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Greek/Italian Family Restaurants in NoVA

h
henmonster Jan 28, 2013 06:43 PM

Chownation:

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.

  1. s
    Steve Jan 28, 2013 07:12 PM

    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
      h
      henmonster Jan 28, 2013 07:45 PM

      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
        s
        Steve Jan 29, 2013 05:24 AM

        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
          monkeyrotica Jan 29, 2013 05:49 AM

          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: monkeyrotica
            tcamp Jan 29, 2013 08:21 AM

            Double avoid. That place is vile.

            1. re: tcamp
              monkeyrotica Jan 29, 2013 08:52 AM

              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. monavano Jan 29, 2013 05:37 AM

      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
        monkeyrotica Jan 29, 2013 05:48 AM

        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
          tcamp Jan 29, 2013 08:20 AM

          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
            monkeyrotica Jan 29, 2013 08:50 AM

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

            1. re: monkeyrotica
              monavano Jan 29, 2013 08:52 AM

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

              1. re: monavano
                tcamp Jan 29, 2013 11:39 AM

                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. monkeyrotica Jan 29, 2013 05:43 AM

        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
          monavano Jan 29, 2013 06:59 AM

          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
            monkeyrotica Jan 29, 2013 07:22 AM

            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
              monavano Jan 29, 2013 07:38 AM

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

          2. re: monkeyrotica
            s
            Steve Jan 29, 2013 09:45 AM

            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
              monkeyrotica Jan 29, 2013 10:12 AM

              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.

              http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/ar...

            2. re: monkeyrotica
              c
              CecileB Feb 18, 2013 08:01 AM

              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. s
              shake N baik Jan 29, 2013 10:21 AM

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

              3 Replies
              1. re: shake N baik
                monkeyrotica Jan 29, 2013 10:33 AM

                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.

                http://www.maggiosvienna.com/Maggios/Welcome.html

                http://www.plakagrill.com/

                1. re: monkeyrotica
                  alkapal Jan 29, 2013 02:15 PM

                  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
                  Mulan Jan 29, 2013 05:07 PM

                  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. tcamp Jan 29, 2013 11:43 AM

                  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
                    monkeyrotica Jan 29, 2013 11:56 AM

                    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.

                  2. f
                    flavrmeistr Jan 29, 2013 01:00 PM

                    They're all gone. The only decent pizza to be found is Vace in Cleveland Park and Al Forno in Frederick. That's it. Other than that, it's high-end Italian or revolting (Anthony's, Listeria's-I mean Listrani's). For Greek, you pretty much have to go to Baltimore.

                    1. alkapal Jan 29, 2013 02:21 PM

                      we noticed recently that pallas athena in the restaurant row across from crystal city seems to be out of order (windows with plywood), although the website is in working order, so who knows… . it had some really decent greek dishes. http://www.athenapallas.com/index.php

                      my greek friends will go to that place there on old dominion in mclean…http://thegreektaverna.com/about_en.html …or at least they used to…..

                      sorry i am not more helpful, but i wish this cuisine were better represented here. baltimore is a different story!

                      ~~~~~~~~~
                      on the italian side, the pines of florence on fairfax drive in arlington ain't bad…
                      http://pinesofflorenceitalian.com/men...

                      white tableclothes, peaceful atmosphere where you can talk, very good service…same prices as ruffino's without the madness and tight quarters (and UNLIKE ruffino's, they can tell you the origin of their shrimp). not haute cuisine, but good for when you want to get out of the house and have some decent pasta or an italian veal or seafood dish. i like their mixed seafood in red sauce (zuppa de pesce), and mr. alka likes their eggplant and veal. i can vouch for their double espresso! LOL

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: alkapal
                        monkeyrotica Jan 29, 2013 03:22 PM

                        Is that any relation to Pines of Florence in Old Town? It's pretty old timey; linguine with clam sauce, cheap house red, nothing fancy. Dated interior but I find it cozy.

                        1. re: monkeyrotica
                          alkapal Jan 29, 2013 05:49 PM

                          i don't know, but i don't think so; there are several "pines" around. once i asked them if they were related to the pines of italy on columbia pike, and they said no.

                          this one on fairfax drive is very modern inside, but there are no flashy "innovative" italian dishes.

                        2. re: alkapal
                          Mulan Jan 29, 2013 05:07 PM

                          I just ate at Greek Taverna on Saturday. I am a big fan of that place. Great foccacia bread with garlic olive oil, fried zucchini and calamari, and the Taverna Special sampler. Delish! I highly recommend this place.

