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Cheap Italian Restaurants


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A group of us spends an inordinate amount of time looking for good Italian (okay, read cheap and good) restaurants in the DC area. We try to stay on the Virginia side of the Potomac. Suggestions anyone?

Normally we spend around $150 to $200 for dinner for three with wine and dessert. We're open to spending more if the food and ambiance are worth it.

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I highly recommend San Vito Ristorante Italiano, in Herndon, Ashburn and now apparently Springfield (in my old stomping grounds of Kings Park). Gian Piero Mazzi worked in several haute Italian restaurants before launching this local effort. They also do wine dinners.

Web site here.

My article about them here.

Buon appetito!

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A group of us spends an inordinate amount of time looking for good Italian (okay, read cheap and good) restaurants in the DC area.  We try to stay on the Virginia side of the Potomac.  Suggestions anyone?

Normally we spend around $150 to $200 for dinner for three with wine and dessert. We're open to spending more if the food and ambiance are worth it.

A lot of the old timers rave about the Alpine and Via Veneto. I have never been to the Alpine but there are several dishes at the Via Veneto that I love. Giulianna makes all of her own pasta and it is as light as a feather. Their sauce is typically a bolognese style but a bit rough around the edges but certainly more tasty than many restaurants especially here in No Va. I have been to several "Italian" restaurants in Fairfax and the NO VA suburbs and frankly I believe they should be shut down by the Italian Anti-defamation League.

As a frequent traveler and Italianophile I suggest you traverse the river and go to

Notti Bianche, Tosca and Tiramisu to name a few.

GB

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A lot of the old timers rave about the Alpine and Via Veneto.  I have never been to the Alpine but there are several dishes at the Via Veneto that I love.
I love the Alpine, but it's largely for the atmosphere, I suppose. It's old-fashioned the way A-V Pizza is, but it's so much nicer. They have a lovely fireplace in the one room. I loved every meal I've gotten there, but mostly that's been lunches.

At some point I was told that the owner was going to be closing it down, but I have no idea if that's true or what the timetable might be.

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About five years ago, Geranio was arguably the best restaurant in Alexandria.  It still has the same owners/chef, although I haven't dined there now in a long time.  I'd love to hear some field reports from people here.

Cheers,

Rocks

We received a GC for Geranio from family this Christmas (had our rehearsal dinner there and it was very nice). I've always enjoyed meals there, but haven't been in just over a year. I'll report back when we go in the near future.

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There's this little mom and pop type place by me, I think it's called "The Olive Garden"  :o

Hmmm, yummy....sounds real ... er ... uh ... yummy, yeah, that's it..production line, straight from the factory, plastic injected Italian...that's what's missing from my diet.... :)

I'm a big fan of San Marco in Adams Morgan.  Pretty inexpensive, good food and a large selection of grappa.

we don't stay on this side of the Potomac exclusively...we have dined quite successfully at Cafe Atlantico, Ten Phen, Mie&Yu, Kinkeads, et al....we just seem to prefer our Italian on this side...however, all suggestions gladly received and noted.

Are they worth entering?

I have had mixed results with Geranio. One time the food is excellent, the service great and the hospitality warm, the next everything is the opposite. Landini Brothers we have found to be consistently good if somewhat predictable. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but there are times when the palate screams for something different.

Really good and cheap, Dolce Vita in Fairfax City across from Paul VI HS. Owned by two Italians Joe and Ricardo, run by them and their families. Excellant winelist. Ask Joe what's not on the list but be sure to ask him the price too, or youmay not make your budget.

I'm out that way every Saturday (grocery buying at Super H Mart). Are they in the shopping center with Super H or close by?

Stay away from Crystal City/Pentagon City.  There's nothing to see here.  Please move along.

Speaking of which, how are the restaurants on 23rd St? I don't want to start a new thread but if there are any Italian restaurants of note, I'd like to know.

Let me further my quest for the "perfect" Italian restaurant. We recently had dinner at Cafe Oggi in McLean. The food was good but the service initially left a lot to be desired (had to ask for bread, olive oil, missing silverware)...apparently after the waitstaff decided we weren't there to mug someone, the service improved and by the time we left, we were practically on first name terms. While we aren't high maintainence, we do like some attention and we do tip generously for good service. However, in new restaurants, no one knows that until we pay the bill and get ready to leave. I'm not sure exactly what it is I want, but I do know I want an experience like I used to have when I lived in Ottawa and the owner and chef would come to your table, tell you what had been purchased that day, recommend dishes, ask your likes and dislikes and then prepare the best Italian food I have ever had in my life outside of Italy...Where can we find service/food like that in the area? (or am I dreaming?)

