Maggiano’s Little Italy – Chevy Chase

Heaping plates of Italian-American classics.

From March 2002

Reducing the bellini to a frozen drink is bad enough, but what's to be done with a red-sauce Italian eatery whose red sauce isn't especially distinguished? Order smart. The menu is voluminous, so if you're wise, the gems to be had in this big noisy dining room, done up with retro black-and-white photos of la famiglia, will show up at your table. Mushroom ravioli resonates with woodland notes. Baked shrimp oreganata, redolent of oregano, are miraculously plump and juicy. The restaurant's signature potatoes Vesuvio, done up with lemon, parsley, basil, and garlic, deserve the kudos they get.

Also on the mark are several veal dishes, from piccata to Milanese; oven-baked fusilli with chicken and smoked mozzarella; and fish done simply with lemon and herbs. Avoid bready zucchini fritte–frying is heavy-handed across the board–and dishes that rely on that wimpy marinara. For dessert, peppermint profiteroles are as dangerous as they sound. And like everything else, they're almost enough to feed an army. The family dinner, available for tables of four or more, offers even bigger platters of food–six courses served family-style for $21.95 per person. If you go on a weekend, beware–waits can be long, though the 30-and-older bar scene makes them more interesting if you're into that sort of thing.