By Ben Orcutt -- firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- After a 24-year absence, Vinnie Lanzetta and his authentic Italian cuisine are back.
"Yeah, I always wanted to come back," the 59-year-old Lanzetta says. "You know I loved the good times with the people."
Lanzetta has the humor and quick wit of comedian Rodney Dangerfield, which combined with his thick Italian accent and his culinary skills made Frank's Pizza a favorite in Strasburg 24 years ago when it was located on King Street, where the Town Hall now sits.
With wife Maria, 55, by his side, Lanzetta is hoping to make a successful comeback at his new restaurant, Milano's at 139 N. Massanutten St., with Milano's Sports Bar next door.
Just looking at the menu is enough to make your mouth water with offerings like Agilo E Olio, spaghetti with garlic, olive oil and spices, served up with homemade garlic bread and Italian salad for $8.95.
Then there's the Fettuccini Carbonara, egg noodles smothered in bacon, with Romano cheese and cream sauce, also served with homemade garlic bread and Italian salad for $10.95.
An appetizer that you won't find just anywhere is Capresa, which consists of fresh mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, olive oil and oregano for $6.50.
If there's room for dessert, you can choose between the cheesecake for $3.25 or Cannoli and Tiramisu, each priced at $3.50.
There's also a children's menu and free refills on nonalcoholic beverages.
Ask Lanzetta what he's best known for and despite the array of exquisite Italian dishes, his response is a much simpler fare.
"Steak subs," he says. "They say it's a the best in town. Usually comes with fried onions, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise."
"I make the steak and cheese," Mrs. Lanzetta adds. "Everybody compliment me on that."
Eric Bly, 28, of Strasburg, won't argue.
"My favorite is steak and cheese," Bly says, adding that it's the bread Lanzetta uses from New York and the juiciness of the sandwich that sets it apart.
Bly says he also likes the pizza by the slice with large toppings like sausage, pepperoni and mushrooms.
"I mean it's really good," he says. "It's cheap. That's what I like about it. It's roughly $3 a slice."
Lanzetta says he uses a higher grade of cheese on his pizzas, which although more expensive, makes for a better pie.
For Nicole Foster, 22, of Stephens City, her favorite sandwich is the vegetarian sub, which features cheese, lettuce, tomato, mushrooms, green peppers, black olives, carrots and mayonnaise, with a small going for $4.95 and a large for $5.95.
"I like eating down here," she says. "It's a nice little town."
Like Bly, Foster also is keen on Milano's Sports Bar, which includes a magnificent oak bar and enough high-definition flat-screen televisions to challenge the most adept channel changer.
The sports bar is the pride of Johnny Lanzetta, 32, one of the Lanzettas' three grown children. He also helps to run the family-owned Milano's Ristorante & Bar at 107 W. Boscawen St. in Winchester.
"It's an extravagant bar," Johnny Lanzetta says of Milano's Sports Bar in Strasburg. "This is a bar that you would see in a Miami nightclub. The light show is just unbelievable. There's more to come."
Milano's Sports Bar features a 70-inch TV on its patio bar where customers can watch pay-per-view fights at no charge and enjoy NFL football.
"It's been a little slow, but it's steadily picking up," says assistant bar manager Jessie "J.J." Jackson, 28, adding that the environment is "relaxed," with a nice mix of ages.
Patrons must be 21 and over to be in the bar after 10 p.m., and while the sports bar is currently only open from 1 p.m. until 12:30 a.m. daily, Milano's is working toward being able to keep it open later.
"I really think it's great," says 36-year-old bartender Kimberly Couch. "Strasburg being a small town, this is some place to give everybody an outlet to come to, hang out, watch games, enjoy great food [and] never a cover charge."
Happy Hour is from 4 to 7 p.m. daily and the bar also features live entertainment.
"There is a good time to be had here," Couch adds. "We have lots of fun. All the bartenders are great and we have so many events -- DJs, karaoke, everything to offer."
While it's more difficult to make a buck these days than it was 24 years ago with the cost of a bag flour going from $7 to $30 and rent much higher, Lanzetta says he glad to be back in Strasburg.
"Because I always like a Strasburg," he says.
Milano's is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. For more information, call 465-8880.