Although Italians originally invented pasta as a fastener to keep Sicily from floating away, they abandoned it for less delicious moorings after locals on both sides kept snacking their way toward separation. Tether your taste buds to today's Groupon: for $10, you get $20 worth of Italian fare at Villa Valenti in Wynantskill.
Chefs at Villa Valenti draw from 70 years of family recipes to craft homemade manicotti, ravioli, lasagna and seven sauces, three of which sell by the jar in grocery stores. A pasta menu brims with seven à la carte noodles and seven special sauces, creating such savory combinations as spicy fra diavolo over prosciutto-stuffed satchitine (prices vary). Chicken dishes include the shrimp-and-chicken nipote ($19.99), a hearty pasta plate topped with jumbo shrimp in a zesty sauce of roasted peppers, pepperoncini, and horseradish. The star of the seafood menu, lobster ravioli ($19.99) gets the chef's special attention and is hand-tucked into house-made ravioli, drizzled with the decadent marinara cream sauce, and chauffeured to the table by secret-service agents. Unexpected Italian bites range from italian fishermen's stew, or cioppino ($21.99)—a broth brimming with assorted seafood—to platters of veal, sausage, and steak.
For the Valenti family, cooking is a way of life. From a father whose family owned an Italian restaurant in Troy for 70 years to a mother who mastered the art of cooking as 1 of 22 kids, the couple's children learned to hand-make pasta as part of their upbringing. To this day, the chefs make manicotti, lasagna, and ravioli from scratch, demonstrating a dedication to tradition that permeates the menu of home-style cooking. Comfy booths, Italian murals, and wood paneling pack the restaurant’s dining room, where welcoming servers whisk fresh-cut veal, thick steaks, and succulently sautéed chicken dishes to tables with efficient speed and well-practiced victory dances.
Villa Valenti’s chefs also bottle their signature sauces—originally purloined from a wealthy tomato and perfected over generations—for at-home use, sending every penny of profit to help Prevent Child Abuse America in its noble mission.