                          1. re: alkapal
                            Dennis S Feb 5, 2013 08:55 AM

                            Pallas is definitely open. Just went there for take-out.

                            I was first impressed about the decor inside - surprisingly nice. Definitely Greek, too. The whole staff (which seemed family - this is front of house of course), but the other patrons. Holy moly - I was the only person of non-Greek descent, I believe!

                            I really want to try this place out more, and have a bigger sit down meal (very interested in the stuffed shrooms). I just got the chicken souvlaki, but they do that very well.

                            1. re: Dennis S
                              alkapal Feb 6, 2013 08:52 AM

                              well i am glad to hear that, dennis. did you notice plywood on some of the structure? what is going on there?

                              one of the best dishes i've gotten there was on the specials board. it was a shrimp dish with a creamy tomatoe, onion and ouzo sauce -- served over linguine. boy, it was terrific. here is my description of our first visit there: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5132...

                              1. re: alkapal
                                Dennis S Feb 6, 2013 09:20 AM

                                Nice review there. A friend is in town this evening and I'm going to put it on the list of potentials for tonight! I'll have to keep an eye out for that shrimp dish whenever I go back.

                                The outdoor seating area has plastic around it. There was something going on (while I was waiting someone was out there with a ladder, but I didn't really focus on what he was doing). I do seem to remember the plywood when I walked past it a few weeks ago, but nothing outside of the plastic stuck out to me yesterday.

                                I am definitely happy to know about the place now.

                          2. Dennis S Jan 30, 2013 07:56 AM

                            Full on Greek - Mykonos in Reston. I fear they are in the dreaded death spiral, but my brother was stationed in Crete for years and loves going there whenever he's visiting here.

                            Greek family with a good greek pizza - Pan Am Family Restaurant in Vienna.

                            Both places are family run. You can drink with the family at Mykonos if they're slow and willing.

                            I need to try the greek place in Crystal City. Would do so today, but I have leftovers from Hong Kong Palace that have been calling to me all morning. Noticed a mention earlier by Alkapal. They were still very much open for business about 3 weeks ago, but the folks I was with wanted to go to one of the unremarkable thai places there.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Dennis S
                              j
                              Just Visiting Jun 3, 2013 04:46 AM

                              Well, if Mykonos is in a death spiral, there are a whole lot of people attending the wake. We went there on Saturday night - my first visit. Every table full; every table happy. This was my first visit but it won't be my last. Three of us shared the cold appetizer assortment. Ample spoonfuls (enough to share) of taramosalata (fish roe whipped into an airy dip), eggplant mousse, tzatziki, stuffed eggplant, and very good feta. All served with very good pita. I was very impressed when the owner told me that the shrimp are frozen, not fresh, and he then told me what fresh fish they had that night. I opted for the corvina, which was fantastic and perfectly cooked. Husband had the best spanakopita I've ever tasted. Mother had a great moussaka. This is a dish I ordinarily don't care for, but it was just wonderful. Lightly spiced with cinnamon and with a very light bechamel on top. We shared a single order of Galaktobureko (a semolina custard in phyllo, drizzed with honey). Fantastic!

                              Service was excellent. Though very busy, the staff really make you feel like a welcomed guest and seem to take pleasure in making sure you have a good experience.

                              1. re: Just Visiting
                                Dennis S Jun 3, 2013 05:44 AM

                                Wow - that is excellent news! June is a busy month for us but I'll try to revisit soon. They're not in the best location, but I did want them to succeed.

                            2. h
                              heatcrave Jan 31, 2013 11:51 AM

                              Please, make the trek out to Manassas and go to Katerina's Greek Restaurant. It is very good, friendly service, and affordable. Growing up near Tarpon Springs, FL I was very spoiled by the delicious Greek cuisine, since then this is the best gyro I've had.

                              15 Replies
                              1. re: heatcrave
                                z
                                Ziv Jan 31, 2013 05:18 PM

                                I know nothing about Greek food, and want to know more. But is talking about a Greek restaurant with good gyros similar to talking about a good Italian restaurants pizza? I mean, does it just miss the best part of the entire countries cuisine? Or is a fastfood-like gyros or pizza emblematic of a cuisine? I don't know anything about this, but gyros and pizza aren't what I think of when I think of Greece and Italy. And I apologize for being negative!

