There's something about this unassuming little Italian restaurant that wins you over. It isn't a fancy place, or a gorgeous one, and not all the dishes pass muster.
But it's somehow homey, warm, comforting -- a family kind of place for people who take their eating seriously. The dining room, for all its lack of stylishness, is impeccably neat and graced by soft lighting, starched white linens and fresh flowers -- certainly a hefty cut above the bare-formica, bare-bulb school of restaurant design. The servers are experienced and accommodating, the prices moderate, and the successful dishes more than worth coming back for.
Pastas here are generally excellent, and a single order can be shared as an appetizer. Linguine with seafood sauce is a gem: a simple, gentle dish of tender calamari, scallops, mussels and baby shrimp in an oil-pepper-garlic-parsley sauce that's applied with restraint.
Fettuccine al pesto is another winner, with a pesto sauce that has neither too much cheese nor too much oil. "Tortellini bianchi Four Seasons," recalled from a prior visit, combines little pasta envelopes with a good, not over-rich cream sauce containing peas, mushrooms and prosciutto. (The same sauce is also available on boned chicken breasts as an entree.) Pasta with rabbit sauce is a lovely dish, with big, firm noodles and a chunky, fresh-tasting tomato sauce with tender bits of meat.
Among the other appetizers, the best is the mussels, fresh and plump, in an oil-wine-garlic-parsley broth. (Just the kind of sauce for sopping with good, crusty Italian bread -- too bad the bread here is soft and spongy, as is the white pizza.)
Judging from the quality of the pasta with seafood sauce, the zuppa di pesce (seafood soup) is probably a good bet. So is the calamari, the squid delicate and tender, the marinara sauce fruity and fresh-tasting. Shrimp, on the other hand, have been consistently rubbery, and in the shrimp and scallops dish they're served with an oddly sweet wine sauce.
The veal is top-notch, thin, pale, fine-textured and flavorful, and it's available in seven dishes. Try it simply with butter and lemon -- an order spied at another table looked beautiful -- or, for a little more complexity, as saltimbocca, topped with good prosciutto in a nicely lemony sauce. (Although the tomato-cheese variants are probably well-prepared here, the strong flavors tend to overpower the delicate meat.) The vegetables that accompany the veal dishes are excellent, too: wonderfully flavorful sauteed potatoes, along with sweet red and green peppers.
But the dish that epitomizes Frascati -- down-home, robust, generous -- is pietanza capricciosa, a big, hearty mixed platter that contains moist, tender chicken, mild, lean sausage and a delightful zucchini stuffed with nutmeg-flavored ground meat, all in a heavenly, tomato sauce with sweet onion.
Dessert? Good (if over-sweet) cannoli and tartufo ice cream balls. Dinner for two? Share a pasta appetizer, then go to veal for one entree, pietanza for the other, and finish off with a shared dessert.