3 Doors Down

$$ Italian

Let’s cut to the chase: The veal, beef, and pork meatballs served every sunday with bucatini at this hidden (but always crowded) Italian eatery just off SE Hawthorne boulevard are the best we’ve tasted in town. Even better news is that the penne with vodka sauce is available every night. Often a poorly executed dish at run-of-the-mill Italian restaurants, here the penne arrives perfectly al dente under a sauce that’s sweet, subtle, and creamy, topped with tender links of sausage made on-site. Even a straightforward appetizer of ricotta and spinach dumplings—tiny balls of poached dough drizzled with a light, lemony cream sauce— tastes surprisingly complex. And if you can get past the parade of house-made pastas, the roasted chicken with perfect polenta is an exercise in rustic beauty and simplicity. What with the talented chefs and the fairly dependable waitstaff, the only consternation about dining here is landing a table, despite the recently expanded bar area.

Last updated: 01/16/2014