Verona Village Inn has its focus on the family and the food
The timing of our visit to the Verona Village Inn turned out to be appropriate, as the restaurant will celebrate its 30th anniversary this year.
Eric DiIanni said his parents, Tony and Lena DiIanni, opened the Wildwood Avenue eatery on the border of Penn Hills in 1983.
The business has remained a family enterprise. Eric and his wife, Shari, now oversee the restaurant. Their daughter works as one of the waitresses, and Lena DiIanni continues to make the sauce.
Eric DiIanni said many of their waitstaff have worked there for years.
“We're one big family,” DiIanni says. “When you work here, you become part of the extended family.”
That vibe extends to the customers, DiIanni says.
“We try to be a family-type environment,” he says. “You can afford to bring your family in once a week.”
There clearly were regulars in the house when we stopped on a recent mid-afternoon: Customers chatted across tables, and one group joked with a waitress as they helped themselves to refills from a pitcher of iced tea.
The restaurant's name conveys its ambiance: It easily would have fit in as a village inn of yore that catered to travelers and local families.
The dining space is divided by the entrance, creating two cozy rooms that disguise the restaurant's 85-seat capacity.
Sturdy, dark wood tables, chairs and church-pew-style benches accented with green were lightened by cream-color walls and sheer curtains that allowed light to filter in from a picture window. Landscape paintings filled several walls.
The Verona Village Inn is a step up from the Valley's many pizza shops, although it does sell pizza.
But it's not high in the instep either; dress was casual and the prices reasonable.
“Italian is the heart of our menu,” DiIanni says, “but we have something for everyone.”
DiIanni says some of the customer favorites include the Scallopini ($15.49-$17.49) and Romano ($14.99-$17.49) entrees, which are made with a choice of veal or chicken, or shrimp for the scallopini.
They also serve Polenta ($13.99), a traditional preparation of thick, creamy cornmeal topped with an Italian meat sauce.
The Verona Village Inn offers lunch and dinner menus; since we arrived midway between the two meals, we selected options from both menus.
We started with the Fried Appetizer Sampler ($6.99). A plate was piled high with golden-brown, deep-fried munchies: three larger-than-average cheese sticks; two chicken tenders that more than lived up to their name; and about eight thin, long slices of crisp eggplant, all served with a small bowl of tasty marinara sauce.
From the lunch menu, we sampled the Atlantic Salmon Filet ($9.99 for lunch; $14.49 for dinner). The portion was huge — it would have been a generous filet for dinner. We asked that it be blackened instead of grilled, so it had a hint of Cajun spice. It was cooked perfectly: done throughout but still moist. We didn't really need the cup of melted butter that came with it.
We tried the Wedding Soup ($2.49 cup; $3.49 bowl), which was full of meatballs, greens and noodles. It was served in a smallish cup, but considering most Verona Inn entrees are served with soup and salad and another side, the amount of soup was perfect for a starter.
The side salads were typical servings of greens, shredded carrots, grape tomatoes, sliced cucumbers and onions and a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese.
Also from the lunch menu, we tried the Chicken Parmigiana ($8.99 lunch; $14.99 dinner). Again, the portion was large for lunch: three breaded and sauteed chicken breasts topped with marinara and mozzarella cheese. It was served with a generous side of spaghetti with marinara, which we enjoyed, even though the noodles were a tad overcooked for our liking.
From the dinner menu, we tried the Lasagna ($12.99). A large helping of layered pasta, ricotta cheese and seasoned meat was topped with marinara sauce — perhaps the perfect cold-weather comfort food.
A diner who wasn't interested in Italian food opted for the Steak and Shrimp dinner ($16.99). Cooked medium as requested, the juicy steak was topped with an onion ring and served with three jumbo, deep-fried shrimp.
As the only true dinner entree that we ordered, it came with a side in addition to soup and salad; we opted for french fries.
Our meal was served with two small, warm loaves of excellent bread that had been drizzled with oil and garlic.
We were stuffed and had so many leftovers we couldn't justify the offered dessert. We're looking forward to a return visit; hopefully, we'll save room for dessert next time.
Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or firstname.lastname@example.org.