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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Looks Like Country, Tastes Like City

July 24, 1987|RUTH REICHL

My first home in Los Angeles was at the foot of Laurel Canyon. All night we listened to the screech of brakes as speeding cars attempted to negotiate the curves. There were thumps and crashes. Meanwhile, birds sang merrily at midnight and squirrels played hopscotch on the roof. It's a strange part of town.

There's a country store on the corner, just above a little restaurant which seems to constantly change hands. It has just changed once more, and now it is Caioti, 2100 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 650-2988. Follow the smell of garlic through the door and you're back in the boonies--all funky brick and wood and people in blue jeans eating pizza. Each table is set with a different pair of novelty salt and pepper shakers and there's a fish tank up in front.

The look may be country casual but the taste is pure big city: These pizzas are courtesy of Ed Ladou, baker of Spago's first pizzas and consultant to California Pizza Kitchen. Here he's turning out contemporary pizzas (one's got barbecued chicken, another is all vegetables and no cheese)--as well as pasta, appetizers like bacon-wrapped shrimp with pesto and entrees like herb-roasted chicken. It's a wonderfully strange little place--and it's practically perfect for the neighborhood.

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