Every fourth Thursday, Mark and Gail Barnett recap the best restaurants they've reviewed over the previous few months. Paolo's 1801 Rockville Pike, Rockville 984-2211
Expect noise, crowds, moderate prices and very good Italian food at this stylish watering hole. Go for the impeccably fresh, adroitly cooked mussels and shrimp as appetizers or entrees, or the pizza (limp-crusted but good), or the grilled herbed chicken. Keep your pasta choices simple: Penne Bolognese is a good bet, as is the house-made ravioli. Among the few sub-par items: the duck sausage lasagna and the Italian sausage. Desserts, including fruit tarts, tiramisu and banana cream pie, have been outstanding. Fuddrucker's 1300 Rockville Pike, Rockville 468-3501
A dream of a burger joint, with excellent hamburgers (medium rare is actually pink) served on house-baked rolls. That's not all: There are old-fashioned shakes and malts nearly solid with ice cream and french fries, impressive steak or grilled chicken sandwiches, decent chili and slaw. But avoid the disappointing wurst sandwich and the characterless baked beans and potato salad, and don't expect much from the desserts. The Vegetable Garden White Flint Mall North Bethesda 468-9301
The first meatless, fishless Chinese restaurant in the area, this place will be a magnet for vegetarians and for others who want to try unusual dishes not found elsewhere. Go for the light, beautiful fried vegetable tempura, the lovely white jade rolls, the rainbow crown (a vegetarian version of the ubiquitous seafood nest), the mock chicken with five-spice flavor, or any of the soups. But avoid the overly sweet pineapple lotus root, the mushy mock beef and, above all, anything made with the monotonous, flat-tasting brown sauce. Il Pizzico 15209 Frederick Rd., Rockville 309-0610
A wonderful little Italian restaurant disguised as an ordinary-looking storefront carryout, where you can get some outstanding dishes at rock-bottom prices. Go for the daily soup specials (look for the straciatella) and for anything with the top-notch cream sauce. Pastas are the strong suit here, especially the stuffed shells and ravioli. The pizza (Tuesdays and Thursdays only) and crostini (a house specialty) are excellent too. The roast chicken and meatballs are more ordinary, and the Italian sausage is a disappointment. Some of the desserts are outstanding, especially the "chocolate salami" and the sometimes available chocolate mousse cake.
Dusit 2404 University Blvd. Wheaton 949-4140
An excellent and very handsome Thai restaurant that serves some unusual items. Top appetizers: the zingy northern pork, the nicely grilled wok beef and the intriguingly flavored twice-cooked duck. Top soups: the lively lemon grass (especially if ordered with fish) and the wonderfully delicate tofu soup. Entree highlights include the generous, mild shrimp pot and the lively, many-flavored tofu delight. The squid is particularly good, especially "Dusit style." Sidestep the whole fish (ordinary flounder) and the pasty duck roll, and note that the coconut soup and curries are unusually rich. But don't miss the fried banana dessert.
Giuseppi's 213 N. Washington St. Rockville 424-0413
Real New York pizza with a real crust plus classy subs made with quality French bread add up to soul-satisfying yet inexpensive eating. The sausage sandwich is wonderful, as is the steak and cheese. The "side salad" and antipasto are unusually good too. But steer clear of the oily calzone and white pizza. Costa del Sol 4906 Fairmont Ave., Bethesda 656-2561
A small and simple Salvadoran restaurant with a menu to match. A few outstanding items warrant a visit: 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). Best dessert? The fried ice cream. Four Seasons 4506 Baltimore National Pike Mount Airy 829-2320
Go to this modest roadhouse casually dressed and hungry, and head for the impressive dinner buffet: $10.95 for all you can eat, $4 extra if you want spiced shrimp and crab legs. (Don't bother with the regular menu.) Once in the buffet line, focus on the homemade bread and Italian sausage, the seafood salad, the fried chicken, the carve-it-yourself roast beef, the seafood Creole and the apple cobbler.