The name Roman Cave sounds a little awesome - like the Baths of Caracala, or the Catacombs. One doesn't expect to find just any old thing in a Roman Cave. What I found in the restaurant by that name in Reston was good, home-style Italian cooking and what owner Martha Pillon calls "the largest outdoor awning in Northern Virginia."
The awning stretches over a vast expanse of outdoor cafe area where one can take the breezes as well as Pillon's cuisine. Pillon herself does a lot of the cooking from recipes her mother gave her.
I lunched there recently, not with the children for a change, but with two adult companions, both of whom have children and both of whom assured me that the food at the Roman Cave goes down well with pre-teens. It certainly went down well with us.
The menu is fairly extensive for both lunch and dinner, although the midday fare includes a flock of sandwiches and salad plates not offered in the evenings. Pizza in 10-, 12-and 16-inch sizes is available at lunchtime and in the evening at prices that range between $2.25 and $6.50, depending upon the size and complexity of the order.
For the appetizer we passed up the mussels in garlic butter at $2.75 and the clams oreganata at $2.50, and chose prosciutto and melon for $2.50 since it was a hot day. The one portion of sliced honeydew topped with thin slices of the Italian-style ham was more than enough for the three of us.
From there we went on to the entrees, which are served with a salad and yummy Italian bread baked at the restaurant. Main courses range in price from $3.50 to $5.25 at lunch, and from $4.75 to $6.50 at dinner. They include everybody's old favorites such as chicken cacciatore, steak pizzaiola, veal parmesan, veal marsala and a few others.
In addition there are the usual pasta dishes.
I chose the baked chicken breast with ziti at $4.75 which was very good, topped as it was with a tasty tomato sauce and melted cheese. The ziti themselves were well-cooked, not mushy, but I could have done without the bread crumbs coating the chicken breast.
One of my companions chose eggplant parmigiana at ($3.50), which he pronounced excellent. Both our dishes were served piping hot. The other member of our party ordered a chef salad, $2.95, which arrived grandly topped with a fancily fluted radish. Every green thing in it was crisp, and it was loaded with strips of cheese and cold cuts.
We had a leisurely lunch, unhurried by our waitress. It was so leisurely, in fact, that we were forced to skip the cheesecake, 95 cents, cannoli, $1.25, and other goodies at the menu's end, and ask for our bill, which came to $14.36, excluding tip.
Roman Cave, 12022 N. Shore Dr. East, in the Tall Oaks Shopping Center, Reston, Open 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-midnight, Friday-Saturday; 4 p.m.-10 p.m. Sunday. No credit cards accepted but personal checks are taken. Reservations are accepted. Phone 471-5220.