A salad of grilled octopus with chick peas, fresh parsley, lemon and artisanal olive oil at Girasole in The Plains, Va. (Dayna Smith/For The Washington Post)


The following review appears in The Washington Post’s 2016 Spring Dining Guide.

Girasole is the friend you haven’t seen in forever but know you can count on even after a long absence (six years, in my case). The same things I appreciated about the two-story, family-run hunt country retreat back then are the details I applaud now: pastas made in-house, neighborly service and a main dining room that pulls the outdoors in with the help of streams of light and paintings of rolling hills. The fritto misto is terrific: sweet scallops, shrimp, parsley and more in the barest of batters. Soups (rustic white bean with shaved Parmesan) have the edge over salads (arugula with sliced pear and gorgonzola is over-dressed). Specials are exactly that, and if you hear about lamb “three ways,” seize the opportunity to enjoy a chop, sausage and supple ravioli stuffed with the headliner. By all means, finish with the bright orange cake, one of many temptations on the dessert tray. In Italian, the name of the restaurant translates to both “sunflower” and “surrounded by the sun.” In reality, Girasole radiates warmth — and suggests you drop by more often.

Previous: Fogo de Chao | Next: Hank’s Pasta Bar (Best new restaurant — No. 10)

→4244 Loudoun Ave., The Plains, Va. 540-253-5501. girasoleva.com.

Open: Dinner daily, brunch Sunday.

Prices: Dinner entrees $27 to $35, brunch entrees $14 to $24.

Sound check: 64 decibels / Conversation is easy.

Previously (2010): 2 stars