Usually when you want great Persian food, you have to go south of Baltimore to find it. Villagio Cafe in Towson is a game changer. It might be the best Persian food I’ve had in a long long time. They knock everything out of the park. They have a authentic Persian menu with a wide variety of options outside of your standard kabobs.
So first let’s discuss the name, I have no clue why they chose an Italian style name for a Persian restaurant. Persians do love being thought of as Italian though, just putting that out there.
When you walk into Villagio Cafe you see standard classy Persian decor. But let’s be real you’ve come here for one thing and that’s Persian food. I’m a food snob as it is, but I’m a super duper Persian food snob.
The menu is expansive with all kinds of khoresht options like Ghormeh Sabzi, Gheimeh, and my favorite Mahicheh with Baghali polow. I admire the fact that they risk putting dishes on their menu that are not well known like Mahicheh. For a Persian food lover like myself, this is a real treat to know someone makes non-kabob dishes in a authentic Persian manner. They have the standard items like hummus and other non-Persian foods to appease the masses who assume Persian food is like other Mediterranean cuisines.
The bread is a bit of a let down, they would be better served just serving store bought Persian bread, but they used a gyro bread instead. It’s okay, it’s just meh. The other appetizers are great though, order the tahdig along with the maast-o-khiar and some sabzi khordan (mixed herbs with feta cheese).
All of their Persian appetizers are well prepared and taste just like my Mom would make back home, if not better.
I ordered the Soltani because that’s a true test of a Persian restaurant. They passed with flying colors, the koobideh had just the right ratio of seasoning in it. The koobideh is a ground lamb kabob with onions, coriander, cumin, and other spices blended into it. The spices balance perfectly with the lamb to make a tender kabob that is the most popular dish in all of Iran.The rice is prepared flawlessly as they’ve achieved chelow perfection, chelow is a different variation of Persian rice. It’s cooked to an al-dente then it’s strained of it’s water and then returned to the pot. The grains of rice become singular rather than clump together. The rice is topped with butter and saffron, it’s perfection. The kabob barg, which is a filet mignon kabob, is seasoned simply with salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, and sumac. The kabob is perfectly tender and melts in your mouth. You don’t need a knife to eat it.
The whole dish is perfection, the portion size is beyond huge, but I finished the whole thing because I’m a member of the #cleanplateclub.
Mahicheh is one of my favorite dishes, basically it’s a large lamb shank cooked in a tomato sauce. It’s typically served with baghali polow, which is an herb rice with fava or lima beans. When it’s done correctly, there isn’t much else in the world I would rather eat.
Villagio Cafe gives you an enormous portion of lamb shank that is cooked well. The meat falls of the bone as it should, the sauce has tomato, turmeric, a touch of dried lime, cumin, and onions in it. The whole thing was braised together to create a tasty combo. The baghali polow (herbed rice with fava/lima beans) was excellent. The mixture of dill, fenugreek, and dried parsley in the herb mixture took me back to my Grandma’s kitchen with its aroma. They pulled off a difficult dish with ease, and at lunch no less!
Overall Villagio Cafe is some of the best Persian food in all of Maryland. I would say it’s neck and neck with Yekta Kabobi in Rockville. Villagio Cafe lets you experience the best Persian food has to offer at a reasonable price. Persian food tends to run slightly expensive, because of the amount of meat you are getting.
Parking at Villagio Cafe can be tricky so bring some quarters for some street parking. The staff is friendly and the service was great. Run do not walk to Villagio Cafe. This place is a GEM.
If you order though, do not get a side salad or something lame with your kabobs. Side salads at a Persian restaurant are like going to an Italian restaurant and skipping out on the pasta. Also this is not a Greek or any other Mediterranean restaurant so order like a true Persian and order some kabobs or khoresh.