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Cheap authentic Italian?

Is there an authentic Italian restaurant located anywhere in DC or NoVa? I’m talking red and white tablecloth, $10 pasta with Aunt Rose waiting tables, not Galileo. Thanks in advance.

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  1. try il radicchio in arlington or pasta mia in adams morgan (pasta mia might be a little more expensive but its authentic).

    5 Replies
    1. re: elnora

      Il Radicchio is awful. Skip it.

      Someone recommended Listrani's to me (couple of locations) but I haven't been in a LONG time.

      1. re: beachgirl54

        At best Il Raddichio can be considered somewhat authentic Italian, but Listrani's is definitely an Italian-American red sauce joint. For truly authentic Italian, I think you will have to move up a little from cheap, to moderately priced and for that you can't beat Dino in Clevland Park with Bebo Trattoria in Crystal City coming in second.

        1. re: MacArthur Mike

          Il Raddichio isn't that bad - I actually enjoyed it more than Sette Bello.

          Although I have never been, my brother loves Ruffino's Spaghetti House (is that the whole name?) on Lee Highway in Arlington. He said it sounds similar to what I describe Il Raddichio to be like - cheap, good Italian food. Anyone been there?

          1. re: ALLex16

            Been there three times, it does the job for inexpensive standards of pasta and wine that tastes like it comes from a box you would buy for one euro in an Italian supermarket.

          2. re: MacArthur Mike

            Bebo is honest Italian, but has dicey service. Some of the best Italian food at reasonable prices in the Washington area is served at Greek restaurants.

      2. Esposito's in Fairfax is probably right up your alley.


        Pasta Mia is really more headache than its worth, which is a shame.

        1. Restaurant AV if you're near Chinatown, Luigi's if you want something near Dupont. Both have been around forever for a reason. Cheap, good, unpretentious.

          3 Replies
          1. re: monkeyrotica

            I second Luigi's on 19th Street near DuPont.

            1. re: jaydreb

              Just went to Luigi's last week. Service was dreadful (so bad that we almost walked out). Food was cold and tasteless. Extremely greasy. Perhaps they have new management. I don't remember it being this awful.

              1. re: xena1441

                I went on Monday with 3 kids for a total of 7 people and it was a great family place. but the pasta was unimpressive tho the pizza was pretty good. You can't beat the prices. We didn't have that hard of a time with the service. Overall not a destination spot by any means. don't go out of your way to go there

          2. Il Radicchio has been disappointing of late. I think they changed owners again.

            Try A La Lucia in Old Town Alexandria. It's not $10 pasta but it is moderate, it's not a chain, and it is good.

            1. I second the A La Lucia recommendation. Tom S doesn't care for it but that doesn't mean it isn't worth it... :-)

              1. Otello south of Dupont. I do wish they offered better wines by the glass, but I guess drinking cheap Chianti is half the charm.

                2 Replies
                1. re: jmasek

                  I went to Otello for the first time on Saturday and had a great time. Red-and-white table clothes, super attentive waiters, straightforward comfort food. Actually, I ordered the stewed calimari, and it was a nice surprise -- tasty little rings of octopus in a tomato broth. Yummy, and a lot less fattening than the traditional fried preparion.

                  1. re: pomme de terre

                    Haven't been in years, but loved Otello's when I worked in the city. The only pasta fagioli I've ever had that comes close to my grandma's.

                2. A third thumbs up for A La Lucia. It is a bargain for this level of quality at lunch, most if not all pastas, around $10. I think the lasagna w/ bechemel is the top dish, but you really can't go wrong here. Dinner is a different story, prices double.

                  1. The lack of a cheap, true Italian-American dining experience in Washington is one of the shortcomings of this town. Pasta Mia can be ridiculous in that you'll wait an hour for a table for food that, while good, simply isn't worth the wait. Luigi's comes closest, but it begins and ends there.

                    1. Esposito's (fairfax) or Luigi's (DC). I like a la Lucia, but I think it's a step up from what you're requesting.

                      1. has anyone been to Hector's Place in Del Ray lately? their website says they've expanded their dinner-for-2-with-bottle-of-wine-$25.95 special to Mondays as well as Wednesdays. Mrs D and I went once on a non-special night and it was not too memorable, but that mon-wed deal is tough to beat, price-wise at least

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Jamie D

                          my wife and I did not dig Hectors. We had their seafood in cream dish and it was like soup.

                        2. Scary but good, Pines of Naples in Arlington on Columbia Pike, or Pines of Florence in Clarendon.



                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Chownut

                            I used to work near the Pines of Florence and went often. However, the last time we were there my sister found a molar in her pasta! I will never forget the look on her face and I don't think I've laughed so hard since. Oh, and they gave her a replacement meal (which she couldn't bring herself to eat) and tried to charge her for the molar-pasta. Granted, it was 10 years ago, so I won't advise anyone against eating there.

