Atmosphere: The latest in exposed brick walls, skylight ceiling and wood planked floor.
Price range: $3.95 to $4.95 for pastas; $6.75 to $9.75 for meat or fish entrees.
Hours: Lunch, noon to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday; dinner, 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 6 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday.
Special facilities: Patrons in wheelchairs accommodated, although there is a small step at the entrance that complicates access. Parking is where you find it.
Reservations: A good idea on weekends.
Credit cards: Accepts major cards.
"Agnolotti, I fall in love with any restaurant that makes homemade noddles stuffed with spinach," my friend said when she called to tell me how much she had enjoyed a dinner at DaVinci's. "I don't see why, if you stayed with the pastas, DaVinci's wouldn't be a moderate-priced place to go with a family."
From her description, it didn't sound as if DaVinci's had been designed with the family trade in mind, so we decided to go early and avoid the more sophisticated crowd. At 6:40 on a Monday evening, the modest-sized restaurant was about one-quarter full. Many of the patrons seemed to know the owner or manager and spoke Italian.
The restaurant is in a two-story town house. The front half has been cleared to the top of the second floor roof. There is a skylight and several windows all the way up one wall that made the place seem airy. The back half of the restaurant has a balcony with additional dining tables.
The tables at DaVinci's are set with mauve tableclothes, fresh flowers and huge wine goblets. There were several Leonardo DaVinci reproductions on the exposed brick walls. We were seated at a round table that was next to a side board laden with desserts - rich cream puffs, rum cake, eclairs and the like. It's very hard to concentrate on pastas when Napoleons are staring you in the face.
Our waiter approached us with a flourish. Did my husband and I want to have a cocktail? We ordered two glasses of white wine. Half way to the bar, the waiter returned. "Ah, the bambinos!" Did our children, who are 10 and 11 years old, want something to drink? They wanted Mary Janes but out waiter wasn't sure what they were. Instead, the children chose ginger ale. All the drinks arrived in wine goblets, and the ginger ales were loaded with cherries. However, we thought the bar prices rather steep: The two tiny ginger ales (how much ginger ale can you serve in a wine glass?) and two white wines came to $5.00.
We told our children to order from the pasta menu. Since they prefer spaghetti to veal marsala anytime, they didn't know what the fuss was about. They also didn't know what the various pastas were. They ranged from canneloni and linguine to tortellini, rigatoni and, of course, agnolotti.The rigatoni, which the menu described as having bacon, onion and fresh tomato sauce on it, appealed to both children.But we encouraged them not to order the same dish, and after the waiter's description of tortellini (noddles stuffed with meat) our daughter, 11, ordered that. Our son, 10, stuck to the rigatoni. My husband wanted the canneloni and I was morally committed to agnolotti. All the pastas were $3.95 to $4.95.
We also ordered two salads, $2.00 each, to share, and our daughter, who loves minestrone soup, ordered a bowl at $2.25 a serving. The fish dishes, $7.50 to $8.75, and the meat entrees, $6.75 for chicken breasts to $9.75 for lamb chops, we passed by without a serious glance.
The soup and salads arrived first, getting us off to a good start. The salad was wonderfully fresh and filled with varied greens and tomato and seasoned with a mild but delicious dressing. The soup was good - the vegtables plentiful and crisp - but not great. The bread, which was constantly and quickly replenished by our waiter, was superb. It had a crust that cracked and crunched and an inside with just enough body to hold butter.
When our pastas arrived, steaming hot, we could see they weren't intended as main courses. I, for one, was glad. The agnolotti, which was as delicious as my friend had suggested, was very rich. The little packs of noodles stuffed with spinach were swimming in a fresh cream and parmesan cheese sauce. Thank goodness there weren't more of them. The canneloni, which was stuffed with veal and cheese, was also superb, although, again, the portion was small. The tortellini in tomato sauce wasn't anything too special. The rigationi, however, was the least liked of all the dishes. The tube-shaped noodles were thick, hard and chewy. It was the one dish with extremely generous servings.
Which the desserts were tempting, they were also $2.75 apiece. We decided, in the interest of weight and budget control, to pass them by. And even though the pasta servings were modest, we had had enough to eat.
Our bill, including the $5.00 bar charge and $1.00 for one cup of coffee, came to $32.85. Though we didn't see any other children at DaVinci's that night, we thought it was a reasonable place to take children who enjoy unusual dishes and are old enough to sit fairly quietly in a more sophisticated restaurant.