Cheap Eats 2007: Pasta Mia

The line forms at six every night, a half hour before Roberto Broglia’s first-come, first-served operation opens. Broglia is the only cook, and there are only 44 seats, so if you are 45th in line, you might wait an hour. Many do.

Inside, Broglia’s wife, Antonietta, doesn’t seat you so much as gesture in the direction of your table. House rules are strictly enforced: no seating until the entire party is there, no substitutions, all pastas come with cheese. The menu is truncated in the extreme—no meats, no seafood, no fish. Service is slow and methodical.

It’s tempting to dub Broglia the Pasta Nazi, but at how many other places can you get a satisfying plate of perfectly cooked pasta for $13—and have enough left over for a second and third meal? This is unabashed red-checked-tablecloth cooking, with sauces liberally applied, but there are unexpected grace notes—the tortellini give off hits of nutmeg; the Gorgonzola sauce on the gnocchi is rich but not overbearing; a platter of red peppers is dressed up with good white anchovies; the salads are fresh and bountiful; the cocoa dusting the tartuffo and the chocolate in the strachiatella parfait are both dark and bitter.

You can have a glass of the house red or white, or any of the 83 bottles of wine, from Aglianicos to Barolos—more than half of them between $26 and $36. By the time you emerge onto Columbia Road, you might have forgotten that you waited in line.

Open Tuesday 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 Petworth.