by Margo Osborne
August 22, 2009
Parents, did you realize it is possible to have a date night while your kids tag along?
Did you realize your kids could eat in their own separate kids’ dining room while you enjoy a scrumptious meal at your own table?
Did you realize you can do all of this at Paradiso in Alexandria, VA?
What an innovative concept! It’s because of this concept, superior service, and fabulous food that Our Kids (OK) highly recommends a visit to Paradiso.
Children actually have their own separate dining room. It’s located in the back of the restaurant adjacent to an “adult dining room” with a doorway and glass topped wall separating the two. The “adult dining room” is on the smaller side and holds approximately 10-15 tables. The size of the room translates into a possible wait time for this particular room during peak hours on a weekend, but it is also easy and quick access to the kids’ dining room. We visited late on a weekday night and were seated at a table directly adjacent to the doorway and could, for the most part, keep an eye on our children the entire time. On second thought, maybe we should have asked to be seated on the opposite end of the dining room!
The kids’ dining room is a sensory paradiso! Paradiso includes eight mini picnic tables in a spacious room, colorful rubber placemats featuring popular cartoon characters, ceiling tiles painted in bright colors, an equally colorful underwater scene on the walls, various “friends” hanging from the ceiling, and even a map of the United States adhered to the glass wall. See additional pictures online.
The menu, website and a sign posted outside the kids’ dining room emphasize the room is for ages three to ten, and is not a babysitting service, but a supervised dining room offered free of charge. In several places it reads children must follow the safety rules, but safety rules are not posted in or around the dining room nor were any rules outlined to the children. Please note that the children’s dining room is open every night for dinner only, not lunch.
Paradiso is licensed to play Disney movies, and The Emperor’s New Groove was playing during our visit. The friendly and conscientious attendant, who did not leave the dining room while we were there, explained there were approximately 15 movies that ran back to back on their oversized television..
We placed our children’s order at our own table before realizing they could place their own order with their own attendant in their own dining room. The children’s meal, which is $7.50, includes a choice of entrée, soft drink and ice cream. The plentiful entrée choices include chicken strips, fettuccine alfredo, cheese pizza, cheese ravioli, spaghetti with one meatball, and ziti pasta with meat sauce. The food is served on plastic plates and bowls and with plastic utensils.
Our children chose buttered pasta, cheese pizza and french fries, and were given generous portions they both enjoyed. It was refreshing to know the attendant was not going to serve them ice cream following dinner until it was ok’ed by us hovering parents. Also, with the lemonade/punch fountain in full view, it is way too tempting and simple for the kids to repeatedly ask for refills. They gain a certain amount of freedom in their own dining room!
During the course of our dinner, a total of three other families (a total of six additional kids) joined our kids in the dining room. All of the kids got along, and seemed to be happy in their own sensory paradise!
Remember what is paradiso for one family one night might be a “nightmaro” for another family on a different night. If you are pleased with your attendant, please remember to tip her/him as there is a tip jar near the television.
If you want to feel like you are going home to your cozy parents’ house for Sunday night dinner, then Paradiso is the place for you. From the moment we walked in the door, the employees made sure we felt welcome and at home. The person that seated us greeted us with a warm smile and explained how the larger room to the left of the entrance was a bar and smoking section of the restaurant, where they offer Karaoke on Thursday and Sunday nights. We poked our heads in, and Karaoke appeared to be a popular attraction in full swing. There is no need to be concerned about the smoke reaching your tables. The bar/smoking section is located on the opposite end of the restaurant and has its own door, which remains closed.
We couldn’t have asked for a more accommodating server than Ernesto. He ensured we knew the evening’s specials, ensured our beverage glasses and complimentary bread basket were never empty, and most importantly, ensured we enjoyed our Paradiso experience and meal.
If you are looking for Magianno’s or Landini Brothers-caliber Italian food, then this is not a replacement for your grandmother’s meatballs! But if you looking for an enjoyable, relaxing, solid, quality meal, then Paradiso should be added to your list of restaurants to visit this year. The adults ordered lobster ravioli ($16.25) and a linguini with vodka cream sauce ($15.95). The portions were generous, the pasta dishes were served warm, and did not disappoint. The entrees range in price from $9.25 to $17.25, and liberal coupons typically can be found in the Clipper Magazine.
Online, OK noted many favorable reviews of their Sunday Mimosa Brunch from 10am to 2:30pm. They also offer a lunch buffet Monday through Saturday from 11:30am to 2:30pm. Overall, the restaurant and bathrooms, which are conveniently located off of the children’s dining room, appear to be hygienic and well maintained.
Paradiso is located (barely) outside of the Beltway off of Interstate 95. It’s literally right next door to Springfield and also an easy trip from Old Town Alexandria. On our drive out of the parking lot, we also noticed an inviting outdoor seating area off of the bar/smoking section of the restaurant. If only they could add a children’s dining room outside as well. Is that too much to ask, Paradiso?
Editor’s Note: Have you been to Paradiso Ristorante Italiano?