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Really good and cheap, Dolce Vita in Fairfax City across from Paul VI HS. Owned by two Italians Joe and Ricardo, run by them and their families. Excellant winelist. Ask Joe what's not on the list but be sure to ask him the price too, or youmay not make your budget.

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I'm out that way every Saturday (grocery buying at Super H Mart).  Are they in the shopping center with Super H or close by?

It is right next door, not in the same parking lot but the next block after it if you are coming from 123. Across from the kabob place and caddy corner to mcdonalds and Angeliques? pizza.

SuperH is great isn't it? (different thread, I know)

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In order: Bonaroti (Vienna), Landini Bros. (brick walls, stone floors-feels like Old Town), Bellevista (poor wine list-outstanding ambience), Geranio (very noisy when crowded) then a step down to da Domenico (Tyson's), Tempo (Duke street in Alexandria-an interesting conversion of a gas station), Alpine (grandfathered in), Capri (McLean), Zefferelli (Herndon), Dolce Vita (nondescript ambience), San Vito (I am not a fan although the Ashburn location is preferred to the strip shopping center in Franklin Farm). There's also a place in a strip shopping center on Sudley road in Manassas which is suppose to be good but I've never been there. I have been to everyone I mentioned above, most at least several times over the past few years. Dolce Vita and San Vito both have very good pizza, by the way.

And, for what it's worth, the best of those listed above is still, several rungs below Tosca which is about the same price.

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In order:  Bonaroti (Vienna), Landini Bros. (brick walls, stone floors-feels like Old Town), Bellevista (poor wine list-outstanding ambience), Geranio (very noisy when crowded) then a step down to da Domenico (Tyson's), Tempo (Duke street in Alexandria-an interesting conversion of a gas station), Alpine (grandfathered in), Capri (McLean), Zefferelli (Herndon), Dolce Vita (nondescript ambience), San Vito (I am not a fan although the Ashburn location is preferred to the strip shopping center in Franklin Farm).  There's also a place in a strip shopping center on Sudley road in Manassas which is suppose to be good but I've never been there.  I have been to everyone I mentioned above, most at least several times over the past few years.  Dolce Vita and San Vito both have very good pizza, by the way.

And, for what it's worth, the best of those listed above is still, several rungs below Tosca which is about the same price.

That is a pretty comprehensive list, but Bellissimo is not present. You recently stated that it might be a bit better than Bonaroti. Have you revisited and changed your opinion? Based on your initial review I was going to give it a shot, but now I am rethinking.

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Sorry, my mistake, I meant Bellissimo rather than the Bellavista I typed. It was late at night... Factoring the combination of food, ambience and wine list & pricing I'd still have it third behind Bonaroti and Landini Bros. For myself the largest positive of Bonaroti is the food, Landini is the combination of food and Old Town, Bellissimo has good (not great) food but I really, really like the ambience a lot. The extremely short wine list is a real negative as are the high cost of daily specials. Personally, I think Dolce Vita and San Vito fall down on food (sorry-just my opinion) but are considerably less expensive than the first three, especially San Vito. Geranio has been outstanding on several trips, perhaps on par with Tosca at its best. The noise from all of the hard surfaces in the room is a real problem there when the dining room is full. For that reason I'd pick Landin Bros. in Old Town. There's another Old Town Italian on King street that has nice ambience but the food is a few rungs below the others. Tempo, on one visit about 18 months ago, was surprisingly good. Alpine has probably been around 40 or more years on Lee Highway. In 1970 this would have been NOrthern VA.'s best. In 2006 it's good enough to still be open.

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the Pines of Florence on glebe road was shutdown for health code violations, so thats a spin for ya'. As for the Alpine, great artifacts, food tastes as if its been there that long also. Down in the 'dirty-ray' or as others may refere to DelRay, Monroes is ok, spotty service, hit or miss items. Down in Richmond, Mama Zu's was awesome, and for cheap eats, Joe's Inn on shields avenue.

