My husband and I enjoyed our dinner at Panetteria Saturday evening so much that we took his son there the next night. What is so great about this restaurant is first it's pretty, non-cheesy decor with nicely done murals depicting Venetian and Roman scenes, stucco arches, big bottles of olive oil and Balsamic vinegar, and the Christmas garlands roped around entwined with little white lights. The service is also nice, unfussy and friendly while being professional. Harry, the owner, is an effusive host and we particularly like the waiters Arthur, Corey, and Guillermo. Another terrific waiter who used to work there, Nizar, now works at Taverna on Capitol Hill and at Sette Osteria, two excellent restaurants. Last but definitely not least is the food. The first evening, we started with soups. My husband had the Minestrone which, while more tomato could have been added, was still comforting and full (but not to an overwhelming degree) of tender carrots, onions, bell peppers, etc... My soup, the Tortellini in Brodo, featured perfectly cooked homemade, veal-stuffed tortellini in a subtly flavored chicken broth. Stan's entree was the Lasagne Al Forno which featured again, perfectly cooked, homemade lasagne noodles with just the right amount of ground beef, tomato sauce and gooey mozzarella cheese. I tried the Pesce Misto Ala Griglia, perfectly grilled jumbo shrimp, calamari (not rubbery!!), and big sea scallops. Stan's lasagne, like all of the pasta dishes, came with salad as did my entree, which also came with pasta. I chose penne in olive oil and garlic - the acccompanying pastas usually come topped with a very fresh tomato sauce and you can choose either the usual angel hair pasta, tortellini, fettucine or penne. You can also ask for their very good pesto sauce, but they charge you extra for that. My penne, of course, was nicely cooked. For dessert, we split the puff pastry tart topped with blueberries and raspberries. Very good and not too sweet.
The next evening, I ordered the filleted seabass special which, while a bit bland, necessitating the squeezing of quite a few lemon wedges, was very moist and came topped with a light sauce of white wine, garlic, and chopped mushrooms and tomatoes. My husband ordered the eggplant in a tomato/mozzarella sauce stuffed with mixed seafood. He claimed that he couldn't taste any seafood and, indeed, the sauce did seem to overwhelm the stuffed eggplant, but it still tasted homey and comforting. Gareth ordered the trout fillet which was tender and moist and had a nice, light sauce of lemon and capers. For his accompanying pasta, he ordered fettucine with pesto sauce which, as usual, tasted terrific. For dessert, I ordered the pecan pie, which, while good, suffered a little burning being heated in the microwave (it is fine at room temperature). Gareth ordered the Chocolate Mousse cake which was moist and tasty, and Stan ordered a fine vanilla ice cream.
To wrap things up, we left the restaurant both times feeling very satisfied and will continue to be regulars there.
Addenda: Panetteria is more generous in the pouring of their martinis than they used to be, and they are made just to order. Also, even though the salad dressing is a nice, Italian vinaigrette, the restaurant needs to use less of it. The first evening over the weekend that we were there, my salad was drowning in dressing. The salads are served cold which they shouldn't be.