January 2007: 100 Very Best Restaurants

Ambitious Italian cooking without pretension.

No. 79: A la Lucia

You can make the case that the area doesn’t have many real Italian restaurants, that most are too fancy-dancy for a simple weeknight dinner. Or you can head to this Alexandria restaurant, which is plenty good enough to satisfy your red-sauce and Chianti cravings—and without busting the budget.

Don’t come here looking for carpaccio, agnolotti, and whole grilled fishes—northern-Italian staples that are all lightness. This kitchen dishes up the cooking of southern Italy, and the best plates have an earthy heartiness that is all the more winning for being so unfashionable in this age of Italian micro-regionality: rustic soups (including lentil and white bean); a superb cannelloni stuffed with ground veal; thick, ruffled malfadine sauced with a rich veal ragu; and veal stew with soupy, cheesy polenta.

All go down easily, especially with a bottle of wine from the affordable list, which is strong on Chiantis and Aglianicos and is put together by owner Michael Nayeri, who also runs the wine shop next door.

More from Food