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January, 2004: Buon Giorno

When you want a truly great plate of pasta, head to Buon Giorno. A Bethesda fixture for 29 years, this Old World eatery with its pale-lemon dining rooms and black-jacketed waiters is a restaurant for grown-ups. No trendy light fixtures or elaborate menu descriptions—the food speaks for itself. Start with the shaved-fennel-and-roast-pepper salad. Or a toss of raw mushrooms with olive oil, lemon, and parsley. Or do as the Italians do—share a pasta, much of it house-made by Arcide and Angela Ginepro, who opened the place in the '70s and now run it with their daughter, Daniela Nicotra. Nicotra spends part of every summer traveling around Italy, which keeps flavors authentic.

Among the more memorable plates: trenette all'antica, thin ribbons of pasta with a woodsy pesto and green beans, a Ligurian specialty; tagliolini kissed with fresh lemon cream from the Amalfi coast; and pappardelle alla contadina, handkerchief-shaped noodles with wild mushrooms and tomato sauce. Filled pastas are blue-ribbon contenders, especially meat-filled ravioli with tomato and mushroom sauce and agnolotti alla panna with spinach, ricotta, and herbs. If you can tear yourself away from pastas, veal dishes, especially the scallopine with fresh lemon sauce and mushrooms, are nicely turned out. For dessert try tiramisu or tartuffo, a melt-in-the-mouth ball of chocolate-hazelnut ice cream in a cloak of cocoa powder.

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