As Los Angeles restaurants get bigger and louder, personal attention gets harder to find. Sometimes, though, you want to get away from the madding crowds. Here are some places in which to do it. Few of them are fancy--we've included everything from simple coffee shops to barbecue joints to artfully decorated minuscule cafes--but each offers a personal touch. And while the wait may be long in these small spaces, the welcome is warm and the food is fine. All prices listed exclude drinks . AL FRESCO (524 S. Occidental Blvd., Los Angeles (213) 382-8003). Despite its name, all the food is served indoors at this intimate, mid-Wilshire-area Italian restaurant. There are perhaps 20 black metal chairs set around 10 tightly spaced tables made of tin and fading frescos do adorn the place. It attracts an eclectic crowd, ranging from artists to office workers. Nothing on the menu (which includes soup, salads, baked mushroom caps filled with cheese, and, of course, pasta and pizzas) comes as a surprise, only the consistently delicate rendition of some old standbys. Open Mon.-Sat., 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. No liquor. Parking in lot. Reservations recommended for dinner. Dinner for two: $12-$24.
CAFE BEIGNET (234 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, (213) 396-6976). While the atmosphere of this bowling-alley coffee shop, where parties take place at least six times a week, is pure Archie's Comics (shiny chrome fixtures filled with rice pudding parfaits, black leatherette swivel stools at the counter, neon radiating from the industrial clock, a jukebox filled with hits that span 25 years), the chow is a world away from greasy spoons. Cafe Beignet attempts to clean up all-American cuisine, not in any newfangled mode but with church-supper care. Gorge on Cajun food, heavenly beignets , fresh Pacific oysters, charred pork chops, or spicy chicken. Open seven days until 10 p.m., Fri. and Sat. until 11 p.m. No credit cards. Parking in bowling alley lot. Full bar. Reservations recommended for dinner. Dinner for two: $15-$30. DR. HOGLY-WOGLY'S TYLER TEXAS BARBECUE (8136 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Van Nuys, (818) 782-2480). The place isn't much to look at, but who cares when it smells so good? This is wonderful barbecue--a little bit sweet, not at all dry, and absolutely saturated by the smoky flavor of the wood. There are two sauces; the hot is pretty hot. Portions are extremely large, but you'll find yourself eating everything--even the beans and the coleslaw. Save room for a piece of pie. The service is so down-home and friendly it's hard to believe that you are still in L.A. Open daily noon until 10 p.m. Parking in lot. Beer and wine. No reservations, no credit cards, first come, first served.
FOUNTAINHEAD COFFEE ROOM (at the Beverly Hills Hotel, 9641 Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills, (213) 276-2251). Be prepared for an onrush of memories--the coffee shop is tiny and, like the aquarium scene in "The Graduate," feels womblike and underground. The wallpaper is pure '50s delight, a mass of great, green banana leaves. Twenty pink-padded, high wrought-iron counter stools are perfectly angled for people-watching. As for the scrumptious food: cheeseburger is a generic Class A: thick and juicy on a cartoon-round bun. For breakfast try the most radical appearing item on the menu: Brioche French Toast Nouvelle. For dessert, there's a Bon Vivant sundae. Open seven days, 8 a.m.-6:30 p.m. AE, V. No reservations. Valet parking available. Dinner for two: $10-$30.
IL PIATTO (7306 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 937-8234). This gourmet delicatessen is a dainty little place--white floors, white walls, white chairs surrounding 12 tables, China, grocery shelves neatly stocked with imported delicacies; deli cases full of imported meats and cheeses, pasta salads and such. On each table are tiny nosegays of silk flowers; the French bread is served in teeny-weeny baskets; even the menus carry a pretty, delicate design. The menu features such affordable delicacies as marinated roast red peppers, marinated eggplant, pesto pasta salad, empanadas , pizza crepe and spinach lasagne. Open Mon.-Thur., 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. until 10 p.m. Street parking. MC, V. Dinner for two: $12-$25.
ORIENTAL DISH, 1512 Pacific Ave, Venice, (213) 392-6695). This black-red-and-white space, which seats 36, is adorned with glass bricks, subdued lights and red Bauhaus-style factory windows, serves Filipino cuisine, a unique hybrid of Spanish, Chinese and Malaysian styles. The two co-owners will describe for you in detail the menu, which includes stir-fried chicken, lumpia (the Filipino version of egg rolls), hot and sour prawn soup, roasted pork shank. Open Tue.-Sun., 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. All major credit cards. Reservations recommended. Dinner for two: $21-$30.
WOODIE'S LOUISIANA STYLE BAR-B-Q (2662 Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, (714) 527-0789). In keeping with most barbecue places, where take-out is king, there's not a whole lot to see or do here except consume the top-notch barbecue delights, all moist, tender and beautifully smoky. Feed on standard barbecue fare of chicken, beef, sausage and pork. And there's Louisiana-style gumbo Thur.-Sun. To drink, you can choose between water and soda pop. For dessert, the pickings are a little slimmer--just pie, straight from the oven. Open for lunch and dinner Sun.-Wed., 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Thur.-Sat., 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Carte Blanche accepted. Dinner for two: $10-$30.