Atmosphere: Italian food; casual.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m Monday through Saturday, closed Sunday.
Price Range: $3.20 to $4.50 for pastas with salad; 90 cents to $1.65 for sandwiches; $4.75 to $6.75 for most meat and seafood platters.
Reservations: Not necessary.
Special Features: High chairs and booster seats full carry-out service and catering.
If Archie Bunker were to relocate" "Archie's Place" in Alexandria, he undoubtedly would try to buy the building now housing Geno's restaurant. Certainly Geno's, with its pink-tan brick facade, its brown-painted wood trim door facing the corner and bright yellow neon sign, ranks right up there with Archie's easy chair as an old neighborhood setpiece.
And for sure, Geno's is a neighborhood institution. It has been in business at the same corner for some 21 years, under the ownership of brothers Mick and Frank Constantino.
Our waitress for one recent dinner had been working at Geno's since it opened; another said she had been there since the mid-'60s. Faced with out somewhat boisterous children, the only minors in the dining room, these veterans maintained a courteous placidity that said, "Honey, I've seen it all."
Because Geno's lies just outside the high-rent district of Old Own and because, says Constantino, "We own the building and the mortgage is paid off," the restaurant's prices, for the quality of most of its food, are low. Drinks and dinner for three adults and three children came to $30.98 plus tip.
Specialties of the house are Italian, but the large menu includes everything from a grilled-cheese sandwich ($1) and a hamburger ($1.15) to porterhouse steak ($7.25), all available at any time of day. The food is not highly spiced, but it is well prepared and aside from the wilting lettuce at the salad bar, exceptionally fresh.
We all had Italian dishes, if a 5-year-old's Genoa salamin on white bread with mayonnaise ($1.50) qualifies as such.
Pizza at Geno's ($2.25 to $4.95, plus 40 to 70 cents per topping) is made with a thin, crisp crust, a thick layer of mild, blended cheeses, homemade tomato sauce, also quite mild, and fresh vegetables that are still crunchy after the baking. The children liked their pizza because it was not too spicey. On another pizza, for the adults, hot pepperoni, sausage and crushed red peppers more than compensated for the mild sauce.
Half of one page of the menu lists pasta dishes, including lasagna made with meat balls, meat sauce o Italian sausage ($3.95 to $4.50), cheese manicotti ($3.95) and eggplant parmesan ($4.20), as well as spaghetti offered seven ways ($3.20 to $4.20), ravioli five ways ($3.50 to $4.20) and various combination platters from $5.25 to $6.25.
Our spaghetti with clam sauce ($4.20) was cooked al dente (which, according to the menu, costs 50 cents extra, but we were not charged for it) with butter, large pieces of fresh clams, but without spices or herbs.
From another quadrant of the menu offering veal, beef and chicken dishes, we chose chicken Siciliana ($6.50), a boneless breast breaded, fried and topped with boiled ham, eggplant melted cheese. The ingredients were all fesh and the bread coating was crisp and greaseless. The eggplant added a little zing that helped make up for the absence of seasoning.
Salad bar and spaghetti or a choice of vegetables come with most meat and seafood platters, pastas come with salad only; soup bread also accompany a few daily specials.
According to Constantino, Geno's "used to use a lot more seasoning -- parmesan cheese, oregano, garlic -- but customers started asking us to leave it out."
He reasons that this is because Geno's clients are primarily "families with children and the older set," and although Geno's has a full liquor license and Bud on tap, he said, "We don't encourage the young beer-drinking crowd."
Somehow, I think Archie Bunker would approve of that.