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NEIGHBORHOOD EATERY

A Galloping Gastronome

November 17, 1994|MICHAEL KRIKORIAN

It was on the sidewalks of Lyon, one of the gastronomic capitals of France, that Marco D'Orsi developed his fascination for restaurant life--the long-aproned waiters, the tuxedoed maitre d's, the flaming dishes, even the oyster shucker. But it was at home that his palette was fine-tuned. His Italian mother, a good cook herself, taught him the nuances of various extra-virgin olive oils and the difference between properly aged Parmigiano-Reggiano and what often passes for Parmesan cheese.

After gigs in Italy, Luxembourg and Belgium, D'Orsi came to California, where he met Sam Ibrahim. Today the two are co-owners of the 4-month-old Cafe Ritrovo, a sleek Mediterranean restaurant in Redondo Beach. D'Orsi is the chef, of course; Ibrahim is the busy and attentive maitre d'.

The short, but tempting, appetizer menu includes a baked spinach buckwheat pancake with Parmesan (Reggiano, of course), garlic and bread crumbs topped with a light tomato sauce ($5.50). White cannellini beans are sauteed with shrimp and sweet onions ($7.75).

Often available is a homey, comforting bowl of risotto with pancetta bacon, cannellini beans, cubed potatoes and celery hearts ($12) that tastes as if it could cure the common cold--call it Italian penicillin, if you will.

Spaghetti alla puttanesca features anchovies, garlic, black olives and capers ($8.50). A less salty dish, linguine Siciliana, is topped with eggplant, bell peppers, zucchini and tomatoes ($8.25).

The popular soupe de poisson ($12.50) features the chef's daily selection of fresh fish in a spicy tomato broth.

Cafe Ritrovo is at 1304 Pacific Coast Highway, Redondo Beach. (310) 540-8799. Open daily 5 to 11 p.m.

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