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Posted at 5:19 PM ET, 04/ 2/2008

Bring on the Carbs

By Julia Beizer

I signed up for the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler in the same way you might casually agree to meet someone for drinks after work. Some friends encouraged my fiance and me to try it. We paid our $30 fees the day registration opened and miraculously made the cut (even though all of the available slots were filled within hours). It wasn't until later that day that we realized we had actually signed up for four months of hard training and sore muscles.

So, many miles later, we're as ready as we'll ever be to join the 12,000 circling the monuments on Sunday morning. Thousands come from miles away to participate in the race, but organizers estimate that between 75 and 80 percent of the participants are local. For those of you who will leave me in the dust on Sunday, here are five places to load up on carbs before a big race.

"The reality of it is, [carbo-loading is] probably more important for marathons than it is for 10-milers," said Phil Stewart, event director for the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run. "But I think it's become part of the ritual." Pasta dinners help fortify muscles with glycogen, he says, and that can help during long runs. You don't want to pull a Michael Scott, but the takeaway message here is that a pasta dinner the night before can't hurt.

So, where to go? There are hundreds of good Italian places in the area, but I think cheap and easy is the way to go before a run. Who wants to be tempted by fine Italian wine?

1) Pasta Mia. This Adams Morgan restaurant is such a staple, it felt like such a cliche to include it in this list. But when it comes down to it, the big pasta bowls you can snag for under $14 make this place a pre-race must. The only drawback? The prickly no-reservations policy that requires diners to queue outside at least a half-hour before the 6:30 p.m. opening.

2) San Marco. Kind of like Pasta Mia's forlorn sibling, this Adams Morgan restaurant also dishes up good, cheap pasta. Try the $11 gnocchi, which is coated in a dense pesto sauce.

3) Faccia Luna. I usually visit the Arlington outpost of this cozy tavern for spicy sausage pizza, but the pasta here isn't bad either. The dishes clock in at under $15.

4) Luigi's. For me, Luigi's was one of those gems hiding in plain sight. I spent many a downtown lunch hour grabbing quick bites at nearby Nooshi, but it wasn't until a year or so ago that I realized what I was missing. The pastas can get up to the $20 range, but several simple dishes hover between $12 and $15. The arrabbiata sauce is a particular delight.

5) Olazzo. Eve Zibart just delivered a glowing review of the restaurant's Silver Spring location. She tips her hat to the linguini with clams and the sausage-and-peppers pasta.

What are your favorite spots for cheap Italian?


By Julia Beizer  | April 2, 2008; 5:19 PM ET
Categories:  Restaurants  
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Cafe Odeon in Dupont Circle has always been dependable Italian for this New Yorker

Posted by: Supercleary | April 3, 2008 12:17 PM | Report abuse

And for cheap, freshly made pasta, you can't beat the casual Vapiano down near 18th and M.

Posted by: jaredd | April 3, 2008 2:47 PM | Report abuse

I've always enjoyed Pines of Rome in Bethesda. Great place for a date too!

Posted by: ML | April 3, 2008 3:22 PM | Report abuse

I feel terrible about this! Sure enough, Pasta Mia is closed for "Spring Break" until April 9. My apologies for including it in this article.

Posted by: Julia | April 7, 2008 11:38 AM | Report abuse

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