Atmosphere: A cozy spot for young and old.
Price range: Moderate, with pasta dishes at $3.95, complete dinners of chicken and veal in the $5 range and top price of $6.75 for a N.Y. strip sirloin with lasagna and salad.
Hours: Lunch Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; dinner Monday through Sunday 5 p.m. to midnight.
Special facilities: Free parking in the shopping center, boosters and high chairs and accessibility for handicapped persons.
Reservations: Not accepted.
Credit Cards: American Express, Visa, Bank Americard, Master Charge.
Chef Giuseppina, for seven years the main attraction at Nathan's in Georgetown, has set up her pasta machine at Cafe Pinocchio. Giuseppina followers who have learned the news are already making pasta pilgrimages across the bridge into Alexandria, according to the cafe's delighted owner, Angelo Mele.
Mele, who is also responsible for the successful Cafe Italia near Crystal City, said the cafe kitchen now resembles "something out of a storybook" when the Bolognese chef, aided by her two daughters, her son and his wife, begin their daily chores of hanging sheets of pasta up to dry. "The family makes all the pasta right here, except the spaghetti, which we buy," Mele said.
The dining room at the cafe, which was Niblick's Steak House in an earlier life, has a storybook look about it, too. At the entrance, a three-foot-tall wooden puppet, the cafe's namesake, charms shorter diners like our 3-year-old son; he was equally interested in the beautiful, embroidered figures of lions, sheep and dragons that line the walls. For older patrons, the small dining area has a pleasing decor of wood and plants as well as a well-stocked bar.
On the week night we visisted for an early dinner, about 5:30 p.m., there were only a few customers and we were attended to immediately.
Our waiter, who was very courteous, seemed to having as much difficulty finding his way around the menu as we were - understandable since Pinocchio's only opened a month ago.
For the indecisive, Pinocchio's presents a challenge. There is Giussepina's homemade canneloni, mancotti, lasagne and fettucini (with a meat sauce and mushrooms and peas or with cream), a variety of veal or chicken dishes, trout almondine, mussels, squid or valdostana - pork loins stuffed with ham and cheese.
Since our family is noted for swapping portions so everyone gets a taste, we agreed on veal Francaise ($5.25), Italian sausage ($3.95) and fettucini alfredo ($3.95).
Unfortunately, there is no children's menu at the cafe, a concession Mele told us later he felt he had to make "because my prices are so rock bottom for what we are putting out, I don't know if we'll be able to survive."
Warm rolls and butter were brought to our table so we could endure the walt, which was not long.
The side dishes that accompany the dinner rival the entrees in their appeal. The salad was a mix of lettuce and spinach tossed with a tart dressing and the spaghetti was freshly cooked and served with a delicious tomato and meat sauce.
My husband was delighted with his veal, a fine cut of meat served in a light lemon and butter sauce, and my sausage was good, if a bit bland, smothered in tomatoes, peppers and onions.
But the standout of the meal was the fettucini, delivered in a buttery cream sauce. My husband and I had to do some quick maneuvering to manage our share when our son discovered it.
By the end of our fettucini, our son insisted on leaving, a request we thought we'd best honor although it meant sacrificing a sample of the cafe's desserts and cappucino with anisette, amaretto or triple sec at $2.25.
Our entire bill, with coffee and cokes and minus tip, came to $15.30.