435 Maple Avenue,
Let me just say, that the first thing that I noticed about the restaurant was that it was big and run-down. The bathroom probably has not been updated since its establishment in 1978. There is not much investment in renovation, which keeps the overhead costs low – read: and prices reasonable. The staff hustled – well, primarily the wait and bus staff hustled. The manager, Franco, seemed to be relatively clueless and idle, but still pleasant.
The hostess first seated me in a dark corner of the restaurant between a wall and the salad bar, even though the huge hall was pretty empty. I asked to be seated in the sunlight on the other side of the restaurant, which she accommodated. As I followed her to the table, another noticeable factor was the clientele – there were not many people there, but the ones that were there were primarily over 60. There were also two tables with families and very young children.
While I was waiting for my food to arrive, I was surrounded by empty tables, in fact there was not another person eating anywhere in my sight-range. The only sounds I heard were a crying baby from somewhere behind me and music alternating between Italian opera and Latino pop. Not much of an Italian ambiance, what with my (very sweet) waitress from rural Russia, brown counter tabletops, and the Latino pop alternating every other song. OK, so much for the ambiance. Now for the food.
The appetizer of cheesy garlic bread consisted of four slices of bread that were garlicky and pretty tasty, but nothing special. I had to ask for a bowl of marinara sauce, for which the waitress afterwards told me she did not charge me the extra $2. The bread and the sauce were fine, but not great. My entrée was linguine with white clam sauce. They were unable to accommodate my usual request for angelhair / cappellini pasta or puttanesca sauce, which were not on the menu, but most other Italian restaurants can easily whip up a version of this. The entrée was just so-so, not bad, but not great, either. I requested additional marinara sauce for my bread, but the waitress told me that she would have to start charging me for it, per store rules. Fair enough, that’s the rule.
Overall, for my money and time, this would not be a place for me to return, although my neighbor loves it. If I want good Italian, I would repeat my two dining experiences at Rocco’s in McLean. Rocco’s prices are very comparable to Joe’s (see footnote*) with no the nickel-and-diming, the ambience better since Rocco’s is smaller and cozier, and the quality of the food certainly puts it ahead of Joe’s. Sorry, Joe!
* For example, garlic cheese bread is the same price in both restaurants and Rocco’s comes with plentiful super delicious marinara; the linguine with white clam sauce was lunch price $13 at Joe’s and dinner price $18.95 at Rocco’s