                                1. re: Ziv
                                  monkeyrotica Feb 1, 2013 03:43 AM

                                  The overall tone of this thread is mom-and-pop, Italian-American/Greek family style restaurants, not upscale Greek mezze or high-end Italian. You can find good (and bad) examples of both, but the former is more difficult to find than in, say, Jersey or the Philly suburbs. I'd expect a $30 plate of pasta at Tosca to taste better than a $12 plate of pasta at Guido's Family Restaurant, but sometimes I really don't want the super most authentic regional cuisine from Bologna. I just want a plate of busghetti and meatballs, a cheap house red, and Mario Lanza on the jukebox.

                                  Speaking of fastfood gyros, I had lunch at Cava yesterday. $9 bucks for a gyro and fries, but their "gyros" are the zero-prep, fastfood lamb bologna that everyone seems to be switching to because actually owning a gyro spit is too expensive. The fries were still perfect and they still serve the best grilled octopus in town, but I'm switching to the souvlaki.

                                  1. re: monkeyrotica
                                    z
                                    Ziv Feb 1, 2013 04:39 AM

                                    Point taken, Monkeyerotica, I didn't mean to be a jerk, but I have been looking for an inexpensive Italian place in NOVA for years and never have found one. Real Greek would be kind of cool too. I have been to Greek Taverna in McLean but it is kind of expensive for what I am looking for. I think I am looking for something that just doesn't exist around here.
                                    My dream is to find a place that serves cioppino for the lunch special and osso bucco for dinner, or does red mullet to a turn, or a reasonably authentic cannelloni, or serves polenta in ways I have never seen before...
                                    My perfect find would be like the old Cooper's in Miami. It was an old pub owned by a Vet and his German wife. It turned out that she was a great cook and the pub got hugely popular with fans of cheap, authentic German food. Plain Jane atmosphere and rock solid German/Italian food is my goal. And finding it in NOVA is probably not going to happen.

                                    And to top it all off, I am not a huge fan of gyros and am only ok with pizza. Rats.

                                    1. re: Ziv
                                      monkeyrotica Feb 1, 2013 05:54 AM

                                      You'd be able to find what you're looking for downtown, but it will cost you. There are some decent options in Old Town like Geranio, but again, not cheap. About the closest I've come to what I'm looking for at the midrange price point is Savio's off Van Dorn.

                                      1. re: monkeyrotica
                                        monavano Feb 1, 2013 06:53 AM

                                        We tried Savio's a few months ago with a coupon. The food was fair at best and the place needs a major overhaul. It's just old. The real insult was that we didn't realize our coupon wan't valid on Fri and Sat (forget which day we ate there) and it expired the next day. They refused to honor it.
                                        Bad move. It was an honest mistake that we didn't read the fine print and if they would have honored it, we'd go back. That'll happen never.

                                      2. re: Ziv
                                        Dennis S Feb 1, 2013 06:56 AM

                                        I do urge anyone serious to try Mykonos in Reston for Greek. Talk with them, too. They'll hopefully deliver.

                                        As for German, have you tried Euro Bistro? I think they spread themselves too thin on the menu, but the Germanic dishes I've had have all been pretty solid. The rahmschnitzel especially is good.

                                      3. re: monkeyrotica
                                        s
                                        Steve Feb 1, 2013 06:38 AM

                                        An inexpensive pasta place can be just as good or better than the expensive places downtown.

                                        I had the gnocchi in pesto at Mr Joe's Cafe in south Philly, and I would rank that meal above any pasta I've had at Tosca or Fiola.

                                        As long as I've lived in the area, DC has lacked the kind of culture that can be found further northeast.

                                        1. re: monkeyrotica
                                          e
                                          ErikaH Feb 2, 2013 07:47 AM

                                          I was excited to see this thread because I'll be visiting NOVA shortly, and hope to find a neighborhood restaurant of a sort that I can't find at home in the Pacific NW. (For example, on a recent trip to Chicago, I sought out a neighborhood Polish restaurant, the kind of place that has been around for years, where the regulars run a tab that gets paid off periodically, and where the owner tells you what to order.) I guess I won't be looking to find an Italian neighborhood restaurant in NOVA, but what should I be looking for, for a comparable sort of experience?

                                          1. re: ErikaH
                                            alkapal Feb 2, 2013 12:28 PM

                                            running a tab? nowhere that i can imagine -- unless they have your credit card at the bar.

