That 70s show

Springfield’s Linardos Villa

By Paula Johnson

Photo: Greek salad from Linardos Villa in Springfield

The aesthetic of a restaurant often telegraphs what’s on the menu, and at Linardos Villa in Springfield that’s certainly true. Opened in 1971, the interior space doesn’t appear to have changed much. It’s almost a time capsule, hearkening back to the days when Gun Smoke and The Brady Bunch ruled the airwaves.

Dark booths and carpet and a mish-mash of elaborate light fixtures my grandmother would have called “fancy” lend to the space’s worn, outdated feel. It’s the kind of place that if the food were outstanding, you could wink at the interior, and maybe even fell some nostalgic love for it.

Continental divide

Linardos Villa’s menu is “continental” in the old fashioned sense, meaning a selection of European cuisine’s greatest hits: Chicken Cordon Bleu, Chicken Kiev, Escargot, Frog’s Legs, Sweet Breads, Swiss Steak and Pork Schnitzel to name a few. Then there’s an Italian section with favorites like Chicken Parmigiana with Spaghetti, plus an extensive Greek menu. It’s hard to know what this restaurant wants to be, and when a kitchen is trying to be all things to all diners, it’s difficult to be successful.

PIP (Palate In Progress) and a friend joined me on a recent trek to Springfield to try Linardos Villa. I started with the Oysters Rockefeller appetizer ($11.95). The dish was named after John D. Rockefeller, the richest American at the time, for the intense richness of the sauce. These oysters were heavy with a thick cream sauce and spinach, not particularly subtle or pleasant. I also tried the Feta and Olives appetizer ($5.95), and found it to be meager, with a few small slabs of cheese, a hot pepper, anchovy and a few unremarkable olives. PIP tried the Fried Smelts appetizer served with tartar sauce ($7.50). They were heavy with batter and fairly greasy, rendering this meal not off to a good start.

Shanked

I’m a huge fan of Greek cuisine, particularly lamb. It’s a standard in Greek cooking, so I went with the Lamb Shank dinner, while PIP chose the Combination Platter dinner (both $17.95). The shank, which should be rich and fall off the bone was instead dry, strong tasting and almost leathery. The braising sauce was the Greek Kapama sauce typically made with allspice, oregano, garlic, bay leaf and cinnamon. Unfortunately this version was a bit salty and hard to pick up any notes other than cinnamon. (I sampled our friend’s Chicken Parmesan and found the Italian tomato sauce to be heavy on the salt as well.) Kapama sauce was also used on PIP’s platter, which featured Dolmathes (stuffed grape leaves), Chicken Kapama, Moussaka and Pastitsio.

Pastitsio and Moussaka are two of my favorite dishes. Pastitsio, essentially Greek mac and cheese, is said to have inspired a Macedonian immigrant to deconstruct it, inventing our region’s famous Cincinnati chili. The traditional version has a bottom layer that is penne or other tubular pasta, with cheese and egg as a binder; a middle layer of ground beef, veal or lamb with tomato and cinnamon, nutmeg or allspice; sometimes another layer of pasta; and a top layer of a rich egg-based custard. It was difficult to know what pasta was used as there didn’t seem to be a distinct layer, and what I did taste was mushy.

The song remains the same

While Moussaka does have similar ingredients, with eggplant standing in for the pasta, both dishes were nearly indistinguishable. The same can be said for the Dolmathes. Sameness of texture and flavor and a salty sauce on everything was a big disappointment. The same can be said for the Greek salads, which came with both of our meals. We found them to be average and slightly bland.

We decided to give it one last try with Greek baklava for dessert. A large portion (enough to split) arrived, but in keeping with everything else, turned out to be a little too soggy, lacking any of the crunch Phyllo pastry usually has.

Our dining experience begs the question, what makes a restaurant relevant? Is what’s on the menu, fresh, locally sourced and humanely raised? Do the owners and chefs strive to stay current and reinvent themselves to stay abreast with diners’ changing palates and evolving food trends? If a restaurant isn’t doing these things, opting instead to stand on serving traditional favorites in traditional style, they’d better be on top of their game. Sadly, what we sampled was not on top of anything.

Time out

Linardos Villa was of the time at one time, and that time is long gone. This is a restaurant which is putting itself out there as fine dining according to the kinds of things offered on their menu. If their intent is to be a fine dining establishment, (and it clearly is), then they are not succeeding. As the Greeks would say, “Yassas,” which is the formal form of goodbye.

Linardos Villa is located at 2230 E Main St. in Springfield. For more information, please call 937.323.3011 or visit linardosvilla.com.
Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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