Six Thumbs Up!
Having left Thomas Jefferson's Monticello behind and with Washington, DC still ahead, we were road-weary travelers when we checked into our hotel in Strasburg, Virginia. But we were also hungry and I had noticed an Italian place down the road as I was driving in. I was assured by the young woman at the front desk that it was “pretty good,” and, bolstered by that enthusiastic recommendation, I headed out into the early spring Virginia night in search of sustenance.
Castiglia's Italian Restaurant & Pizza is located at the end of a nondescript strip mall on a busy highway near Interstate 81. But that's okay: some of the best Italian and Italian-American fare I've eaten has come out of strip mall kitchens. I'm not prejudiced about location.
It was late when our party of three arrived, well past whatever dinner rush there might have been. We pretty much had the place to ourselves. One table of guests was leaving as we arrived and another came in shortly after. Obviously, we were seated promptly by a very pleasant hostess. Our waitress was equally pleasant and engaging.
The décor was typical faux-Tuscan and the menu was standard Italian-American. I have long since given up hope of finding much truly authentic Italian food in such places. Even though the owners are from Naples, they, like the majority of their paesani, have bowed to the necessity of serving an American clientele that believes heaping piles of spaghetti and meatballs to be the height of Italian cuisine. I don't blame them: they do what they need to do to stay in business.
The menu was, as I said, typical, with lots of pasta dishes, chicken dishes, veal dishes, seafood dishes, an assortment of hot and cold appetizers, soups, salads, steaks, subs, wraps, burgers, and a few vegetable offerings. And, of course, pizza, calzone, and stromboli along with the usual selection of dolci. We were pleasantly surprised by a fairly decent wine list. The ladies chose a nice Moscato. I was pleased to find Peroni on tap. Most “Italian” places serve it in bottles and it's just not the same.
Knowing that we were traveling and would not be able to carry out the usual half-ton of leftovers, my wife and her mother opted for appetizers, which the server assured us would be adequate as entrees. They both chose something called “shrimp Margherita,” and I just ordered a small cheese pizza.
The complimentary fresh bread and garlic spread we were served while waiting for our meal were exceptional. You could tell the bread was fresco fatto in casa and not some warmed over frozen travesty. We wolfed it down and asked for more. I know it's not authentically Italian to serve bread before a meal, but who cared? We were hungry and it was delicious.
The appetizers/entrees were excellent as well. The sever was right: the portions were huge. The shrimp Margherita turned out to be succulent, perfectly grilled shrimp served over a bed of fresh spinach that had been sauteed in garlic and oil. My wife and her mom agreed that maybe a tad less spinach would have been better, but overall the dish was quite successful. And my pizza was fabulous. I always judge a place by how well they execute the simple things, and this simple pizza was buonissimo. You could tell the crust was expertly scratch made. The sauce to cheese ratio was perfect. You may ask “how do you screw up a cheese pizza?” Trust me, I can answer that question with a hundred examples. Not here, though. I don't know if it was pizzaiolo Salvatore Scotto, Gino Scotto, or Luigi Illiano who made it, but I did some serious damage to half a pie and it broke my heart that I couldn't take the rest with me. I mean, I guess I could have had cold pizza for breakfast instead of the hotel's “continental” offering, but......
There was no room for dessert, which is sad because I'm a sucker for cannoli.
I would like to have been able to sample more of the menu, but from what I had and what I observed, I can say that Castiglia's Italian Restaurant & Pizza serves up good Italian-American food, skillfully made by a real Italian family of cooks. The place was clean and tastefully decorated, service was fast, efficient, and unwaveringly friendly, and prices were more than reasonable. It's a casual dining, family-friendly place with adequate convenient parking.
The location of Castiglia's Italian Restaurant & Pizza that we visited is at 33820 Old Valley Pike, Ste 8 (US Hwy 11) in Strasburg, Virginia, just off I-81 exit 298. Open Monday though Thursday 11 am to 10 pm and from 11 to 11 on Friday and Saturday, Castiglia's offers free area delivery. Call them at (540) 465-8777, check out their website at www.castigliasva.com, or find them on Facebook. Apparently, there's a second location in Port Royal. Maybe I'll head over there next time.
Castiglia's promises fresh, made to order food cooked with passion. And from my experience on this occasion, they definitely fulfill that promise. Six thumbs up!