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Capri is upstairs in a two story strip shopping center at 6825 Redmond Drive, which "parallels" Old Dominion. This is the Washingtonian review from August of '04: http://www.washingtonian.com/dining/Profiles/capri.html As noted above the host/owner is extremely outgoing and does an outstanding job of making everyone feel important. He also, if asked, makes an outstanding risotto tableside

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Personally, I think Dolce Vita and San Vito fall down on food (sorry-just my opinion) but are considerably less expensive than the first three, especially San Vito. 

The Ashburn location of San Vito is right up the road from me and I was pretty excited when it first opened based on its pedigree. But I've not had a single good meal in my ten or so attempts there, both in the restaurant and in carry out (there aren't a lot of good options, hence my many returns).

Did I read you correctly up thread a bit Joe that you prefer the Ashburn location to the Herndon one? I figured Ashburn would have been the less accomplished location based on my experiences there.

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Bill, I have a close friend who really likes the Franklin Farms location. I am very diplomatic with him but he doesn't follow this board. I don't like either one. The ambience is a bit better in Ashburn-that's all. Pizza has been good on two occasions at that one-well, good for Fairfax county.

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And Monroe's has good pasta dishes and a decent wine list.  It's more of a neighborhood place than a destination restaurant.

Tried Monroe's (near Del Ray) this weekend - definitely not a destination, in my book. I was expecting a bit more from the place and I was disappointed. The "Monroe's bread" (their take on white pizza?) was boring, dry, and appeared to be made from a frozen pizza crust.

I do appreciate that they offer half portions of their pasta, as that was a plenty big serving. My companion found the bolognese to be dry and lacking in flavor. My pasta was forgettable...as in I can't even remember what was on it :) (roasted sweet peppers?).

I wanted to like the place but it just didn't do it for me. I'm glad that there seems to be plenty of people in the neighborhood who do like it, as they've been around for a while, but I doubt I'll be back.

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A la Lucia  in Alexandria gets my vote.  Nice wine selection.

pedestrian pasta, we had dinner there a couple of weeks ago and it wasn't memorable enough to say anything about. I had pasta with seafood...frozen shrimp, decent squid..that's all that I remember...the wine was good which was a bit of a consolation.
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pedestrian pasta, we had dinner there a couple of weeks ago and it wasn't memorable enough to say anything about.  I had pasta with seafood...frozen shrimp, decent squid..that's all that I remember...the wine was good which was a bit of a consolation.

Was the dish served with frozen shrimp? Or are you implying that they used frozen shrimp as a starting point?

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Was the dish served with frozen shrimp?  Or are you implying that they used frozen shrimp as a starting point?

The shrimp used in the pasta had been previously frozen...makes it just slightly more tender than vulcanized rubber.
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The shrimp used in the pasta had been previously frozen...makes it just slightly more tender than vulcanized rubber.

And do you really think that most restaurants out there are buying shrimp that have never been frozen? If I remember correctly most shrimp caught is flash frozen pretty quickly after catching and cleaning. Rubber shrimp sounds more like an overcooking problem to me.

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pedestrian pasta, we had dinner there a couple of weeks ago and it wasn't memorable enough to say anything about.  I had pasta with seafood...frozen shrimp, decent squid..that's all that I remember...the wine was good which was a bit of a consolation.

I eat there often and have never had frozen seafood in any of their dishes. If you have only been there once I would recommned that you go back and give it another shot. I usually have the meatballs and polenta ( the best meatballs, other then my grandmothers) I have had in a while, the caesar and any of the pasta dishes. I also have had the veal and the beef and they were always well prepared.

The only issue I have is that sometimes the owner Michael is crabby.

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And do you really think that most restaurants out there are buying shrimp that have never been frozen?  If I remember correctly most shrimp caught is flash frozen pretty quickly after catching and cleaning.  Rubber shrimp sounds more like an overcooking problem to me.

Could have been overcooked...definitely rubbery. You may be correct about the flash freezing.
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I eat there often and have never had frozen seafood in any of their dishes.  If you have only been there once I would recommned that you go back and give it another shot. I usually have the  meatballs and polenta ( the best meatballs, other then my grandmothers) I have had in a while, the caesar and any of the pasta dishes. I also have had the veal and the beef and they were always well prepared.

The only issue I have is that sometimes the owner Michael is crabby.

This was the second time. First time was before they expanded...service, food were both better then. This time felt more like Ye Olde Spaghetti Factory than a neighborhood restaurant. Only thing missing were cans of Heinz tomato sauce on the shelf...
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