                                            the forté of this region is the variety of vietnamese restaurants.

                                            1. re: ErikaH
                                              s
                                              Steve Feb 2, 2013 06:51 PM

                                              It's an intensely international community. Some of my favorites include Lao and Burmese. In addition, you can find some terrific Sichuan, Bolivian, Palestinian, Filippino, Afghan, Indian (Chettinad), Ethiopian, Vietnamese, well, you get the picture. It depends on what/where interests you.

                                              In terms of a unique experience, you could post to Seng's Facebook page and ask if she can make you any Lao dishes that are not on her regular menu. Som pa (fermented fish) is my favorite, but she needs 3 days notice to marinate the fish. She also makes a Lao version of kao soi that rocks. Unlike the Chang Mai version of this noodle soup, the Lao version uses bean paste instead of coconut milk.

                                              https://www.facebook.com/BangkokGolden

                                              1. re: Steve
                                                e
                                                ErikaH Feb 3, 2013 09:39 PM

                                                Lao I have not tried. I'll be based in Arlington. Is Bangkok Golden the best place to try?

                                                1. re: ErikaH
                                                  alkapal Feb 4, 2013 06:22 AM

                                                  as far as i know, it is the only place around here in arlington (falls church/seven corners -- where bangkok golden is located -- is the adjacent jurisdiction)...but steve goes further afield in the metro area, and may know of others. when you go, you MUST (ha!) get the crispy rice salad with lao sausage. it is my current "i could eat this till i die" dish).

                                                  bonus: only a couple doors down from bangkok golden is hong kong palace, the best szechuan place here in this northern virginia area ("NOVA" is what you'll hear).

                                                  across the main road (rte 50) is the best cantonese in northern virgnia --XO Taste (BBQ pork, duck too).

                                                  right around the corner is the best dim sum place -- hong kong pearl seafood, and just across from there is eden center, where you'll find the premier collection of vietnamese restaurants in the whole US, i'd suppose! ;). SEVEN CORNERS is the asian food capital of virginia!

                                                  1. re: ErikaH
                                                    s
                                                    Steve Feb 4, 2013 10:28 AM

                                                    It's the only place in NoVa for Lao food. It's fantastic.

                                                    There is a printed Lao menu. They also have a standard Thai menu, so you may have to ask for the Lao menu. Nam Kao (rice ball salad) is dynamite - truly essential, as is mieng muang luang (rice paste wrap). Grilled pork neck (not on the menu, maybe listed on a separate piece of paper near the cash register, but regardless just ask). Beef jerky, sai oua (sausage), and the dishes listed in my post above are among the highlights. If you contact them in advance via facebook, you'll probably get some extra attention.

                                                    1. re: Steve
                                                      e
                                                      ErikaH Feb 5, 2013 06:39 AM

                                                      Thank you both so much for the tips! I definitely will be venturing out. It looks like I can take either the 4A or the 4B bus, and I will give it a shot!

                                          2. re: heatcrave
                                            s
                                            Steve Jan 31, 2013 08:21 PM

                                            What kind of meat? Is it strips of meat layered on a spit?

                                          3. alkapal Feb 1, 2013 07:08 AM

                                            we went to a group luncheon around christmas 2011 at pulcinella in mclean, and it was pretty good (i had the fish); service was poor, but i don't know if that is typical of their non-group service. http://www.pulcinellarestaurant.com/ i haven't eaten there otherwise.

                                            the following two are probably more upscale than mom and pop type places, but in truth, some of the mom and pop prices are not much cheaper than these places.

                                            argia's in falls church used to get great neighborhood reviews…. http://www.argias.com/menu.html i don't know why we've never been. i suppose it is that we normally go for thai, chinese or vietnamese as most of our dining out. the menu seems reasonable, and i like that they have a "family" size available at dinner time for appetizers. looking at the menu, i need to go check it out.

                                            this last christmas, we had a luncheon at assaggi osteria on old dominion in mclean, and it was very good. my choice (from pasta or chicken) was their pasta (garganelli); it was italian-style, very sparsely sauced, but the pasta was house-made and suitably al dente (difficult for a group luncheon) -- but it could've been hotter (again, a problem with a group luncheon...either it is hot and overdone, or warm but al dente. ;-).

                                            the salad was very fresh. their espresso was terrific, and their panna cotta was really sublime. the olive oil and bread on the table were almost meal-worthy in themselves. the other dish was a chicken in mushroom sauce, and it looked really nice, too.