                            1. re: hercules q. einstein

                              Well, that's what you get for ordering al dente!


                              Thank you, thank you. I'll be here all week. Don't forget to tip your waitress.

                              1. re: monkeyrotica

                                Ha! Brilliant. Thank you for making my day.

                            2. re: Chownut

                              seriously? hard to believe. maybe new owners? it's been a long time since I went to Pines of Naples even tho I live in the neighborhood, it was cheap and still not worth the price IMO. We checked out Pines of Italy is it? in Buckingham not too long ago just to see, it was a go-to italian place when we were in our 20s, again cheap, Pines of Whatever, again, barely worth the price. no

                            3. Has anyone ever been to that Rosemary's Thyme place in Dupont/Adams Morgan? I walk by it all the time and haven't so much as looked at the menu. But it seems like it would fall under the category of cheap Italian.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Elyssa

                                Rosemary's is more pan-Mediterranean than Italian; mostly Turkish and Greek dishes and a couple raviolis. I wouldn't call it cheap either; $8 for two bruschetti?

                                1. re: monkeyrotica

                                  Wow really? I always thought it was like spaghetti and meatballs etc. Never new.

                                  Is it decent though?

                                  1. re: Elyssa

                                    Actually, if you go for their happy hour (before 7:30), it is quite a good deal. Most entrees at that time are $10 - $14, and all bottles of wine are half off. And, their pasta bolognese, is delicious and has lovely homemade noodles.

                              2. Buckingham Neighborhood in Arlington (N. Pershing Drive and N. Glebe Road--next to the post office) has Pines of Italy, frequently wins "cheap eats" from Washingtonian. Also, has Pavorotti (sp??) album covers on the wall. About $20 for two entrees and two glasses of wine.

                                1. If you are still looking for an Italian Mom and Pop restaurant, try Piccolo Mundo at Leisure World on Georgia Avenue.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: skipper

                                    Cheap authentic Italian is an oxymoron!

                                    1. re: drsmoke

                                      Not in Italy, but I guess that's a bit of a stretch for this board.

                                  2. Pulcinella in Mclean (6852 Old Dominion Dr.) is awesome. My husband and I stumbled on it one night when we were doing errands in the area. It looks a bit rundown outside, but we gave it a shot and were delighted. Small and charming inside. The warm bread is incredible and they sell it too. We always bring a loaf home. Excellent "red sauce" Italian. I always get a dish that is listed in the specials (though they seem to offer it all the time). I forget the name, but it is pieces of veal in a spicy pesto/red sauce over pasta, and it is fabulous! Very reasonable prices. I wish it was closer--we'd make it our regular hang out for good Italian.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Squeezer

                                      Sorry, I meant to say it is pieces of lamb, not veal.

                                        1. re: beauxgoris

                                          Do you mean restuarant recommendations or menu options at Pulcinella? I can't get passed the spicy lamb over linguine because it is so yummy. My husband usually gets either lasagna, or gnocci and enyoys both. Their red sauce is excellent. And oh, that bread!

                                    2. I hear good things about Il Pizzico in Rockville. Has anyone been there - interested to know what the 'hounders think about this place.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: tennisgal1206

                                        Il Pizzico is a gem! The food and service are very good and prices are moderate-- it's hard to believe that a restaurant of this quality is our local, neighborhood Italian restaurant. Many dishes here are delicious -- a real standout is the mushroom and ricotta ravioli in pistachio cream sauce.

                                        The restaurant has been well-reviewed by both the Washington Post and the Washingtonian. It is extremely popular and they do not take reservations, so if you come during prime time, there will be a long wait. It'll be worth it.

                                        1. re: Lauman

                                          Thanks for the feedback! I'll definitely put it on my list of must try places when I'm in DC craving Italian.

                                          1. re: Lauman

                                            Sounds interesting - what part of Rockville is it in?

                                            1. re: beauxgoris

                                              It's located on Rockville Pike, just south of Gude Drive, on the right as you're driving north. From the outside it doesn't look like much -- don't let that fool you!


                                        2. Another vote for Esposito's! We're from the Northeast and this restaurant comes the closest to what we would find up there. The bread in the bread basket tastes just like the Italian bread we'd get up there. I've found that most Italian restaurants in this area give bread that in no way resembles Italian bread. Also, Esposito's makes its own pasta and sauce. The zucchini fritti is some of the best we've ever had anywhere! We've been going there since it first opened. The place is clean but desperately needs a remodel, so don't let that scare you off! As for Luigi's--it was a disappointment--Esposito's is far better!

