Hours: Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 11 a.m. with a Sunday brunch until 4 p.m. Closed Mondays.
Atmosphere: Small, cozy neighborhood setting.
Price range: Lunch $1.25 to $2.50. Dinner to $8.75 for entree, salad and garlic bread. Brunch $2.75 to $4.25.
Reservations: Advised for wekends after 7:30 p.m.
Credit cards: Master Charge and Visa.
Special facilities: One small step up into a very small room with tables close together; booster chairs.
Coolbreeze's, just two doors in from busy Pennsylvania Avenue SE, is a cheerful neighborhood restaurant with many surprises. Inside the brick building is a comfortable room with stucco walls and small tables, some with benches. It looks like a typical sandwich-and-beer room where people meet their friends, but there is more -- the three menu boards tell the tale.
There are two personalities at work in the kitchen: one prepares sub-type sandwiches, chili and pizza breads; the other erupts with homemade soups, pasta, veal and fish creations.
Spaghetti is available at all times -- as if someone has heard about the eternal fascination children have with spaghetti! Appetizers change daily with clams ($2.50) available some evenings. The personalities combine to supply dessert choices ranging from ice cream to homemade apple crumb cake.
While we were trying to decide from the assorted blackboards, our attentive waiter brought a basket of fresh, well-seasoned, almost bite-size pieces of garlic bread. If we were uncertain about selecting a sandwich or pasta, the delicate sourdough garlic bread was a real convincer. Wine is available at $4.50 for a full carafe, but we chose beer to help with the oregano and garlic.
The children started with cream of mushroom soup, a large bowlful brimming with mushrooms but overly seasoned with pepper. The better choice was the cup of minestrone, almost overflowing with vegetables. It was an appropriately seasoned delight.
Even the salads are a sign of freshness with creamy dressings and thinly sliced pieces of cucumber. Our waiter brought a second basket of garlic bread with the salads, and was becoming really popular with our foursome.
The children each chose a sandwich, but with the garlic bread and large bowl of soup, our eldest managed only half of a meatball sub ($1.95) -- he had great plans for the next day's lunch. His sandwich was sufficiently stacked with well-seasoned meatballs and a mild tomato sauce.
Our daughter chose turkey but with a special condition that the waiter was happy to fulfill: "Regular -- not sub -- bread and no lettuce please." The sandwich orders are large and served with chips and sweet pickles.
My husband and I could not resist the true Italian menu. The choices were scallops ($8.75), amitriciano ($5.95), eggplant parmigiana ($5.95) and veal siciliano ($8.75). They all sounded good, but the waiter warned us that amitriciano was a spaghetti with a very spicy sauce.
There was something about the way he said "very" that made me choose the eggplant. It arrived with a full-sized portion of fresh, thinly sliced, creamy pasta. There was a light tomato sauce that did not detract from the delicious pasta. The eggplant was lightly breaded and seasoned and cooked quickly in olive oil and oregano.
My husband chose the veal siciliano which had several slices of veal of varying thicknesses that had been lightly breaded and quickly cooked with pasta verde as an accompaniment. The pasta was disappointing as it was overcooked, hardly in the same category as the other treats. Mixed green vegetables also were served -- of surprisingly poor quality from a kitchen that spells fresh in everything else.
The portions are large whether a sandwich or an entree, but you need to save room to sample the homemade desserts. We literally devoured the light, creamy but divinely rich cheesecake ($1.25) and enjoyed the chocolate marshmallow ice cream which further attests to the high quality of the products used in the kitchen.
I glanced at a Sunday brunch menu with its emphasis on vegetable and meat omelettes. There are several seasonal varieties such as asparagus, broccoli and zucchini creations. Here might produce the right type of lazy, relaxing Sunday experience to help begin a new week.
Coolbreeze's is a perfect spot for a light eater, a gourmet or a dessert fanatic. It is a sandwich place and an Italian haven. For a full meal for four with half a sandwich to brown-bag, our bill with drinks came to $32.55.