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Jan 28, 2013 06:43 PM

Greek/Italian Family Restaurants in NoVA


For anyone who grew up in Northern Virginia, we know that the bulk of remaining mom and pop eateries are these Italian and Greek family restaurants. With so many, I must assume that not all of them craft a quality red sauce or moussaka, but I must believe that there are at least a few gems.

So what are your favorites? Ruffino's Spaghetti House? Anthony's on Broad Street? Delia's in Springfield?

Tell me where my fam can get some quality Italian-American or Greek.

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  1. Almost every one of them runs from mediocre (Anthony's) to worse (Ruffino's.)

    For Italian red sauce, you'll eat better at PieTanza, though it lacks the diner vibe. You'll also do better at Primo, a deli/pizza place(Herndon/Reston I forget which)where you'll do much better with the main courses than the pizza. More informal and more expensive than PieTanza.

    This area has never had the quality of Italian-American cooking you'll find in many places throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The 300th best place up north will slay the best of what you find here. There must be 100 places in the Philly area alone.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Steve

      Tell me about it. Lived in Philly for nearly five years and could find better Italian American at the corner dive than all of Northern Virginia. I was just hoping someone knew something I didn't.

      1. re: henmonster

        The specials at Primo's are the only surprise I've found. It is a counter service deli that looks like it only serves sandwiches and pizza. But they take the other food seriously. The prices, though, are not lower than what you'd expect at a proper restaurant, so you'll pay the same but it's not as comfortable.

        The pizza is good, but I wouldn't return just for that.

        1. re: Steve

          Not to be confused with Primo Family Restaurant in Belle Haven. The owner sold the place a couple years back and the place has been in steady decline ever since. Avoid.

            1. re: tcamp

              I could live with the jacked up prices and the mediocre food, but when I order a burger and they give me a chicken breast sandwich and tell me, "But that's what you ordered!" that's pushing it a little too far.

    2. Two that I know of but have not been recently, so I can't attest to the food are:
      La Casa on Duke Street in Alexandria and Olympian Family Restaurant in Landsdowne Center.

      5 Replies
      1. re: monavano

        I had a FOUL gyro at Olympians. It was swimming in grease, and not in a good way. And their fryer was set at the wrong temperature, so the fries were horrible as well. I sent everything back.

        1. re: monkeyrotica

          I was just there last week and had a good souvlaki sandwich and the fries were quite crispy. The place was packed at lunch time and I didn't see a soul having pizza or pasta dishes so I'm guessing those don't shine.

          1. re: tcamp

            I'll have to give them another try then, probably when they open the Wegmans across the street.

            1. re: monkeyrotica

              You mean when hell freezes over ;-)
              Seriously, get that puppy built already!

              1. re: monavano

                I know! I drive past 2x/day and wonder how they can be so slow. The WW bridge was built in less time. Almost.

      2. I've hit most of the major Italian/Greek mom & pops in Alexandria. The only one I keep returning to is Atlantis, not because it's outstanding, but because they know how to make a gyro, their pizzas are decent, their service is consistent, they do decent breakfasts, they have soups on the menu, and they don't stick you with a bill for the month's rent. Paradiso is in a similar vein, but really not worth going out of your way for. I like the vibe at Anthony's far more than the food. Mamma's Kitchen off Route 1 is the closest to me, so I end up there frequently, but the food is definitely hit or miss. I've had pretty good luck with Italian dishes at pizzerias like Faccia Luna and Red Rocks (neither of which are particularly cheap) and Ciro's and Pomodoro's which I think are. In DC, I like Bistro Italiano because their white pizza comes closest to Restaurant AV's (R.I.P.) and I've always been fond of Famous Luigi's because my dad used to take me there. It's been around since the 1930s.

        Regardless of where you go, you need to lower your expectations accordingly. Places like Gusti's and Roma don't exist any more for a reason: all the Italians left. So, yeah, you won't find anything like you'd find in Philly or Brooklyn because you aren't in Philly or Brooklyn.

        6 Replies
        1. re: monkeyrotica

          I'll have to give Atlantis a try since it's close to me. We go nearby for our Italian/Pizza fix-- Cafe Pizzaiolo (Fern St).
          I like their NY style pizza, salads and chicken parm.

          1. re: monavano

            I've been meaning to give them a try. When I want to treat myself, I get a 20" pepperoni from Valentino's. I haven't had much luck with the slices or the pasta, but the whole pies are one of my favorite NY thin crusts.

            1. re: monkeyrotica

              Totally agree. They make a good pie. Even like their Sicilian.

          2. re: monkeyrotica

            The places that don't exist anymore were no better than the places that do exist, though I did not live in the area before 1976. Maybe if you go back further, that might have been true.

            Atlantis is fine if you're passing by. Probably none of these are worth a special trip - they are simply unremarkable neighborhood joints.

            1. re: Steve

              Well, that's the whole point of the "lowered expectations" caveat. If you want really good red gravy Italian, you aren't going to find it here. You have to settle for unremarkable neighborhood joints. But there's unremarkable and then there's downright horrible. Still, not every meal has to induce a violent, shuddering orgasm.

              Speaking of unremarkable neighborhood joints, while not in NoVA, Italian Inn in Hyattsville is a kind of time capsule of what Italian American cooking was like in 1960. I stop by on the way back from Baltimore sometimes. They still do a Ledo's style pizza and they still have little leather booths and a Venus di Milo statue and a seedy little dark bar nextdoor. They even have a wooden phone booth. The antithesis of the super authentic DOC approved burnt pizza soup they serve at 2 Amys.


            2. re: monkeyrotica

              I agree. I like Atlantis. It is consistently good, and they always have a crowd. Good homemade soups, pizza, souvlaki, cheap wine, decent service, clean restrooms. It's a nice place to meet someone to catch up over a meal.

            3. There's a relatively new Greek restaurant in Vienna called Nostos that's worth checking out.

              3 Replies
              1. re: shake N baik

                In Vienna, I've had pretty good luck with Skorpios and Plaka Grill, but I've kept to the Greek side of the menu. I can't vouch for anything Italian.

                Avoid Amphora if you know what's good for you.



                1. re: monkeyrotica

                  i do have to say that one of the most sublime cheesecakes i have ever eaten was from amphora, but t was probably five years ago. but it as soooo fabulous, i still remember it very fondly.

                2. re: shake N baik

                  I ate at Nostos over a year ago and the food was delicious. It was a really noisy place however. Perhaps things have changed since then.

                3. Today's lunch was from Delia's - office placed an order. I was unimpressed with my greek salad. The sweet, creamy dressing was just icky. People seemed to like the pizza but I'm not fan of puffy, thick crusts so I didn't try it.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: tcamp

                    Delia's is known for their Peruvian chicken. Why a Greek/Italian place is known for its Peruvian chicken is a subject for a more brilliant mind than mine to fathom.