Open every day, weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 a.m., Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., Sundays from 3 p.m. to midnight. Parking at 18th and I for dinner. Credit cards: BankAmericard, Carte Blanche, American Express and MasterCharge. Reservations not necessary on Sundays but might be a good idea at peak lunch or dinner hours other days. Accessible to persons in wheelchairs. 331-9664.
Three hours in the Air and Space Museum on a Sunday afternoon, keeping two sets of parents, four children and assorted airplanes, rockets and moon rocks in some kind of order. Follow that scene with a mile long forced march to a car parked somewhere on the Mall, and all of us were ready to collapse over a quiet dinner out.
We chose Marrocco's on Pennsylvania Avenue near 19th Street. No one doubted that even the most finicky of eaters among us could find something to eat at a restaurant known for pasta, pizza and mine-strone. Besides, Marrocco's located as it is among high rise office buildings in the downtown part of Washington, doesn't generally get crowded on a Sunday evening. On street parking is also easy to find at that time. Marrocco's was busy at 6:30 when we arrived, but our party of eight was seated immediately.
Marrocco's is done up in lush red fabric walls, gold Renaissance-like statuettes and dim candlelight. The four fairly loud, jeans-clad children felt perfectly comfortable and so did we.
Our order was taken promptly and crusty rounds of fresh Italian bread and butter were put on the table. Cokes and ginger ales at fifty cents a tall glass for the younger diners and a large carafe of chianti ($4.95) for the older set arrived within the first ten minutes. While it was pleasant to sit and talk over drinks (we easily had enough wine for two glasses a piece), the children were getting restless as ten minutes stretched to twenty and finally 45 before our food was served. Luckily, one parent among us was well equipped with pens. Marrocco's uses paper placemats over its blood red tablecloths, and a drwaing contest among the children, 8 to 10 years old, helped keep fingers off another serving of bread and butter.
When the food arrived it was hot and good. Our son, 9, had manicotti: The filling was nice and light, the sauce tasty, the noodle soft. However, the large sausage that accompanied the dish was too spicy for his young palette as well as for most of the adults. At $4.35 the entree was more than ample; he managed to finish three-fourths of it.
Our daughter, 10, had eggplant parmigiana($4.60), which she pronounced delicious but which some other tasters considered only fair. It, too, came with a large portion of sausage and, like the manicotti, was too much for a 10year-old to eat.
My husband started with clams oregano ($2.95), which were super and almost a meal and went on to veal marsala ($5.95), which was also good and which came with a side order of spaghetti. Counting calories rather than pennies, I ordered the special of the day, swordfish at $6.25. I didn't expect much since Marrocco's is more concerned with homemade pasta than fresh fish, but it was wonderful - not at all the dry fish steak from college dining hall days.
All our entrees came with a small side salad, mainly iceberg lettuce and an olive.
The family we were with were afficionados of Marrocco's pizza: They split a large one with onions. It was crusty, hot and dripping with cheese. They rounded out dinner with several salads and mine-strone soups and an order of garlic bread. Anyone still hungry could find ample leftovers on our plates.
Considering the size of the portions and the fairly small size of our children, our family ordered too much food. I didn't see any children's menu, but later, when I asked, the waitress said spaghetti and meat sauce and spaghetti and meatballs were available in child-sized portions at $1.75 and $2.00 respectively.
None of us could face dessert or even office. Dinner for eight with wine, cokes, ginger ales and tip came to $52 - our pizza-eating family facing a tab of about $19.
Our $33 dinner was more than we usually spend at Marrocco's for a family dinner out. We're usually out in under $25. Perhaps it was the exhaustion of the afternoon's outing that had us order too much; we could have eaten just as well with a lot less food.