I’m madder than Rip Van Winkle right when he woke up and realized he missed his entire life (and many meals) over the fact that my kids — God love them — made us stop going on our annual family vacation to Villa Roma Country Club 25 years ago!
Just think of all the great food I missed!
Look, you all know the story, but I’m going to tell it to you anyway. Back in the 1970s and ’80s, Villa Roma was the place to be for every Italian, wannabe Italian, or Italian food lover in New York that wanted to escape the heat of the city for the Catskills, where they could sit by the pool, go golfing, and, of course, eat some of the best food you’d ever be served in an all-inclusive world where only the drinks were extra.
And that’s what we used to do — every summer without fail — until my son Carl and daughter Dana decided they would rather hang out with their friends than dear-old-dad during the dog days of summers past.
So we stopped going — and Sharon and I had to give up all that food and sun. I never forgave them for that — until now.
That’s because I’m sitting in Villa Roma right now, with my family all around me, and, there is delicious food on the plate in front of me.
Wanna hear how it happened? No? Then stick some canolis in your ears, because I’m going to tell you anyway.
Look, you all know my mother-in-law, Sharon’s mom, is Jewish, and last year I regaled you with our adventure at one of the last remaining kosher resorts in the “Borscht Belt” upstate, when we didn’t have the best of times. Why? I told you that last year, but I’ll refresh your memory with just one word: the food stunk.
So this year, Sharon suggested we go to Villa Roma as we’ve done in the past, only this time, we go with her mom and all the kiddie-kids.
Now, I know what your thinking: Carmine, how can you take an old Jewish lady who’s used to the food at Kutshers to Villa Roma? What is she going to eat?
Ha! What you don’t know is even though Irene swears Jewish food is the best, her favorite take-out place is (here’s this week’s shameless plug) Mamma Mia on Bath Avenue — where she prefers the veal parmigiana, shrimp oreganata, spaghetti, and, of course, pizza.
So it was a quick sell when we showed her Villa Roma’s menu on the Interweb, and the next thing I knew the, all of us were on the Thruway headed to beautiful Calicoon, NY, and the seven hills of Villa Roma!
And I couldn’t be happier. Surrounded by my family — grandkids Jake, Cassandra, Dean, Alexa, Michael, and Vanessa; my kids, Carl and Dana; my loving wife Sharon; and, of course, her mom Irene — we spent the week eating, swimming, eating some more, and doing other things you do at the country club when we’re not eating.
The greatest thing about it was being back in the old stomping grounds and letting my grandkids learn first-hand what it was like for us before they were even born.
For instance, my extremely intelligent and inquisitive 10-year-old grandson Jake always asks me about what his dad was like when he was young. Well, he got a lot of answers up there, where he was able to do some of the things his dad did when he was a kid.
And we got to tell them some stories that delve into the family history — like how Poppi (that’s me!) found his bride at the old Concord Hotel — where I taught her dancing at the Tony & Marie Studio and literally swept her off her feet, thank you very much — when we passed the site of that old place in Monticello. Sadly, only its golf course and clubhouse remain.
And they got a chance to experience Villa Roma’s fabulous, belly-stuffing seven-course “Caesar’s Night” — just like we did in days gone by — when all the servers are dressed in togas! Sure, they were a bit turned off by the the cappozelles (half a lamb’s skull served on a plate with its eye looking at you) but if you asked me, I’d tell you it’s the only way to eat!
When we were done on Caesar’s Night, my biggest concern was that I wouldn’t be able to fit through the doors to get out. Thankfully, management was smart enough to install double doors into the main dining room. I just wish it did the same at the entrance to my suite!
OK, I admit it — 25 years ago I was a little bit thinner. You all know that I had dark brown hair. I could walk. I could swim and dance. And I weighed 160 pounds. Today, I weigh 320, my hair — what’s left of it — is gray, I can’t walk or stand, and I don’t dance (but I can teach it from my scooter, Tornado).
And I can still float in the pool and mangia with the best of them — and where else would this fattie wanna be but at the Villa Roma surrounded by his family?
Even with my disabilities, Villa Roma offers the best the Catskills has to offer. Its $127-million rebuilding project brought 150-seat café, a ballroom, cocktail lounge and piano bar, and just pure pleasure and fun. You can go bowling, rock climbing, downhill skiing, and golfing all on site. There’s indoor tennis and racquetball courts, swimming pools, a jacuzzi and spa services and an arcade and game room!
But I’ll leave that to youse guys. Me? I’ll just float in the pool and eat while I smother myself in the love of my family.
Now’s the point in the column where I thank my mother-in-law (or “Great Ma” — as her great-grandchildren affectionately call her) for giving us this great time. It was truly a pleasure!
Screech at you next week!