Caruso's Restaurant

2533 John Milton Dr., in the Fox Mill Center at Roston. 620-2811.

Atmosphere: A musical feast.

Price range; Entrees from $5.50 to $9.50.

Hours; Lunch, Tuesday through Friday 11 a.m. til 5 p.m. Dinner, Tuesday through Sunday from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. and until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed Monday. Musical performances, Sunday through Thursday, 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday 7 and 10:30 p.m. (Friday times may be changed.)

Reservations; Necessary.

Credit cards: American Express, Visa and Master Charge.

Special facilities: Accessible by wheelchairs; high chairs and booster seats available; parking in the shopping center. Owner-manager Benny Stark will open a second Caruso's in Courthouse Square in Fairfax City in late November.

How would you like Puccini with your fettucini?Some Mozart with your mozzarella? Or perhaps some Pagliacci with your parmigiana?

The serenade comes with the supper, and both are super at Caruso's Ristorante in the Reston-Herndon area.

At showtime, the black-gowned and black-suited alto, soprano, tenor and bass start off at the grand piano at one end of the moderate-sized restaurant and wander among the widely spaced tables for about 50 minutes, entertaining with a mixture of opera, light opera and show tunes. Their voices of truly operatic quality soar and fill the room, and inspired us one recent week night to wave over glasses and join in on the drinking song from the "Student Prince."

Caruso's is a family restaurant, and just how necessary it is to expose the younger members of the family to some of the finer things was brought home to me as the singers stopped at our table to end a chorus. My 5-year-old, trying to fit the scene into his obviously limited frame of reference, asked, "Are we on television?"

There were a number of other families with children there, and one 4-year-old birthday boy got a special serenade.

We did leave the baby at home for this expedition and took along my mother, who is a Kennedy Center and Wolf Trap habitue. We drove three miles out Reston Avenue from Rte. 606 to the Fox Mill Center and arrived in time to order before the show.

The fare is listed on a musical score sheet and served on red-clothed tables decorated with small bouquets of flowers and surrounded by stucco walls with a mellow wood trim. We passed up the overture, which included a Caruso cocktail and went straight to the prelude, choosing a mozzarella in carozza for $1.95 and an eggplant parmigiana for $2.75 to share. The former was a cheesy flat cake, batter dipped and french fried, that was delicious, and the latter was topped with a light tomato sauce, which had been removed from the stove before it turned into the heavy thick paste that characterizes so many Italian restaurant sauces.

From Act. I, the pastas, my son chose his favorite lasagna, which is $5.95 for adults and $4.25 for children (the set children's price for any item on the menu except steak).It was lavished with that same slightly tangy sauce.

Our other entrees were chosen from Acts. II, III and IV - the meat dishes - which were accompanied by a modest, but perky salad, graced with fresh sliced mushrooms and dressed in the French manner, and a vegetable mixture including zucchini, green pepper, broccoli and green beans that demonstrated how good vegetables can be when given tender loving care aand not overcooked.

My mother liked her pollo arlecchino, or breast of chicken simmered with green and red peppers and mushrooms, for $7.25, so much she wouldn't give up a bite. My husband said the veal in his veal parmigiana, $7.50, was very tender and just right. I cleaned my plate of salsiccia tri colore, Italian sausage, roasted and green peppers, mushrooms and mozarella, at $6.95. It was spicy, but not a tongue-burner.

The chef, Fausto Chiapanelli, appearing straight from the kitchen in chef's hat and apron, got a cheer both before and after his rendition of "Come Back to Sorrento," the first applause for his cooking and the second for his singing, which required an encore.

Typically, we were finished before the Finale, or dessert course, and our bill, including tip, came to $37.63.