Back in the day, we had a wonderful family owned and operated Italian restaurant. The Italian Villa, extremely popular with so many locals, was located in the building now functioning as Rikenjaks Brewing Company on Ryan St. in Lake Charles. The Villa, as it was universally called, was a special place–the kind of restaurant for anniversaries, birthdays, popping-the-question–you know what I am talking about. The food was so good that many of us were weekly regulars; it was our long-time Friday night place.
Papa Marco Sperandeo, chef, raconteur and gregarious proprietor was unforgettable. He worked the place like a conductor controls an orchestra. Prepping in the kitchen, creating his masterful Sicilian dishes, recommending the right wine and making sure the front of the house was aligned with the great celestial movement was his forte. He would visit every table, pass on words of wisdom, and tell a quick funny story, all the while making sure that everyone was happy with their meal. He seemed to always start with “Guess what?” and proceed with a great anecdote. The man was a master at his craft.
This long introduction is a prelude to the opening of The Villa by his son Mike, who eventually operated Italian Villa after the passing of his father. It will be located downtown on Pujo St. and I’m sure it will be worth the drive for those of us not in the immediate area. Mike is reviving the spirit of the old place and is going to use some of his father’s great old recipes while adding some new and I’m sure exciting dishes of his own.
One of my great favorites at the old place was Papa Marco’s crab fingers, an appetizer that you could not pass up. Individual crab claws, cracked out of the shell were served generously with “Capri” sauce, a secret blend of the red and white sauces that only Marco made. Let me tell you, a serving of his Crab Fingers was an gourmet experience. I have visited with Mike and strongly hinted that he should not begin to continue this venture without that dish. Good luck, Mike. I’ll see you down there; get my order of crab fingers ready!
This year has been one to remember. So many things, both good and bad have occurred. Having experienced great loss, yet having been most fortunate in so many other ways, we can all look forward to the New Year and hope that 2017 is a year of progress and stability. We’ve had enough variability in 2016 to carry us forward for quite awhile. Whether life worked out in your favor or not, that is the past and only the memories remain. The future awaits us and we only can make it better or worse. With those two options available, let us choose to make it better for all of us. Let’s get past the downside of the prior and look for love, prosperity and betterment for our collective future.
I have been blessed to be able to write this column for you since almost the very first issue of The Jambalaya News and have gratefully received many kind and complimentary remarks from you, my readers. (Well, I did receive a few less than complimentary, but that goes along with the territory!) I want to wish all of my readers the Merriest of Christmases and an extremely Happy New Year as we continue on together. See you next year with more Tips from Tip!