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NEIGHBORHOOD EATERY

Food Lives Up to Ambience

November 10, 1994|MICHAEL KRIKORIAN

I am always a little suspicious of gorgeous restaurants. It makes me wonder whether the owners have had to scrimp somewhere--say, in picking a chef. Fortunately for Gazzella, a very attractive Italian restaurant in Long Beach, the owners could get away with spending a bundle on the building. One of them is the chef.

Fred Kazemi, who owns the restaurant with brothers Mike and Nader, learned his way around a saucepan in Milan, where he spent 10 years working in restaurants and hotels. The brothers opened the six-table Cafe Gazelle in Belmont Shore in 1982, and its success spawned another small place, Martini. Three years ago the brothers went big time with Gazzella--a handsome Italianate building with two floors of dining rooms (maroon drapes, comfortable chairs, frosted light fixtures) and a large bar (jazz and blues on weekends).

A good way to begin a meal here is with the timballo de melanzana e funghi ($6.95), a mixture of mushrooms, capers, rice and garlic wrapped in sheets of baked eggplant, topped with a saffron-tinged cream sauce. Crostini di canestrelli ($6.95) is scallops sauteed in white wine, capers and oregano and set on garlic toast.

A favorite among the 18 pasta selections is fettuccine Michelangelo ($6.95), topped with prosciutto, chicken, mushrooms and onions. Penne Russa ($6.95) features small tube pasta in a creamy sauce of tomato and vodka with green peppercorns.

For meat eaters, the highlights are broiled filet mignon in cognac-shallot cream sauce and grilled baby rack of Sonoma lamb served in its own juices ($16.95 each).

An in-house pastry chef prepares a changing array of desserts ($4.25) that are wheeled by your table for consideration--though if you've ordered some of the cream-sauce dishes, you might prefer to simply look wistfully at them.

Gazzella is at 525 E. Broadway, Long Beach. (310) 495-7252. Open Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and every day 5 to 11 p.m.

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