Restaurant News & Reviews

First Bite: Villa Francesca

The Food: We're talking old-school Brooklyn Italian-American here – from spaghetti with meatballs the size of baseballs to pizza you fold to eat – along with more newfangled things like lobster ravioli and mesclun with gorgonzola. Stuffed shells, veal parmigiana, fried mozzarella, calzones, sausage rolls and heroes hold their historic own among a menu crowded with 20 pasta dishes and more than a dozen entrees (and that's before you get to the pie list). Those meatballs, pleasantly garlicky and the size of baseballs, were conveniently halved, and the spaghetti was cooked perfectly: still toothsome. That's a rarity, as is our server's promise that everything's made in-house, from lasagna to the broth for tortelloni in brodo soup. Owner Luciano Suppa says he had places in Brooklyn, after starting in the business with his dad at age 12.

The Look: Roomy booths and tables, walls with fresco-look old world scenes and a bank of brick ovens look the part for this throwback spot.

The Servers: Ours bubbled with welcoming spirit and was smart, too. For example, the place doesn't yet sell wine or beer, so she hastened to tell dinnertime diners (as she explained, people will “just walk out” if they're counting on some red with those noodles). The kitchen's still working out timing kinks, but pastas arrived piping hot.

Details: 321 N. Caldwell St.; 704-333-7447. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday-Thursday; to 3 a.m. Friday-Saturday, 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday; entrées about $6-$23; 18-inch pizzas about $17-$24 for the Carolina (fresh mozzarella with roma tomatoes, basil, garlic and olive oil on a thin, thin crust).