Open Sundays through Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to midnight, Fridays and Saturdays until 1 a.m. Free parking on lot. Main dining room accessible by wheelchair; Rathsskeller involves stairs. American Express, Bank of Virginia, Carte Blanche, Diners Club, Master Charge, Visa

Centuries ago, when I was the young son in family outings hereabouts, we had a number of reasons for frequenting the Old Europe restaurant on Wisconsin Avenue - and most of them were relatives in need of a formal Sunday stoking.

Maybe this is why we've been hesitant to herd today's generation into the place; somehow, my memories were of a suit, tie, Vitalis-soaked pompedour and best behavior.

But there was always that good German cooking, served in a malts-waltz-and-schmaltz setting, and people never left hungry. So much for this "roots" intro - How would the place stack up this time?

The short answer is that it still stacks up profusely when it comes to portions - and it's even better now than ever.

We slid downstairs to the Rathskeller, where a sort of German-Tudor decor remains corny-but-why-not: Beer-barrel ends sticking out of the wall, mugs all over and sundry continental paraphernalia hanging wherever nothing else is.

Our initial delight was the waitress, who seemed genuinely interested in the children, who would aid but not abet and who made them feel justifiably important.

While partaking of pumpernickel and butter and soft drinks and Wurzburger beer, which is tapped both lightly and darkly on premises, we found much to read on the menu. It was the kind of list that helps, too, because it tells you what each dish is all about without a lot of cutesy phrasing.

From the appetizers, which run the range from tomato juice at 60 cents to caviar at $1.75 and smoked salmon at $2.75, I inquired about - and was rewarded by - the potage of the day, at 75 cents. Potato soup, she called it, but potato soup like that I haven't had before. And when our 8-year-old daughter gets a taste and requests a whole bowl of her own drain, you know it's good.

What's more, when this same young lady proceeds to devastate one of the two children's specials on the menu - a thick, rare and generous hamburger steak with vegetable and fries at $2.25 - the kitchen's got to be clicking.

Our son may be only 10, but the day is long gone when he can be refueled by a children's portion of anything he likes. So his eyes darted from the other kiddie special - a hot dog, vegetable and fries at $2.50 - and fixed on wiener schnitzel in butter and rolled anchovies (they're optional), at $5.75.

For my wife it was schnitzel au four, in which a veal steak is topped with a chicken ragout, hollandaise and toasted almonds, at $7.50.

Two good schnitzels deserved a third, so I went with schnitzel cordon rouge, which is stuffed with ham and cheese and pan-broiled, at $7.95.

After a frenzied round of fork samples, the family's schnitzel-nod went to the au-four combination as tops among three superb offerings, with special citations for the squash and salad.

This doesn't begin to address all of the other menu possibilities, but there must be a little something there for almost every taste, be it a chef's salad at $3.75, cold platters and sandwiches from $5.50 to $6.55, or main courses from $5.75 to $8.15. In the Rathskeller after 10 p.m. there are short-order sandwiches, from $1.45 to $3.

All the while there is mood piano with live players and a clientele of delegates from all generations, with a variety of informal fashions and foreign tongues. Our total bill for this splendid outing was $29.15 plus tip.

Old Europe Restaurant and Rathskeller, 2434 Wisconsin Ave., NW. Open Sundays through Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to midnight, Fridays and Saturdays until 1 a.m. Free parking on lot. Main dining room accessible by wheelchair; Rathskeller involve stairs. American Express, Bank of Virginia, Carte Blanche, Diners Club, Master Charge, Visa.