Here is a small and pretty but very simple Italian dining room with a menu that changes twice a day. Galileo serves whatever is in season, be it squab, quail or venison, tuna or shrimp. The menu is not long, but still it offers enough choices to make decisions difficult.
A meal starts off well even before the menu; the bread sticks are homemade, and the bread basket offers rough-textured focaccio studded with raisins or olives. For antipasto, there is an array of marinated vegetables and seafoods -- perhaps baby squash or giant mushrooms or squid salad -- in pottery dishes lined up near the entrance, and you can order them alone or as an assortment. Then there are pizzas, fancy little ones but not nearly as good as the pastas. Among pastas there might be beautifully made, delicate and firm-textured basil-flavored or saffron-flavored noodles, sauced with fresh vegetables or finely minced stewed veal or roasted peppers, and there will be stuffed pasta pillows. But even better is risotto -- the last one I had was cooked creamy and tangy with goat cheese and zucchini. It joined my risotto hall of fame.
Among main dishes I would stick to game and hearty old- fashioned traditions such as boiled beef. One day there was squab perched on tiny slabs of pan-crisped polenta, served with a marvelous paste of salami and anchovies. If it were on the menu again I probably would never get around to anything else. Not that quail with polenta was less than excellent. And there are roasted baby chickens, fish baked in a paper bag or grilled and obsessively basted. Veal might be roasted rather than sliced and saut,eed. And alongside come lovely accompaniments such as baby vegetables.
I have had some disappointments at Galileo -- the pizza, an overcooked tuna steak and the desserts. But Galileo's imagination and preparation leave little to fault from the kitchen. In addition, the prices are a giant step below equivalent restaurants, and the small wine list is well chosen and equally well priced. The real problem with Galileo is the acoustics, for this attractive little whitewashed dining room bounces sound from one concrete wall to another. This is no restaurant for intimate conversation; it is, however, lively and nergetic and exciting. 2014 P St. NW. 293-7191. L $7.25-$10.25, D $7.95-$13.95. L daily ex Sat, Sun, D daily. Closed Sun. AE, CB, DC, MC, V. Res req. Full bar.