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BEST BITES

November 29, 1990

The following are capsule reviews of some of the better restaurants recently visited by our critics:

The magic at Pane e Vino is called authenticity. It's one of Santa Barbara's most successful--and most crowded--Italian restaurants. Try the bresaola con rucola , thin rounds of dry-cured beef with arugula and onions, drizzled in a delicious vinaigrette. There's a different soup and rustic risotto served every day. Pastas run about $8 to $9. One of the best is bucatini , thin strands of spaghetti with big slivers of sweet onions and a fine, very spicy sauce. The most stunning dessert is affogato al caffe-- white chocolate ice cream "drowned" in espresso and smothered in whipped cream. Pane e Vino is at 1482 E. Valley Road, Montecito. (805) 969-2274. Lunch and dinner are served Monday to Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; dinner only Sunday, 5 to 9 p.m. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $30 to $60.

Ristorante Fabrizio, tucked away in the corner of a shopping center, can give you excellent food and dismal service. But when Fabrizio is around, which is often, you're likely to find the same excellent dishes, plus attentive service. Try the linguine Portofino or the sweetbreads Chez Maxim. 3731 Thousand Oaks Blvd., Westlake Village, 496-9033. Lunch Tuesday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; dinner Tuesday to Thursday, 6 to 9 p.m., Friday to Saturday, 6 to 10 p.m., Sunday, 5 to 9 p.m. Meal for two, food only, $25-$65.

The rumor is that Giovanni's is the best Italian restaurant from Los Angeles to Camarillo. Giovanni's does an excellent job of living up to its reputation. The classic, formal restaurant offers a menu running from simple, grilled-to-order dinners to sophisticated, amazing dishes. There is the double-duty entree of opah fish wrapped in red leaf cabbage with red peppercorns and saffron, alongside a fine piece of cod covered with a lemony crab sauce. Lamb on greens is a superb salad, with sweet pine nuts, white beans, warm goat cheese and perfect vinaigrette. 5227 Mission Oaks Blvd., Camarillo, 484-4376. Lunch is served Tuesday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner is served Tuesday to Sunday, 5 to 10 p.m. Dinner for two, food only, $40-$75.

Middle America and its hearty food are alive and well at Doc 'n Sandy's Cafe on the edge of Saticoy. Doc's is an outstanding value, but be hungry. This is not light fare. A hearty hot beef, open-faced sandwich leads the list, followed by the beautifully flavored chicken-fried steak and the California omelet stuffed with chili beans, onions, green peppers, salsa and cheese. 11033 Citrus Drive, Saticoy, 647-2619. Open for breakfast and lunch Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. Meal for two, $14-$20.

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