2006 100 VERY BEST RESTAURANTS
THE SCENE. Poised on the edge of Old Town Alexandria, this two-year-old restaurant is a winning mix of the ambitious (a lively, vibrantly colored front room adorned with jazz collages and original artwork, a tasteful back room for more serious dining, and a dazzling-looking wine bar) and the appealingly low-key (simple Italian cooking untouched by recent trends toward regionalism).
WHAT YOU'LL LOVE. The chance to dine on generous portions of untrendy Italian cooking in bright, peppy surroundings.
WHAT YOU WON'T. The cooking might benefit from bowing a bit more often in the direction of checkered-tablecloth heartiness. And, amid the abondanza, service can sometimes be more efficient than welcoming.
BEST DISHES. Slabs of mozzarella with tomato, peppery olive oil, and basil that looks and tastes fresh even out of season; ringlets of calamari tossed with olive oil, red pepper, and celery; veal cannelloni distinguished by its firm, not soggy, shell; veal paillard, pounded thin and grilled until lightly smoky.