                                            they currently have a restaurant week lunch deal for around $20, so i think that is a good deal. definitely check them out. (warning, this site has music. UGH. make it easy to turn this off, assaggi people! this is one of my BIG restaurant site pet peeves). http://www.assaggiosteria.com/menus/specials/lunch-restaurant-week

                                            here is their regular lunch menu http://www.assaggiosteria.com/menus/lunch and dinner http://www.assaggiosteria.com/menus/ their setting is really nice -- puts the pulcinellas of the world to shame. a different class.

                                            1. alkapal Feb 1, 2013 09:10 AM

                                              anyone been to café oggi in mclean lately? i went once as a guest several years ago. there is a specialicious deal on now, so it might be worth a shot! here is their site http://cafeoggi.com/menu.html

                                              7 Replies
                                              1. re: alkapal
                                                s
                                                Steve Feb 1, 2013 11:19 AM

                                                Oggi is ok, not too interesting. Pulcinella is not very interesting, either.

                                                I'd sooner eat at PieTanza.

                                                1. re: Steve
                                                  i
                                                  Indy 67 Feb 2, 2013 05:02 AM

                                                  If anyone finds him/herself at Pulcinella, I've found a couple of reliable dishes:

                                                  -- Pollo Francese -- like a Piccata but with an egg crust
                                                  -- Pasta with Lamb Ragout (Agnello)
                                                  -- Chicken Cacciatore with the addition of some Italian
                                                  sausages
                                                  -- Mixed green salad with Balsamic dressing (subbed for the
                                                  regular salad -- upcharge)

                                                  Over a decade ago, Pulcinella used to have wine dinners. Once a month, the chef would create a regional menu that were paired with excellent wines provided by a local importer. The cooking on those nights was sublime -- truly comperable to outstanding meals we've eaten in trattorias Italy. (The wines were also great and could be ordered.) I don't know who was cooking this food; it certainly tasted nothing like the meals coming out of the regular kitchen. We used to joke that the grandmothers of the chefs used to come in to cook these dinners. The pasta, for example, was etherally thin and delicious.

                                                  For the time period that those dinners were in affect, we never ate at Pulcinella off the regular menu. Health problems of one of the principals in the restaurant brought those wonderful experiences to a halt.

                                                2. re: alkapal
                                                  i
                                                  Indy 67 Feb 2, 2013 04:47 AM

                                                  If you're willing to pay Oggi's prices, I recommend you go to Osteria Assagi which you already know and like. About once a decade, I give Oggi a try and find the food to be good continental cuisine but very over-priced.

                                                  1. re: Indy 67
                                                    a
                                                    Alexvamike Feb 3, 2013 02:17 PM

                                                    This has been a fun thread to read. Especially enjoyed some of the comments regarding A.V.'s and Gusti's.

                                                    I use to frequent both. Nice thing about Gusti's in the old Market of NY ave. They did not check ID's so we could get a beer with our pizza even thougth we were only 17. Does anyone remember DeGinnaro's Italian Gardens in College Park.

                                                    But to jump up to today. I have lived in Alex for 30 years now and have never heard anything about LaPorta's. Never been there. But it is rated high on Trip Advisor ??

                                                    Also, Table Talk. I know some folks that love it but I have never tried it.

                                                    Any thoughts?

                                                    1. re: Alexvamike
                                                      monavano Feb 4, 2013 05:29 AM

                                                      Table Talk is a lovely place that serves a decent breakfast. Don't expect Hollandaise sauce or poached eggs! It's pretty basic offerings, but the prices are right and the staff is friendly.

                                                      1. re: monavano
                                                        monkeyrotica Feb 4, 2013 05:44 AM

                                                        Second this. Good competent breakfasts and lunches at a fair price. I wish it was open for dinner.

                                                      2. re: Alexvamike
                                                        f
                                                        flavrmeistr Feb 4, 2013 08:48 AM

                                                        I used to play at DiGennaro's Lounge in Laurel back in the 70's. Arthur Bremer shot George Wallace in the parking lot a few years before. Never ate there, just a beer in between sets.

                                                  2. h
                                                    henmonster Feb 22, 2013 08:49 AM

                                                    Thank you to everyone who had input on this thread. Ultimately, it's a bummer to know that there's such a void in this region for affordable Italian-American/Greek. And yes - it makes me miss Philly and Brooklyn like crazy -- where you can find stellar eats of this sort in any price point.

