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Growing up, the majority of my Happy Meal–free restaurant experiences centered on a constellation of Bethesda restaurants: O’Donnell’s, a few Chinese places, Benihana, and Pines of Rome. Ordering from the big menu meant navigating among old people in golf slacks, getting stung by the misdirection of the free bread (don’t pick the hunk with the white icing; there’s dried fruit embedded in there), and figuring out that most restaurants don’t have Cherry Coke (but they can make you one). Pines of Rome is one of the few restaurants left that continues to be part family tradition, part birthday obligation. It still provides a basic Italian meal with Old World or Old Bethesda charm—simple tables, good service, a hunk of sliced Italian on your table. No matter how refined your tastes in meals or cooking shows have become, Pines’ white pizza has held up for decades as the best in the area. By far. While there have been grumblings in our family that it’s time to give up on Pines of Rome, its small squares of gooey cheese, garlic, and oil are the reason we keep coming back. The rest of the menu shines merely in the white pizza’s afterglow. Its eggplant parm is a standout. All of its pasta dishes are pleasing. But really, you’re just clearing your plate for the cannoli.

Pines of Rome, 4709 Hampden Lane, Bethesda, (301) 657-8775