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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Maito Offers Nice Taste of Tuscany

September 27, 1996|S. IRENE VIRBILA | TIMES RESTAURANT CRITIC

Maito Ristorante, a new restaurant from Madeo's Bruno Vietina, has quietly opened on Olympic Boulevard in Beverly Hills. The former IHOP has been gussied up with lemon trees in terra-cotta pots out front and a wood-burning oven inside.

Massimo Puliti, the chef, was recruited from Vietina's hometown of Forte dei Marmi on the Tuscan coast. And his menu is truly Tuscan. There's a wonderful white bean soup garnished with swirls of green-gold olive oil and a crust of bread topped with whole white beans, a lovely artichoke "pie" with fresh baby artichokes, and matuffi, a custardy Tuscan-style polenta of corn and wheat flour covered with a robust mushroom and meat sauce.

This guy knows how to make a gnocchi all right. And his pasta dishes, like ravioli in zucchini blossom sauce or spaghetti with filets of fresh tomatoes, are distinctive and interesting.

Secondi are as unfussy as they come: grilled salmon in lemon and butter, marinated roasted pork ribs slathered in sauce, homemade sausages with more of those beans Tuscans love so much.

What, no angel-hair pasta? No checca? No Caesar salad with grilled chicken?

No.

Bravo!

* Maito Ristorante, 8925 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 657-8445. Open Monday through Saturday for both lunch and dinner. Major credit cards accepted. Valet parking. Appetizers $5 to $9; pastas $7.50 to $12; entrees $12.50 to $18.

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