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Designer Pizza

July 20, 1986|--Compiled by Jane Greenstein

Pizzas are no longer relegated to the middle of the meal , but are now ordered as appetizers in many posh places . And these days, all sorts of restaurants are making all kinds of pizza. Forget about pepperoni and peppers; the modern pie is topped with all manner of inventive ingredients. Pizzas have become so popular, you find them in dozens of different places. Herewith some recently reviewed restaurants that dish out the doughy stuff . (All prices exclude drinks . ) First of two parts. ANGELI (7274 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, (213) 936-9086). Serving inexpensive, rather rustic, old-fashioned food in an urban, hip and decidedly modern atmosphere, Angeli attacks you with its warmth and sophistication the minute you walk in. The pizzas ($6-$14) with their light crusts and fresh toppings are wonderful. There is a fine garlicky pesto version, an anchovy-pepperoni-and-olive-laden putanesca , a seafood-covered version, and the Margherita, topped only with tomato, mozzarella and basil. For visual preparation, the chef twirls the pizzas by the oven in the front. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Street parking. AE,V, MC. Dinner for two: $15-$30.

BOCCA (8001 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, (213) 653-3064). Bocca is so pretty it just sits there and waits to have its picture taken. A trendy "Miami Vice"-like chic-erie, it serves a selection of crisp-crusted pizzas ($8-$9) crowned with such sprightly toppings as shrimp, zucchini, smoked chicken and mushrooms. You might want to stick to pizza though--on the whole, the food sounds better on the page than it tastes on the plate. Lunch, Mon.-Sat.; dinner daily. Full bar. Valet parking. All major credit cards. Dinner for two: $36-$60.

CAFE CORDIALE (14015 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks (818) 789-1985). The decor of Cafe Cordiale is all soft pastels, pink and blue neon, with tasteful prints on the walls. The service is sprightly and friendly and the prices are reasonable. Pizzas ($5-$15) come with trendy toppings like chicken and sun-dried tomatoes. The menu improves as it progresses--save room for the desserts. Lunch, Mon.-Fri.; dinner daily. MasterCard, Visa, American Express. Dinner for two: $20-$40.

HAMLET GARDENS (1139 Westwood Blvd., Westwood, (213) 824-1818). Imagine a Hamburger Hamlet gone all grown up and nouvelle with weathered brick walls, terra-cotta tile floors, sky-high ficus trees laced with sparkling lights and a piano player serenading dinner guests, and you've got Hamlet Gardens, Hamburger Hamlet's shot at enticing upscale eaters. The designer pizza ($12-$15) is one of the highlights, particularly the one with pesto, prawns and sliced red onions--it alone warrants a return visit. Lunch and dinner daily. Full bar. All major credit cards. Dinner for two: $50-$80.

RONDO (7966 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, 655-8158). Part of the charm of this small restaurant on Melrose, which seats only 42 people in rather cramped quarters, is its sheer unseriousness. It is warm and crowded and very friendly, as if everybody in the room were attending one big party. Pizzas ($8-$11) come balanced on very crisp crusts, decorated with all manner of exotic toppings. A favorite pie has prosciutto, olives, artichoke hearts and cheese; it is so laden that eating it is a bit like diving into a Christmas stocking. Lunch and dinner, Mon.-Sat. Beer and wine only. Street parking. All major credit cards. Dinner for two: $35-$60.

WAVE (2820 Main St., Santa Monica,(213) 399-9114). The dining room has the air of a new-wave L'Orangerie, but the food is far from classic. Anybody who has a passing acquaintance with California cuisine could have written this menu with his eyes closed--it's that familiar mix of pizzas (one has wild mushrooms and goat cheese), grilled fish and pasta tangled up with strange ingredients. The pizza is simple and delicious, with really fresh tomatoes, basil and garlic on a beautifully cooked, chewy crust. Dinner nightly; brunch on weekends. Full bar. Valet parking. All major credit cards. Dinner for two: $40-$60.

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