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: MizYellowRose

                                            Esposito's also has terrific pizza. Some of the best I've had in NoVA.

                                          2. First -- I know this probably makes me a snob, but I'd like to point out you are looking for authentic Italian-AMERICAN food, not authentic Italian.

                                            I don't know if there are any DC/VA locations, but the best pizza I've found (after moving here from new york) is at Mamma Lucia's. Their pastas are good from what I have tried, but honestly I rarely can tear myself away from the pies.

                                            1. what about san marcos? i went there once (on 18th street in admo, south end) and really enjoyed the food (saffron something w/ shrimp). anyways it is definitely cheap and i thought rather low key.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: polly parker

                                                THANK YOU POLLY! San Marco is WONDERFULLY DELISH! This place is a cozy little dive and the food is memorable and pretty cheap. ALL the apps are excellent - especially the grilled calamari and grilled scallops and shrimp! Pastas are a bit uninspired if you go for the stuff on the regular menu BUT try a special or some kind of ravioli because they do better with the more intricate pastas. However, if you want to go simple, the cappellini with both bolognese and pesto is quite good. Also try the pasta with ricotta and spinach in a walnut cream sauce - both are on the regular menu!

                                                Also, Pasta Mia is good if you want simple, tasty food in ABUNDANCE. I would recommend SHARING both an appetizer - can't go wrong with mozarella and tomato as well as an entree - ANY of them. REALLY, sharing both dishes is more than enough for two people.

                                                1. re: polly parker

                                                  I always forget about San Marco but its actually pretty good...especially the saffron risotto with shrimp. I use to eat here when I lived in Adams Morgan but haven't been in ages. Totally affordable, nice date spot....certainly fits the cheap and Italian bill.

                                                2. Pasta Mia, definitely. The wait is a bit ridiculous, but if you get in for the first seating...

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: negociants

                                                    GREAT pasta and worth the wait on a weekday, not worth the wait on a weekend

                                                  2. Two places practically next to eachother in Alexandria: Mike's Italian on Route 1 and Prema Restaurant.

                                                    Mike's Italian Restaurant
                                                    8368 Richmond Hwy, Alexandria, VA 22309

                                                    Pema Restaurant
                                                    8430 Richmond Hwy, Alexandria, VA 22309

                                                    1. i didn't want to open every post to check but did anyone mention Anna Maria's in dupont? It's authentic, down home , southern italy 'red sauce' food. It's very mom & pop and you actually get a salad or soup w/ your entree. Menu quite varied and everything we've had there has been really good. Wine ok. Service decent. Pasta entrees i think were around 13-15 and meat was probably upper teen.

                                                      If you want 10$ pasta in this town you will be getting a couple cans of Chef Boyardee. Anna Maria's is about as reasonable as it gets -- and it's good. You can probably get cheaper at the "Pines" chain (Pines of italy, florence, rome, etc...) but the quality is lacking and the service slapdash.

                                                      1. How about Trattoria da Franco on Washington just past King st. in Old Town? It's not quite $10, but it's pretty authentic and has lots of charm.

                                                        Trattoria Da Franco
                                                        305 South Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

                                                        1. I actually really like Da Domenico in Tysons.

                                                          I'll probably take some heat for this, but I really enjoy Maggianos for Italian around here. I'm from NE PA and we have a heavily populated Italian community, so I'm always dissappointed in the DC area.

                                                          Filomena in Gtown is also one I think of for good old-school Italian:


                                                          1. Having grown up on Long Island, I know just the kind of place you mean. While it doesn't TOTALLY fit the bill, I think you would really like La Piazza across the street from the Braddock Metro. Cheap and for my money the better of the Italian places in the area.

                                                              1. If anyone hasn't mentioned it yet-Dolce Vita in Fairfax is always a sure thing for me. Just finished a renovation. They have a great pizza oven turning out some awesome pies-homeade sausage is yummy. Grilled calamari, mussels in a great wine/garlic sauce with great bread for dipping. Pasta are made in-house. Great variety.Decent wine list. It has a small bar area and a cantina on one side and an italian market and deli on the other. They are open for lunch and dinner. Used to have a fun strolling guitarist there Wed-Sat, but haven't been there for dinner lately. Lunch 2 weeks ago was wonderfull, though.

                                                                1. Besides Piccolo Mundo at Leisure World on Georgia Avenue (husband in kitchen, wife waiting on tables) and Il Pizzico in Rockville, in MD you also can try Bella Notte in Olney, Pasta Plus in Laurel, Vicino's in Slver Spring, and Il Pinito in Rockville.