-day work week includes lunch and dinner weekdays, with dinner only on Saturdays, followed by a new brunch and dinner on Sundays. While next Sunday's special $19.95 Easter buffet brunch promises to be spectacular, yesterday's a la carte menu more than justified a good reason to return.

To get the morning started, the norm of a Bloody Mary ($5) or $8 Grand Mimosa with Grand Marnier was heightened by two additional options: An $8 French Martini and an $8 Brunch Punch. The pineapple and raspberry combination in the French Martini was nice. Next time I'd ask for a more premium vodka for less of a bite. However, the Brunch Punch was sheer perfection! Smooth and exotic is how the combination of coconut, Amaretto, rum, with hints of pineapple all lay across the palate.

Numerous menu sides included a Brown Sugar Bacon ($4), Fried Calamari ($8), Fresh Fruit at $3.50 and more. Of them, the fried calamari was tender, which is always a good sign of freshness. They were seasoned to perfection with a hint of seafood seasoning and a batter coating that served up crispy and not greasy or fishy tasting.

With a good friend in tow, we chose several entree items from yesterday's list. Of them, we opted for the $14 Italian Frittata, the $12 Polenta Pancakes, $13 French Toast and the $14 Shrimp & Grits. Each included a side of toast, polenta (think grits) and bacon.

The French toast--made with brioche, was simply superb. Between the richness of the brioche and the custardy batter an a marsala maple syrup, the flavor was nearly as rich as a dessert. In fact, it reminded me of a Cinnabon cinnamon roll! Accompanied by the same marsala maple syrup, the polenta batter gave the pancakes a degree of crispness that made for a heartily satisfying pancake that felt good going down, versus a heavy pancake that plops down on your stomach and tires you out for the rest of the day. Both the pancake and French Toast included a container of melted butter--a courtesy that makes such as difference for the slow eater whose butter does not always have a chance to melt by the time it's spread. As for the frittata--laden with an abundance of savory Italian sausage chunks, onions, garlic, red peppers and tomatoes baked in an egg batter, it was perfect for the meat and potato lover willing to experience life with a twist.

Finally, both the ambiance and the service at Villagio's is sure to make for a comfortable experience. In fact, whenever a business is starting, those who become part of the ground floor experience are often shown favor down the line in cases where the staff is warm and friend. And when the leader is well seasoned in the game of hospitality, such as the case with owner, Kamal Bhatia--the staff typically follows.

For additional images, see www.travelinginmyworld.com.

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