Congratulations to in the Kohl's Shopping Plaza! The busy restaurant won a reader's choice survey on Holmdel Patch Friday.
Villa Pizza won the most votes (36). in the Holmdel Commons came in close second (34).
At lunchtime on Friday, as bundled-up customers stood two deep at the counter placing orders, a pair of loyal customers enjoying pizza and shrimp with baby peas enjoyed a leisurely lunch in the dining room. "I want to marry the cook," said Florence Critella of Keansburg, who comes four times a week to Villa Pizza. "You'll have competition!" said her friend, Linda Gunzenhauser.
Villa Pizza was opened in 1986 by members of the same family that still own it now. Cousins and co-owners Giovanni Lubrano Lavadera, 36, of Middletown and Pasquale Lubrano Lavadera, 44, of Holmdel work together to offer freshly made Italian specialities.
"We try to make everything fresh every day," said Giovanni Lubrano Lavadera. "We make fresh sauce, we cut cheese."
Both came from Naples, Italy. They speak Italian to each other. They honor their mothers with their recipes. And they keep the TV tuned to the soccer drama playing out in Italian Football Serie A.
Upon a reader's suggestion this working editor sat down for a bowl of pasta fagioli in the recently redecorated Tuscan-inspired dining area with dark wooden tables and a tile floors. It was heavenly. Small cannellini beans mixed with ditalini pasta in a tomato-based soup, velvety with the puree based of celery and onions. A sprinkle of black pepper gave it zing. Warm bread served on the side. One feels healthier for eating it.
The restaurant is always bustling for lunch and dinner, and especially busy during Lent, when meat-avoiding Catholics turn toward pizza-Fridays instead. Being where it is, in a shopper's mecca, it also gets a nice bump on Black Friday. And there's the Superbowl, of course.
Customers come to Villa Pizza from as far away as Staten Island for favorites like Buffalo Pizza, said Giovanni Lubrano Lavadera. They have a steady clientele of loyal customers. "Most of them, when they call, I know what they want from their voice, before they even say it," he said.