Atmosphere: Neighborhood Italian bistro.
Prices: Non-seafood entrees range from $3.95 to $4.95 with the filet mignon piazziolo ($7.50) at the top of the line. Seafood dishes are more expensive.
Special facilities: Accessible to the handicapped. Booster seats available.
Credit Cards: Mastercharge and Visa.
Reservations: A good idea on weekends.
Hours: Lunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday; dinner 5 to 10 p.m., Monday through Thursday, 5-12 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Find a courthouse, and you'll probably discover some good restaurants nearby. Apparently it takes a certain amount of quality cuisine to keep the wheels of government well-oiled.
Around the Arlington County Courthouse, a little enclave of restaurants is establishing itself and offering a variety of international fare - Vietnamese, French, Italian. Some of these restaurants are suitable for children as well as bureaucrats, and we decided to try one, Primo's Ristorante Italiano, on a recent Saturday night.
Primo's has a neighborhood restaurant feel about it. The pace is relaxed although the service is fast enough, and you certainly don't have to wear your best bib and tucker. In fact most of the patrons we saw looked as if they might have changed into some comfortble clothes after a hard afternoon of gardening or washing the car.
The decor is cheerful - green wooden latice work on white washed walls, colorful Italian travel posters and baskets of green plants suspended over the red and white cloth-covered tables.
We had an adult friend along, and the three adults, faced with a terrible thirst, ordered a liter of white, house wine, $4.75. The children, equally thirsty, did what children do under those circumstances. They ordered cokes. The next item of business was what to eat.
One of Primo's disadvantages as a family restaurant is their refusal to make anything other than pasta in a child's portion. Our 3-year-old settled for fettuccini with meat sauce, but the 6-year-old was determined to eat "shrimp francese," available only in a $5.95 adult-sized edition, which he ordered and later polished off with no trouble.
My husband and our friend each ordered Italian salads, $1.25, which arrived loaded with goodies like olives, hot peppers, cheese and salami.
Then came our entrees. We'd been torn over what to order. Primo's offers some inviting veal dishes: veal parmigiana, margarita, piccata, francese, marsala and so on, most of which are in the $4.75 range. Shrimp, clams, mussels and fresh fish are also available at $4.25 to $5.95.
I chose the chicken francese ($3.95), mainly out of curiosity. After all what on earth is "francese." It is, I discovered, this fillets of chicken breast, floured and sauteed in butter and lemon juice. It arrived with a helping of broccoli, which was disappointingly over-cooked. The chicken was delicious and the portion a perfect size. My husband had veal piccata with an order of linguini. The piccata ($4.75) is veal sauteed in lemon butter and served with mushrooms and capers. He pronounced it yummy. Our friend had the only disappointment - veal margarita $4.75, which was cooked with eggplant, cheese and boiled ham, instead of the Candadian ham specified on the menu. Boiled ham added little to the dish. She said, however, that the tomato sauce topping was quite good.
Primo's offers a lunchtime menu centered on sandwiches, omelettes and pasta with a few of the evening entree items available. Prices are slightly lower than those in the evening.
Our bill was a reasonable $30.95 for three adults and two children, including wine but excluding tip. We skipped dessert too, as the youngest member of our party was by this time nearly asleep under the table.