IT'S TRADITION, not cholesterol, that has dictated the removal of butter from the tables of Galileo, I Ricchi and Vincenzo. The owners of these much-admired ultra-Italian dining rooms have banded together in a no-butter policy. They have returned to their home-country mode of serving just plain bread -- or with olive oil if some lubrication is desired. If a diner prefers bread the American way, they will bring butter on request, but they don't automatically put it on the table. And all of them serve house-made bread good enough to stand on its own.

TRADITION be hanged, Ecco Cafe is going with invention instead. This Alexandria restaurant is sponsoring a pizza contest, inviting the public to invent fantasy pizzas, anything from shellfish-and-seaweed to strawberry-chocolate and beyond. The contest ends Sept. 15, and entry blanks are available at the restaurant (no purchase necessary, no limit on the number of entries per contestant). Pizza inventions will be judged on originality, practicality and taste potential, and the winner will be announced Oct. 1. The prize is dinner for four at Ecco Cafe and the glory of seeing your pizza featured on the restaurant's menu throughout November (and permanently if it is a hit). For more information call 684-0321.

NOW THAT Union Station is full, Market Square is promising to be the next restaurant news-making neighborhood in the city. The Peasant (a branch of Mazza Gallerie's Pleasant Peasant) hopes to open at 801 Pennsylvania Ave. NW by the end of the month, Bice at 601 Pennsylvania Ave. NW around November, and about that time the owners of the Bombay Club expect to unveil their new restaurant. Its name hadn't been chosen, when last I heard, though 701 (its address on Pennsylvania Avenue) was being considered. The menu will offer international cuisine "with modern and classical overtones," the style will be supper club (with dancing), and the bars will include one for cocktails, another for caviar and smoked fish.

Not every restaurateur is battening down the hatches for an era of tightwad dining.

THOSE OF YOU who have waited in line for Generous George's pizza in Alexandria can hope to find immediate seating by the end of the month at the new branch on Backlick Road in Springfield. The decor in the 240-seat restaurant will be akin to the Pasta Room of the original Generous George's, and once again the kitchen will be open to view. No significant changes are planned for the menu, just more space for serving that much-loved pizza.

Phyllis C. Richman's restaurant reviews appear Sundays in The Washington Post Magazine.