Periodically, Mark and Gail Barnett recap the best restaurants they've reviewed in the previous few months.
Il Pizzico 15209 Frederick Road Rockville 309-0610
An outstanding find: authentic Italian cooking, some of it terrific, in a tiny, ordinary-looking storefront, and at bargain prices. Soup specials (especially straciatella) and pastas (especially stuffed shells, ravioli and anything with cream sauce) have been highlights. Excellent pizza on Tuesdays and Thursdays, simple but admirable crostini (a house specialty), salads and antipasto anytime. Desserts can be marvelous, including "chocolate salami" and an occasional chocolate mousse cake.
Costa del Sol 4906 Fairmont Ave. Bethesda 656-2561
Simple Salvadoran food in a simple but inviting dining room. Only a few recommended dishes, but they're worth a trip: the fresh, garlicky guacamole, the wonderful shrimp and clam soup, the better-than-average fajitas, the lovable beef and shrimp stews (carne guisada and camarones guisados). Finish off with the fried ice cream.
Dusit 2404 University Blvd. Wheaton 949-4140
Excellent Thai food in an unusually spiffy dining room. Best appetizers include the lively northern pork, the grilled wok beef and the crisp-skinned twice-cooked duck. The lemon grass soup is top-notch (order it with fish), as is the marvelously delicate tofu soup. A couple of unusual entree winners: the shrimp pot, generously portioned and mild, and the tofu delight, multi-flavored and zingy. The squid has been wonderful, particularly "Dusit style." The few disappointments include mushy whole fish and a pasty duck roll. The fried banana dessert is a must.
Giuseppi's 213 North Washington St. Rockville 424-0413
Add this one to your small but growing list of authentic New York-style pizza places. The pizza crust is the real thing, and the subs are made with real French bread instead of plastic-bag blobs. Go for the excellent sausage or steak and cheese sandwiches. But avoid the oily calzone and white pizza.
Taste of Saigon 410 Hungerford Dr. Rockville 424-7222
Excellent food, solicitous service and reasonable prices in an unusually pretty Vietnamese restaurant. Top starters include spinach salad with grilled chicken, shrimp toast, cold imperial and summer rolls. Among the soups are an excellent pho (the traditional beef soup), plus equally good egg noodle and Saigon soups. Outstanding entrees: grilled shrimp or pork, shredded pork, crab cakes (different from the American version, and better), sweet and sour pork. The flan may be the best in the area.
Sabang 2504 Enalls Ave. Wheaton 942-7859
Indonesian cuisine, unusual in these parts, served at a reasonable price in a pretty setting. Although no single dish is particularly outstanding, the 15-dish banquet called rijsttafel is lots of fun, and a good buy at $25 for two people.
El Camino 4838 Rugby Ave. Bethesda 654-3440
An offshoot of the nearby Tia Queta and a top-quality Mexican restaurant in its own right. Beyond the usual Tex-Mex standards, strong points are excellent shrimp, pork, chicken and beef dishes and exceptional sauces. Most noteworthy: the terrific, reasonably priced dinner buffet (Friday and Saturday only).
Four Seasons 4506 Baltimore National Pike (Route 144) Mount Airy 301-829-2320
Forget the regular menu and come to this down-home roadhouse for the nightly buffet, a $10.95 bargain that includes some top-notch specialties. (An additional $4 gets you all the steamed shrimp and crab legs you can eat.) Best buffet items: homemade bread, seafood salad, homemade Italian sausage, carve-it-yourself roast beef, fried chicken, seafood Creole, apple cobbler.