Cheap Eats 2007: Da Marco Ristorante Italiano

The only thing that tells you Da Marco used to be an Italian grocery is the sandwich board in the back and the bank of refrigerated cases across from it. A year and a half ago the owners decided to turn the store, across from the AFI Silver Theatre, into a full-service restaurant.

In a city dominated by Italian chains at one end and high-minded “regional cooking” destinations on the other, Da Marco is an unabashed red-checkered-tablecloth Italian joint with soulful cooking, remarkable prices, and a spirit of abbondanza. The sausage is cased in-house, all dinners come with a crisp salad, the cannolis are filled to order, and a half-dozen pastas are handmade, including fettuccine with porcini mushrooms and crushed garlic and pasta alla amatriciana with soft cubes of pancetta.

Portions are large enough that you could make a meal of starters alone—the sausage, at once soft-textured and coarse (and excellent)—is nearly entrée-size, as is a wonderful plate of fried polenta, the soft, creamy medallions meant to be dunked into a fresh-tasting marinara.

The warmed-over bread and a too-liberal hand at times with the olive oil are off-key notes. But these are quibbles. This is a heartfelt independent doing battle in chain-mad Silver Spring—and winning.

Open Wednesday through Saturday for dinner.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.