Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday; 6 to 11 p.m. Saturday, and closed Sunday.
Price range: Entress from $4.25 to $10.
Atmosphere: Rates an A for food, service and surroundings. A treat more apt to be appreciated by older kids.
Reservations: Necessary for dinner, but not at lunch.
Credit cards: American Express, Carte Blache, Diner's Club, Master Charge, VISA.
Facilities: Booster chairs; on-street parking; persons in wheelchairs can eat in the outdoor cafe, but there is a staircase leading inside the restaurant.
Washington was having one of its X-rated evenings with the torrid temperatures and dirty skies that make the city the inclement weather capital of the world. A spaghetti dinner on such liver over ice cream, but the family vote had been to try Pettito's a new and widely acclaimed pasta place on Connecticut Avenue.
Located in an old townhouse across from the Sheraton Park Hotel, Pettito's has an outdoor cafe. But since pasta and pollution don't mix, we went inside. Pettito's is civilized. Separate dining areas are set up in the original rooms of the house on the first and second floors for privacy and quiet. The decor is serene - dark brown walls, white trim and plants that are cool and shadowy. Drawings of various noodle shapes line the wall next to the stairs.
We were seated at a table in the parlor. Plain metal lights are suspended from the ceiling and draped in chiffon scarves so they resemble the headgear ladies wore in open air motorcars.
The service throughout dinner was dignified yet friendly. Our waiter, who had what looked like a tiny Burger Chef symbol stitched to his black tie, offered each of us "cheers" with our wine and Shirley Temples. We also got ice water without asking for it, a novelty these days.
Once you get past the appetizers (antipasto, minestrone, chilled cucumber soup, etc.), the regular menu is straight pasta dishes served with a variety of imaginative sauces that start at $4.25 for spaghetti with tomato sauce and go up to $10 for lobster and sauce served on a bed of linguine. One of the most original is fettucine with carrot and sour cream, $7.
There are three main categories of sauces: meat (veal as well as beef), fish (crab, clams, etc.) and, in the new twist department, vegetable. The latter includes either asparagus, broccoli or cauliflower combined with cream and tomato sauce. No matter what you choose, it's all very rich, and the pasta is all homemade.
Our older daughter, 11, was so overwhelmed by the exotic choices that she gave up and had plain spaghetti in a butter sauce with parmesan cheese, $4.25. This pedestrian number was as elegant and tasty as some of the pricier ones.
Our other daughter, 9, will gladly spend hours picking over a crab to get the last atom-sized particle of meat. We weren't surprised when she ordered the linguine with herbs, $7. We weren't surprised either when she negotiated a trade with her father when the seasoning in the crab proved too much for her.
My husband had ordered veal meatballs in tomato sauce, $5.75, which he was thoroughly enjoying when the trade was made. He was just as happy with the crab dish.
Normally I will do anything to avoid tomato sauce, but for some reason I chose spaghetti with tomato sauce topped with anchovies and black olives, $4.75. A peculiar selection, I admit, but I liked it. The sauce was fresh, thick and well-seasoned, and the achovies added a little kick. The olives didn't do much, but were a nice thought.
Our entrees all came with salads of romaine lettuce lightly tossed with an olive oil dressing with grated cheese. We also had a side order of garlic bread, 75 cents, toasted with butter and cheese, a glorious but unnecessary indulgence since Italian bread is served anyway.
The girls saved room for dessert, one putting away a champagne glass of fresh strawberries and whipped cream, the other downing a chocolate mousse.
The bill for all this, including coffee and a carafe of good house wine, came to a rather extravagant $35.90. We thought it was worth it, but recommend Pettito's as a place for special family occasions and for older children. Kiddie portions are not offered, but meal splitting is permitted. A few non-pasta dishes are available among the house specialties, which change daily.