Ruffino’s Spaghetti House, Arlington, VA

Ruffino’s Spaghetti House opened in 1975. It closed for renovations last September, and stayed closed for about six months, but it’s now reopen once again.

The last time I’d been to Ruffino’s was in the 1990s. I vaguely remembered it as being a harmless, family-owned spaghetti joint, and was very curious to see what it might be like to my palate, at least ten years later.

Many patrons park (and enter) around back, and so did we. Doing so, you can peek in the kitchen, and after the two seconds of window time I had when I walked by, I muttered something under my breath – I didn’t like what I saw.

Nor did I like the list of wines and beers, and was relegated to ordering a Peroni ($4.25) which is as good as it gets here.

We skipped the appetizers, and went straight for the pasta. My young dining companion, nursing his Diet Coke ($2, cheerfully refilled), ordered a Gnocchi with Meat Sauce ($11), and I custom built a Spaghetti ($7) with Sausage, ($2) and Capers, Olives, & Marinara Sauce ($2). A bread basket arrived with a little seasoned oil for dipping.

There was nothing to hate here, and there also was nothing at all to like. All the food, everything, tasted like it came straight off a Sysco truck, and while decently cooked (the spaghetti wasn’t complete mush), the gnocchi were heavy and gummy, the sauces bland (my dining companion said his meat sauce reminded him of Hunt’s Manwich), and the sausage very ordinary.

Even though this is a spaghetti house, it’s technically unfair to cast judgment on a restaurant that serves all sorts of traditional chicken, veal, and seafood dishes as well as pizza, when all you order is pasta.

And it may surprise you to hear that this food, as boring as it sounds, was still better than the abysmal meal I had the week before at Kora. The difference, however, is that Kora is capable of doing better (I’ve seen it in the past); this place, I’m not so sure.

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