When it comes to Italian, I’m pretty flexible. Sure, I love a beautifully crafted plate of handmade pasta that conveys old world sensibilities or modern restraint, but there’s also something to be said for an over-the-top, heaping bowl of spaghetti that’s been sauced with a heavy hand. Add a dimly lit dining room, red vinyl booths, tchotchke décor, snazzy chandeliers and a house band playing Van Morrison covers, and I’m sold.
Eagle Rock’s Colombo’s is that kind of place exactly. Loved by locals since 1954, this Italian Steakhouse is total throwback, complete with a long, narrow bar that serves up stiff martinis and $7 carafes of house Chianti or Lambrusco. It’s also a rather raucous place to be on a Friday night, when the volume is high, almost every seat is occupied by a devotee and the wait for a table is about 30 minutes without a reservation.
The menu is what you’d expect—there’s a wedge salad, plenty of steaks, Chicken Cacciatore, mix-and-match pasta and sauces, baked cheese-laden specialties and Spumoni Cake. They even offer something called a “meatball steak,” pizza and 7 ravioli variations.
Being the standard by which I judge all “red sauce” Italian restaurants, Spaghetti Bolognese was my entrée choice. Colombo’s rendition is rich and meat heavy with sweet-bold flavor and a touch of cream. The bottom of the bowl is filled with sauce, first, then topped with more spaghetti than you would ever want to eat in one sitting. A sprinkling of fresh basil makes it pretty. Kind of perfect.
The rest of the food was fine. The corn chowder soup was no big deal, the Caprice Salad—fresh mozzarella, roma tomatoes and cucumbers—was a nice start, and the linguini and clams was good enough. Averaged out with the entire experience, I’d say Colombo’s is a great place to slurp some spaghetti and take in a heavy dose of mid-century kitsch.
Valentina Silva is a regular contributor writing about food and restaurants. You can also find Valentina’s reviews and stories on her new blog, Eastside Food Bites.