This northern Italian restaurant is lavished with roses and elegant decorative touches. And the menu is so refined and northern that the food tends to be as much French as Italian. In those ways, and in the rushed indifference of the staff, Terrazza is obviously related to its downtown sibling, Tiberio. But prices are substantially lower, and with its faults the food is still better. While the menu is long, with plenty of hot and cold appetizers and soups as well as pastas, meats and seafoods stretching from dover sole to lobster, the consistently best dishes are the pastas. The angel-hair pasta is true to its name in its thinness, but it maintains a firm texture and is sauced with delicate combinations of cream with ham or, on lucky days, with smoked salmon. Agnolotti, the most revered of Tiberio's pastas, is also suave here, the pasta rounds stuffed with a distinguished spinach filling and then covered by a cream sauce. As for antipasti, I haven't found much distinction. Rabbit p.at,e has been good, and squid salad has been ordinary, fried mozzarella less so: dry, chewy and oddly sweet. Terrazza does understand veal scalopine -- how to pound it to tenderness but not to mushiness, and how to cook it to crisp- edged full flavor without drying it. And it does well with beef.
But fritto misto has been overfried, though its batter is wonderfully light and crisp (which is why the fried zucchini is superb while the fried seafoods are disappointing), and its once-lovely salmon in wine cream sauce is now salmon in white sludge.
Desserts are clearly a strong emphasis here. And Terrazza knows enough to let the raspberries star on its tarts rather than swamp them with cream or glaze. It also produces a very good chocolate mousse cake, though a ore Italian dessert -- an almond torte -- has been too sweet and too heavily dosed with almond flavoring.
Fortunately success hasn't induced Terrazza to overreach in its pricing, and its wine list is as reasonable as its food list, with a broad choice of American as well as European wines. It has, though, allowed its waiters to get away with trying to shortcut their service. This is a good restaurant, but isn't quite living up to its initial promise. 710 King St., Alexandria. 683- 6900. L $10.50-$10.95, D $14.95- $16.95. L daily ex Sat, Sun, D daily. AE, DC, MC, V. Res req. Full bar.