Better prices, shorter lines, and heaps more fun than Beppo's, this family restaurant--carefully reminiscent of New Jersey Italian Americana circa 1953--has all the classic elements of a child's fantasy ristorante: red-and-white checked tablecloths; jugs of Chianti in baskets; plus brick archways, low lighting, and "That's Amore" cycling through the background music. Likewise for the menu: I was delighted to belly up to a sprawling platter of cheeseburger-sized beef ravioli smothered in a dense, sweet marinara ($8.95), just like I ordered whenever possible as a kid. Forget the hazelnut, the butternut squash, or smoked-salmon-and-chutney-filled boutique ravioli--sometimes it's the simple starches that satisfy.
The creamy gnocchi ($9.95), while not the same divine poufs that fill me with amazement when I'm lucky enough to encounter a true Gnocchi Master, are small and more on the sticky-rice side of texture, which is fitting. Spaghetti Red's provides Italian comfort food, at very comforting prices indeed. Not only that, but the nice, nimble wait staff was able to dodge Ruby, my freaked-out toddler, as she dashed through the different rooms of shocked diners. She headed straight for the giant snowball of a coconut cake, provocatively displayed at Spaghetti Red's entrance, next to an equally enormous red velvet devil's food cake and a large chocolate cake.
After cleansing herself in the burbling fountain festooned with tiny lights at the entrance, Ruby, proving herself to be difficult as any drunk, was wooed back into her booster seat by the swift arrival of a plate of serious mac 'n' cheese (kid's $2.95) accompanied by the "cocktail" (strawberry Italian soda, $1.49) she demanded upon seeing my martini ($5.75). I wound up buying the adults at our table approximately seven minutes of peace by letting her order a slice of chocolate cake ($3.79) as big as her pouty face. But during those moments of frantic consumption, her only movements were from fork to blackened lips, and her spoon clanking against my fork when I tried to sneak a bite.
2355 1/2 10th Ave E (Capitol Hill), 709-8744. Sun-Thurs 5-10 pm; Fri-Sat 5-11 pm.