The hours for Enrico's Italian Restaurant were listed incorrectly in last week's Family Out. The correct hours for the restaurant, located at 1222 Viers Mill Rd., Wheaton, are: Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to midnight; Saturday, 4 p.m. to midnight, and Sunday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. The kitchen closes at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight, Tuesday through Sunday. Kitchen closes at 10:30 p.m. Closed Mondays.
Price Range: Moderate. Pizzas from $2.75 to $7.75. Full dinners $7.95 to $11.25.
Atmosphers: Pretty, pleasant, though chaotic when busy. Family-oriented.
Special Facilities: Plenty of parking in back and front. Booster chairs, high chairs. No children's menu but extra plates provided for sharing meals. Easily accessible to wheelchairs but crowded tables make maneuvering difficult.
Credit Cards: MasterCharge, Visa.
Reservations: Not accepted.
Success can have its problems.
Enrico's, a small, quite charming Italian restaurant in a neighborhood devoid of any sort of sophisticated dining, has attracted a following over the past year. The reason: A small but authentic Italian menu offering tasty homemade pastas, pizza, veal and poultry dishes, plus an unusual seafood dish, at reasonable prices.
An imaginative decor includes a pleasant village motif done simply and unpretentiously.Varied straw baskets filled with red flowers are gracefully suspended from the ceiling; tables are covered with pretty flowered cotton prints; folky artifacts are strategically placed here and there; meals are served on decorative glass dishes that suggest crystal.
Yet it's a family kind of place, not the least bit stuffy. Booster chairs are always ready for young children, who are welcome.
What seems to have happened, though is that Enrico's has not been able to keep up with its steadily growing number of fans. A recent visit on a weekend evening began with a long wait, even though six tables stood empty in front.
"I don't have enough help to serve them," said the owner, who was acting as maitre d' that evening.
Forty minutes later we were seated, but not attended to for another quarter hour.
Tables were crowded together. Waitresses were madely scrambling about. A general air of chaos pervaded the room. Because cooking was going on at full steam at both ends of the restaurant (there's a pizza oven at one side, another oven for entrees at the other) the room became overheated and uncomfortable. We propped open the back door to let in some cool air.
The portions are still generous. But a fancy new menu, written in a confusing manner, showed that most prices have been raised by a dollar or two. The new menu is perplexing. You have to study it to figure out which entrees come with a complete meal and which do not. Since our waitress never inquired about which we ordered, we were mistakenly served the partial rather than full dinner.
Appetizers are still delightful and their prices have not changed. But something has happened to the pizza. The house specialty pizza is Enrico's "Meal on a Wheel." This was an unappetizing looking heap of American (not Italian) sausage, peppers, onions and sliced black olives. "We ran out of anchovies," apologized our waitress.
Though the cheese was good and generous, we wondered what had happened to the spicy thick tomato sauce that used to top the pizza? Ours was bland and uninteresting.
We were reminded of how good Enrico's could be when we ate the roasted chicken. It was a plump half chicken, deliciously seasoned in good olive oil and herbs. It would have been perfect had it been cooked 10 minutes longer and thus been more crisp. Again, the promise of good food, but with a kitchen less careful than before.
Enrico's cannelloni recalled the kitchen's potential. The filling for the large tubular pasta was a light combination of seasoned ricotta and spinach, with a tasty white sauce over all. The other pasta dishes have generally been good, especially the lasagna.
We always have looked forward to savoring Enrico's cioppino, a large seafood casserole famous at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf. It's a combination of Alaska king crab legs, mussels, clams, shrimp and fish served in a spicy tomato sauce on a bed of steaming linguine.
You roll up your sleeves and attack this dish with your hands and a nutcracker, provided at Enrico's with a neatly folded, damp linen napkin for cleaning up after the feast.
The price for cioppino has risen from $9.50 to $11.25, still not out of line considering the size of the meal and the rate of inflation.
But we were disappointed: The tomato sauce lacked seasoning, the seafood was tough and overcooked and there was an odd piece of fish that the waitress insisted was lobster.
The king crab legs, which can reach almost a foot in length, were fun to eat and flavorful.
Desserts are few and have been unpredictable.The best is the cannoli, though it is never the same. Sometimes it has chocolate chips mixed into the sweetened ricotta filing. This time the filling was plain, but the cannoli was dipped into chopped walnuts and sprinkled with confectioner sugar. The result was pleasing.
Enrico's was welcomed as the kind of place you used to have to travel into the District to find. It had honest cooking, careful preparation, authentic ingredients and decent service. Here's hoping the restaurant can adjust to success and live up to its recent past.