The place is almost a block long, with ceilings tall enough to please a circus high-wire artist.
Decorations include lifelike figures of Balinese dancers, huge trophy animal heads, shop signs, patriotic posters, chandeliers and stained-glass
Old wooden tables bear the nicks and notches of generations of use. Wooden chairs rarely match. A million flowers bloom on the broadloom that cushions your feet.
If you want to dine cozily, you can do it in a vintage trolley or a canopied and expanded brass bed that's a room within the big dining room.
If you want to be above it all, there's a balcony.
Are you getting the idea that the place is all style, no substance? Don't. The food, while it won't remind you of your gourmet trip to Tuscany, is decent stuff designed to appeal to mainstream America.
The cup of minestrone included in the price of lunch, for example, contained lots of pasta and a mini-garden of vegetables - carrots, beans, zucchini and more - in a well-seasoned broth.
Lunch's entree of chicken parmigiana was a plentiful portion of tender, boneless chicken breast layered with melted cheese, bechamel and tomato sauce, and served with a side of tomato-sauced spaghetti.
Manicotti at the same meal consisted of two large pasta tubes stuffed with cheeses. One tube was topped with creamy Alfredo sauce. The second was splashed with a mild tomato sauce.
A dinner partner's lasagna wasn't quite incredible - the menu's designation - because the pasta was cooked almost to mush, but the layers of meat, pasta, sauce and cheese added up to a hearty and affordable meal.
At $5.95 for dinner, $4.95 for lunch, spaghetti with clam sauce was another good deal, made with lots of chopped clams and an OK white sauce flavored along traditional lines.
Desserts included a creamy cheesecake that could be ordered with a variety of fruit toppings at modest extra cost and a moussecake in a choice of cappuccino, amaretto or peanut butter flavors. The cappuccino cake was a two- layered fluff that I found slippery, sweet and unexceptional. The cheesecake, topped with cherries, was a better bet, creamy and appropriately rich.
If you don't crave minestrone with your entree, you can have a house salad that's small, fresh and served with dressings that include a light Italian as well as ranch, blue cheese, thousand island and regular Italian.
A loaf of thin-crusted, warm bread arrives with a paper cuplet of creamy spread made with whipped margarine, grated cheese and enough garlic to give you dragon breath well into the next day. (More bread was offered at both lunch and dinner.)
Other bonuses include free refills on coffee, tea or Pepsi, and free popcorn at the bar. There's even free parking - ample at that - in a fenced lot behind the restaurant, and an attendant is there to keep an eye on things.
The Warehouse posts a long list of foreign beers with a note saying that they are subject to local availability. When our first two choices weren't on tap, we settled for Japanese Kirin made in Canada.
There's a fairly lengthy list of wines available by the glass and bottle. No connoisseur choices, but not a surprise since the top bottle price is $19.95.
1026 Spring Garden St.; 787-0784
Open: Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday noon to 11 p.m.; Sunday noon to 10 p.m.
Price range: Lunch pastas $3.50 to $4.95; lunch specialties $5.95 to $6.95; dinner specialties $6.95 to $9.95.
Credit cards: Major cards.
Health-conscious choices: Spaghetti with tomato sauce, minestrone, crisp house salad with light Italian dressing or oil and vinegar
Nonsmoking section: Yes.
Facilities for handicapped: Yes.
Atmosphere: Big, fun-for-all setting for thrifty dining.