Bar profile: Villa Nova Ristorante

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The road diverges early at Villa Nova, a charming Italian joint in Riverlea, at the southern edge of Worthington, and you must choose quickly once inside.

Two doors. Endless possibility. Limited time.

Going right, through door No. 1, you'll find yourself in a tight and lively bar, filled during happy hour with older regulars sipping beers, chatting up the bartenders and eating complimentary snacks.

Bowl of stale peanuts? Ha. Try hot wings, pizza and other treats you'd ordinarily pay for to accompany mugs of beer served frosty and cheap (Alive-style, if you will). You can grab domestic mugs starting at $1 and well drinks for $2.50.

North side workers should rejoice knowing that Villa Nova doesn't skimp on its post-grind welcome wagon.

After settling in, you'll start to notice the peculiar decor: marine gauges. Entire walls are filled with brass and bronze pressure meters. Owner Frank Colleli, who operates the establishment with his wife and two sons, worked as a boiler technician in the Merchant Marines and apparently maintained his love for aquatic measuring devices.

He also loves copper pots, the main visual element inside door No. 2.

To step into the sit-down dining room is to gain a new appreciation for antique metal cookware. Pots hang from the walls, sit on wooden shelves and frame the flat-screen TV - a collection unmatched in town.

This is the kind of character that chains continually try to mimic, and it makes Villa Nova instantly likeable.

The restaurant boasts all the hallmarks of casual Italian dining in the United States: placemats with the geography of Italy, $12 Chianti bottles in straw baskets and a menu featuring standbys like pasta, lasagna, pizza, steaks and subs. Most entrees, which include breadsticks and soup or salad, range between $10 and $14, and most appetizers cost less than $10.

The menu is expansive, but you needn't mess around. The Nova (yep, went there) offers some of the best gnocchi and meatballs this side of Cleveland's Murray Hill during the Feast.

Opt for the wedding soup, relax and enjoy one of Worthington's hidden treasures.

Need to Know: What is spumoni?

A standby of Italian restaurants in the United States, spumoni is a dessert of ice cream, whipped cream, candied fruit and nuts. It's the godfather of Neapolitan ice cream and is most often served in three layers - minty pistachio, chocolate and cherry.

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Villa Nova Ristorante

5545 N. High St., Worthington



Hours: Restaurant: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-12 a.m. Friday-Saturday. Bar stays open one hour after dining room closes.

Happy Hour: 4-7 p.m. Monday-Friday: $1.50 domestic bottles, $2.50 well drinks, $1 draft mugs, $2.50 domestic draft liters; free pizza, subs, wings and snacks

In short: Come for the cheap beer. Stay for the gnocchi.