                                                    Shall we all invest in our own chain of Italian-American?

                                                    5 Replies
                                                    1. re: henmonster
                                                      monkeyrotica Feb 22, 2013 09:14 AM

                                                      Which one? Olive Garden or Carrabas Italian Hell?

                                                      1. re: monkeyrotica
                                                        alkapal Feb 23, 2013 07:14 AM

                                                        i'll have carrabbas' italian sausage lentil soup and their pork chops with marsala mushroom sauce any day! they also have a good happy hour deal. i wish there were a carrabbas closer to arlington, like i wish there were a closer bonefish grill (if for nothing but bang bang shrimp).

                                                      2. re: henmonster
                                                        Dennis S Feb 22, 2013 02:17 PM

                                                        Didja get to any one of the suggestions? Just wondering.

                                                        1. re: Dennis S
                                                          e
                                                          ErikaH Feb 23, 2013 07:38 AM

                                                          Unfortunately, I had less free time than I had anticipated, and I didn't manage to get out to the Lao restaurant, as I had hoped. However, I'm collating all the suggestions and passing them on to friends of mine who are moving to NoVA this week, so I'm very grateful for the recommendations.

                                                          I did attend an organized dinner at Sequoia, which was actually very nice - much better than I had anticipated from some online reviews of the restaurant. It was a standard banquet "steak or fish" menu, but the fish I had was very nicely done; perfectly cooked (still translucent in the middle) with a beautiful sauce. Not spectacularly interesting food, but very well prepared, and the service was great.

                                                          1. re: ErikaH
                                                            Dennis S Feb 23, 2013 07:54 AM

                                                            Cool enough - thanks for the reply.

                                                      3. l
                                                        LoosePanda Jun 24, 2013 12:51 PM

                                                        Vaso's in Alexandria is pretty good. It's tiny, so it fills up quickly, but I have enjoyed the few times I've been there.

                                                        1. alkapal Jun 25, 2013 04:56 PM

                                                          anyone know about the plans for "anthony's"?

                                                          their falls church location is shut down and this is what's on their website: "News and Events:
                                                          Last day of operations at our Falls Church location was Sunday, June 2, 2013. We look forward to seeing you again in September at the "new" Anthony's in Falls Church!!! More details to be announced."

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: alkapal
                                                            Dennis S Jun 26, 2013 12:23 AM

                                                            News 4 had an article on it a few days ago. I forget the location that they're moving to - I'm sure they'll post it.

                                                            1. re: alkapal
                                                              m
                                                              MikeR Jun 27, 2013 04:08 AM

                                                              Falls Church’s Office of Economic Development confirmed that Anthony’s Restaurant has signed a preliminary “letter of intent” to relocate to a building on Bill Page Honda property near the intersection of Rt. 50 and Annandale Rd.

                                                              Don't hold your breath waiting for the new opening, though, as the building is still under construction.

                                                              1. re: MikeR
                                                                alkapal Jun 28, 2013 03:46 AM

                                                                thanks. i had hoped it'd be in the neighborhood where it was, but i guess there isn't space for what seems to involve a major expansion.

                                                                must be to accommodate all those school teams after games. ;-).

                                                            2. Bob W Jun 28, 2013 10:15 AM

                                                              Has anyone tried Ashton Family Restaurant in Manassas? It looks to have a huge menu of the usual Greek and Italian dishes as well as some Latin-American items such as tacos al carbon and Guatemalan tipico (egg dish).

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: Bob W
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                                                                MarietteB Jun 29, 2013 05:26 AM

                                                                We have been there twice for breakfast and enjoyed both visits. The first time my husband had huevos rancheros and I had a sort of breakfast burrito. Both were good and generous. The second time we went for the Costa Rican breakfast and the Guatemalan. The Costa Rican - with cilantro, tomato, and onion omelet (and some plantains and queso fresco) was very good. But the Guatamalan with the thin grilled beef, refritos and plantains was amazing.

                                                                Service is friendly and very accommodating (like offering to substitute items if you want).

                                                                I see a lot of regulars there - mostly eating American breakfasts. But some of the regulars recommended we try dinners there - all were enthusiastic.

                                                                I liked it.

                                                                1. re: MarietteB
                                                                  Bob W Jun 29, 2013 02:46 PM

                                                                  Thank you!!

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