Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 5 p.m. to midnight; Sunday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Atmosphere: A noisy Italian restaurant with an eclectic design.
Price range: Sandwiches from $2.95 to a large "Machiavelli's Special" pizza for $13.85.
Credit cards: None. Personal checks must first be approved.
Reservations: None accepted.
Special facilities: Step-up entrance; booster chairs; jukebox; carry-out.
Machiavelli's offers more than pizza, but its pizza is pizza at its best. The name is a funny choice for a spot that is straightforward, reasonable and attentive. The menu spells out the facts: Pizza is made to order, so be patient. No credit cards are accepted. Children's pasta portions are available.
Machiavelli's, on Pennsylvania Avenue on Capitol Hill, has that spiffed up look with freshly painted wals, redone booths and tables and redesigned menus. A jukebox in the back of the room plays Mozart one minute and Al Jolson the next. It is a fun restaurant.
One thing is certain: Machiavelli's tries hard and it succeeds in almost all departments. It is one of the few restaurants that still serves water without asking and willingly refills glasses. Yet, it suffers from overworked rules as we were reminded several times that we could take advantage of happy hour drink prices only until 7 p.m. and that there were no exceptions. Children's sodas unfortunately are not part of this arrangement although there were many children already in attendance.
We added four children to the already noisy room -- they fit right in even though they were less interested in individually made pizzas than in quick service.
To satisfy hungry little bodies and to survive harmoniously, we had no difficulty selecting some appetizers for everyone to share. Garlic bread (95 cents) is a wonderful buttery way to begin the evening. It is undergarlicked, but that probabaly explains its immediate acceptance by young children.
With our second basket of light garlic, we ordered plain stuffed mushrooms. They arrived smothered in cheese ($2.45) and were too beautifully encrusted under mozzarella for us to correct the order. The non-mushroom eaters enjoyed the thick portions of melted cheese and used it for garlic bread topping. The mushrooms were stuffed with a touch of seasoning under a lot of breadcrumbs, but were not soggy or overcooked.
The appetizers were a signal of what was yet to come, for the pasta and pizza choices were first-rate. A medium pizza of half cheese and half pepperoni and sausage easily fed three children with a taste for everyone else. The dough is fresh, light and obviously made on the premises just seconds before. It is reminmiscent of a dessert crust as it is medium thick.
Fortunately, it was not smothered by a tomato sauce for the dough is delightful by itself. Dough connoisseurs might consider ordering the white pizza. The toppings are thickly applied and then completely covered with a thick layer of mozzarella. The effect is one of a sandwich floating on fresh bread.
The pastas, although not made here, are fresh and light if the spaghetti is a sample of all others. An order of child's spaghetti with two meatballs ($2.25) is a sufficient portion topped with a mildly seasoned sauce. The meatballs also were of good quality and had not been overcooked.
Children's portions of ravioli and rigatoni are also available and are in the $2 range.
Veal dishes are available as are chicken and eggplant entrees.To satisfy a taste sampler, Machiavelli's lists six combination platters in the $6 range. The largest number of tastes are on the chicken cacciatore, eggplant parmesano with spaghetti, meat ball and sausage dinner. It is served on a large platter with a small dish of chicken and eggplant.
Unfortunately, the cacciatore was not in the same league as the pasta or even the meatballs. It was too weakly seasoned and the normal tomato taste did not infuse the chicken's skin.The eggplant fared better as it had been cooked to perfection and was covered with a thick slice of melted cheese.
Chicken livers with mushrooms was served without the mushrooms. And the large order of livers had all the seasonings that were missing in other entrees. Rather than the combination of lightly sauteed livers and mushrooms it was oreganoed livers swimming in olive oil.
The accompanying salad is a bowl of romaine with cucumbers and tomato slices. Another nice touch is the wedge of provolone atop a perfectly seasoned house Italian dressing.
We could have lingered over cannoli or cheesecake ($1.35 each), but we planned a trip to the ice cream parlor next door. The long line of people waiting for a table were happy that we decided to save desserts for another visit. But the waitress brought the children lollipops and the adults mints.
For the six of us our bill was $39 including tax and tip.
Machiavelli's has that dressed-up look. It is a fun spot for pizza -- the pepperoni earned the "best pepperoni I've ever tasted" award from one of its young enthusiasts. But it is not a pizza place or pizza bar; it is a complete restaurant with good appetizers, a fresh romaine salad and light spaghetti choices. Skip the other entrees -- they're not necessary. Try the pizza or one of the pastas and you'll love Machiavelli's.