Why go: It’s not that there’s no good Italian in Washington; it’s that the best, most rewarding cooking is to be found in such high-priced bastions of refinement as Tosca and Obelisk. But if you just want the rib-sticking simplicity of a red-sauce joint, you’ll like this tiny cafe that hand-rolls its own pastas and cases its own sausage. And you can get in and out for about the price of a night at the Olive Garden.
What to get: Fried coins of cheesy polenta with marinara; house-made sausage and peppers; fettuccine dressed up with reconstituted porcini mushrooms and a drizzle of olive oil; fettuccine alla amatriciana, with thick bits of bacon and onion in its zesty tomato sauce; cannoli filled to order.
Best for: A cozy, cheap meal before or after a movie at AFI or a show at Round House Theatre.
Insider tip: Portions are filling, and all meals come with a simple house salad, so two appetizers may be overdoing it. Not all the pastas are prepared in-house—look for “fresh house-made” next to the dish.
Open Wednesday through Saturday for dinner.