It took an Italian restaurant to bring Oktoberfest to Bethesda. The Piazza Beer Garden officially opened on Cesco Osteria's patio yesterday. It's a very attractive outdoor space – how many times do you get to say that in Bethesda? – with flowers on every table and colorful flower boxes hanging on the fence. Small lights are strung on trellises overhead. Seating consists of long communal wooden tables and benches that easily hold groups of four to six. If you're a group of two, you're probably going to be asked to share.
There are no taps outside, but there's a decent bottle and can list. Flying Dog's Dogtoberfest and Belgian IPA sell for $4.50, as does Heavy Seas Uber Pils. You'll pay $6 for Dogfish Head Pumpkin Ale, DC Brau Corruption IPA and DC Brau El Hefe Speaks hefeweizen. (There's nothing but beer on the menu, but if you ask your server for a soda or glass of wine, they can get it from inside Cusco.)
Since it wouldn't be Oktoberfest with drinking snacks, there's a very short menu that is more Italian than German. The $10 sausage platter comes with beef, chicken and pork sausages, each with their own mustard or dipping sauce. More interesting are the Italian fried dough sticks, a $4 plate of salty little fritters that go well with flavorful beer. Individual pizzas ($5) and house-made chips ($4) are also available, and more than one server tried to sell me on ending my visit with bomboloni, the hot and sweet Italian mini-doughnuts ($6).
The caveat here is that you're in a small, somewhat-awkwardly shaped patio that arcs around the corner of Woodmont Avenue and Montgomery Lane. It gets crowded as soon as two office groups show up. Show up on the early side, and it's one of the nicest places for after-work refreshments in Bethesda.
Piazza Beer Garden is open from 3 to 10 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. Thursday through Saturday, and noon to 10 p.m. on Sunday.