Open Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 to 10:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 5:30 to 10 p.m. V, Mc. Reservations. Prices: Pastas $4.50 to $6.50, main dishes $6 to $9.75 at dinner. Lunch specials about $5.
One gets the impression that Candelas is still shaking down, or shaking up. Two months should be long enough, however, for a restaurant to get its kitchen organized. Because the restaurant is so attractive and the staff so personable, it has a good start. Veal dishes of quality for $7, particularly in Georgetown, are a strong attraction. And the wine list, well chosen and handsomely presented in a book full of explanations and descriptions, follows suit with Corvos, Orvietos and Barolos for under $10, plus a superb Gattinara for just over $11. But such slow service and unreliable consistency warrant proceeding with caution.
The most southern style of these three Italian restaurants is Roseto, and it straddles the fashionable new northern style and the old fashioned, earthy southern style Italian restaurants in both decor and food. Fieldstone and crystal decorate the dining room. Accordion music and fresh flowers signal festivity. But the nondescript paintings and the acoustical tile ceiling lack the flair of Candelas and Landini Bros.
Roseto serves a lot of food and accompanies the food with a lot of service. The waiters are professional, attending to wine and water glasses, sprinkling cheese and grinding pepper whenever appropriate. They know when to appear and when to wait at a distance; their experience shows.
The menu divides fairly evenly between pastas, veal and chicken dishes, and seafoods, all at reasonable prices. You can skip past the appetizers, though the array sounds a tempting range of peperonata, shrimps, mussels and stuffed things such as clams, snails, mushrooms and artichokes. Prices are appealing -- averaging $3 -- but too many canned ingredients are used. Soup, perhaps pasta e fagioli, is a safe choice. Pastas, mostly about $5, are, like the appetizers, less intriguing than they sound. Pasta alla chitarra are homemade noodles with a pleasant chewy texture, but their red sauce is nondescript. Similarly sauced are cavatelli, Roseto's special fingerprint pasta that are more like gnocchi than like noodles. The pasta doughs are fine in the fettucine Alfredo and the stuffed cappelletti, but cream sauces, like the tomato sauces, taste anonymous and would benefit from a bolder hand.
Sauces are not the kitchen's strength, for even the veal sauces are starchy. But robust portions of good, freshly cooked meats and seafood make this restaurant worth attention. Pale veal nicely sauteed with mushrooms and moistened with marsala is endearing at $7.50. And veal combined with chicken, ham and cheese in a lemony sauce brings pleasure at $8.25. The zuppa de pesce is a sumptuous platter of clams, mussels, squid, shrimp and fish, plus unfortunately tasteless lobster with plenty of chunky Italian tomatoes and olive oil, impressive at $9.50. With main courses comes a crisp, sprightly salad and a green vegetable well buttered or oiled but more likely to be frozen than fresh. Accompanied by an Italian wine of modest price, of which the choice is broad, dinner at Roseto is rewarding if less than exciting. Like the other restaurants reviewed here, its desserts are highlights, notably the fragile-crusted cannoli and the creamy zuppa inglese.
Lunch at Roseto is becoming a neighborhood habit, particularly on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when a buffet at $5 (second helpings $2.50) presents a range of pastas, meats and salads. Of course, the hot food suffers from sitting on display, but if you get there early, it is a useful introduction to Roseto's homey pleasures.