Al Fresco
 Whether it’s the courtyard dining at extravagant Bistro Provence, the Italian sidewalk dining at Il Porto, the outdoor roof top of Tommy Joe’s or a “dirty” dinner at Calleva’s, now is the time of year to dine al fresco in Montgomery County. Here are plenty of opportunities.

Bistro Provence, Bethesda or 301.656.7373
Bethesda has its share of French restaurants, but Bistro Provence radiates something special.
From executive chef Yannick Cam creating exciting dishes to the unique ambiance of the dining room to the intimate setting of its secluded outdoor courtyard, Bistro Provence is an unforgettable dining experience.  Cam's experience and vision stems from his French upbringing and relentless pursuit for culinary excellence. His south of France cuisine is marked by an award-winning menu of naturally farm-raised beef, roasted chicken and duck confit as well as seafood and fresh vegetables. Each dish is prepared fresh from scratch.

The inviting outdoor courtyard at Bistro Provence is unique for Bethesda where outdoor dining selections are few and far between. The high stone walls and brick patio are shared with cast stone vases and urns overflowing with flowers and greens. The setting is ideal for a party of two looking for a private evening or for a small group looking for a special evening with friends.

Dirty Dinners at Calleva Farm, Dickerson or 301.216.1248
Join Calleva as we trade our life jackets and paddles for dinner trays and chef’s jackets at a unique farm-to-table dinner. Calleva is excited to host another season of its Dirty Dinner series. Dinner guests will enjoy produce and meats from the Calleva Farm as well as ingredients from other local farms, dairies and vineyards. The evening isn’t just about food; you can see first-hand where the ingredients on the menu are grown and raised on a hayride around the Calleva Farm. The Dirty Dinner series is about bringing the community together for a summer evening in the beautiful Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve and to raise awareness for local farms and businesses in our backyard in Dickerson.

Il Porto, Gaithersburg or 301.590.0735
When you find a restaurant rated more than four stars and a best bargain as well, you may want to keep it to yourself. Fortunately for the foodies in the county, we don't like to keep secrets so here's a shout out to Il Porto, a friendly neighborhood Italian restaurant in Gaithersburg. The atmosphere is just as warm and welcoming on the inside as it is if you're seated outside on the lovely patio enhanced with flowering pots and stands and swathed with red umbrellas. Outdoor seating can handle about 40 guests. The menu is consistently good and the large portions usually warrant a doggie bag. There are more than 20 pasta and spaghetti dishes and another two dozen choices of fish and meat that are each lovingly prepared to order. The selection of premium wines from around the world helps make a meal at Il Porto even more special.

La Panetteria Ristorante, Bethesda or 301.951.6433
You need to experience the beautifully skylit atrium patio at La Panetteria for yourself. Its attractive, energizing hanging plants and paintings of the Italian countryside and classic Italian landmarks make you feel as if you're relaxing in an open foyer of a well-established restaurant in romantic Italy. La Panetteria is the original Italian restaurant in Bethesda, a resident fixture and great choice for a sunny or rainy day. It serves the finest southern and northern Italian cuisine and has built a very loyal following that enjoys La Panetteria's very reasonable prices and great selection of homemade pasta, fresh seafood, veal, and chicken plus superb white pizza. You can accent your meal with a glass or bottle from La Panetteria's wide selection of quality wines and top it all off with a homemade dessert – if you still have room. La Panetteria offers seating for a table of two up to a semi-private room seating 70 guests. Translated to bakery in Italian, La Panetteria is true to its name and offers breads that are baked fresh continuously throughout the day. This Italian gem is now booking for your special celebratory events, wedding rehearsal dinners or private parties.

Tommy Joe’s Bar & Grill
Bethesda • 301.654.3801 / Kentlands • 301.569.4247
A long-time Bethesda tradition, Tommy Joe’s now has a sister location in The Kentlands where it has extended its brand as the go-to neighborhood bar and grill. Both locations feature a menu carefully crafted by majority owner Alan Pohoryles and both feature the perfect combination of classic American fare mixed with an atmosphere of lively fun. The Bethesda location is known for its crabcakes, burgers, salads, Poho wings, cold beer, and large selection of 18 TVs on the main level. It also has a spacious rooftop bar where guests can relax and savor a drink and small plates with family and friends and enjoy a nice view of Bethesda with a fresh-air, third-floor view. In The Kentlands, Tommy Joe’s combines casual dining with two bars, featuring a DJ and dancing along with game-themed events like trivia and karaoke nights. The expansive outdoor patio, seating up to 80 guests, is a soothing respite at day’s end where diners can savor a beautiful summer evening and enjoy some of the area’s tastiest smoked BBQ ribs, along with burgers, mussels, seafood items, steaks, generous salads, and local microbrew beers. Live acoustic music is featured on Friday nights. Both locations offer private dining space.

Vasili’s Kitchen, Gaithersburg or 301.977.1011
It may have a new location, new decor, new menu, and a slightly new name, but Vasili’s Kitchen still has all the ingredients that make it a truly wonderful Mediterranean dining experience. The fresh, one-of-a-kind dishes from chef Yiannis Lucacos, an award-winning graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, highlight the experience at Vasili’s Kitchen. Lucacos’ innovative and customized entrees include lamb chops chimichurri, lemon chicken, vegetable ratatouille, and cod, sea bass and wild salmon. The 4,000-square-foot restaurant is light and airy and its use of reclaimed wood and vintage-style light bulbs adds to the enjoyment at Vasili’s Kitchen. The bar sits 15 while the private dining room allows elegant seating for up to 50. Now that warm weather has arrived, Vasili's Kitchen offers expanded patio seating along with a fire pit that provides a nice visual accent and can also take the chill off on a cool evening.

Da Marco
Bethesda • 301.654.6083 or
Germantown • 240.912.7414 or
If you're going to bake pizza in a 900 degree, wood-fired oven, you'd better know your crust and toppings. After a night of authentic Neapolitan pizza at Pizzeria Da Marco in Bethesda, you'll know it's the real deal – right down to the imported mozzarella and San Marzano tomatoes grown on the volcanic plains south of Mount Vesuvius. Da Marco's offers seven choices of its classic pizza and 13 options of its special pizza – all of which can be left to their original recipes or smothered in a seemingly endless choice of toppings. A 30-seat outdoor patio adds to the enjoyment. At Da Marco The Italian Place in Germantown, the menu features its classic Neapolitan pizza, but also offers a full range of salads, appetizers and 16 heaping pasta dishes, including gnocchi with short rib ragu, cavatelli with sausage, ricotta cheese ravioli and lasagna, which are all made in house. The outdoor seating in Germantown is slightly larger and can accommodate 40 diners.



Montgomery Writes

WHERE ARE YOU?You need to get off the beaten path to find this piece of Montgomery County history, but the red sandstone should be your first clue. Photograph by Ryan Cogswell

One winner will be randomly selected from all correct answers received by May 10.
Jono Sirovatka of Bethesda recognized the bridge over the Fishladder Channel of the Potomac between Olmstead Island and the C&O Canal and wins the framed print.
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