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RESTAURANTS | Counter Intelligence

Cooks Not Just Noodling Around

More than a pizza restaurant, Laurel Canyon's Pace gives its most serious attention to its fresh pasta selections. Counter Intelligence

July 15, 1999|CHARLES PERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Not long ago, this was Caioti, the only pizza place between Hollywood and North Hollywood, located downstairs from the venerable Canyon Market in Laurel Canyon. Now it's Pace (spelled with an accent on the "e" in the hope that you'll pronounce it as the Italian word for peace: PAH-chay), and it's still moving pizza.

And the same sort of people still come here--slim young women, guys in jackets talking about screenplays, people who probably throw pots or do stuff with stained glass. A takeout counter stands just outside the door, in case you need any pasta or tiramisu to take back to your Laurel Canyon pad.

Inside, there are track lights and hanging lamps in the ceiling, stained glass light fixtures on the walls and candles at the tables, and you still probably won't have enough light to read your menu. One night, a customer actually whipped out a halogen flashlight. This was no rookie.

Many of the salads are good here. Take insalata alla romana: arugula tossed with crumbled feta and grilled onions in a warm Sherry and pancetta dressing. It's quite good, though you may want to distribute those tasty sweet onions a little--they tend to wad up. There's an OK Caesar with endives and a creamy dressing, and a pleasant chopped vegetable salad (more lettuce and garbanzos than zucchini or asparagus). On special, you may find an arugula salad topped with a disk of goat cheese with a wonderful browned crust.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday July 22, 1999 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 50 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 13 words Type of Material: Correction
Lunches--Pace, reviewed here on July 8, is no longer serving lunch. Dinner hours are 6 to 11 p.m.

*

Among the appetizers, ribollita is a rather plain bean puree soup, but the gamberi saltati all'aglio is a delightful surprise, just a few sweet shrimp (which seem grilled, rather than sauteed) on a light, almost crunchy salad of white beans and zucchini.

The pizzas have an oddball crust with a crackling glaze, which is sure to offend both thin-crust and puffy-crust partisans. Most of them are named after figures in Greek mythology, such as Aphrodite (green beans, thinly sliced potatoes and pesto) and Zeus (sprinkled with arugula and covered with sliced prosciutto di Parma after baking). Neither has any tomato sauce, and they're both pleasantly light, particularly the Zeus model, though nobody could explain the precise connection to Aphrodite or Zeus. Mamma G's is a more traditional pizza, with a good, punchy topping of tomato sauce, homemade sausage and caramelized fennel.

There are a few meat entrees (secondi): grilled rib eye, grilled fish, a flattened chicken breast (chicken paillard parmigiano) topped with sliced eggplants, tomatoes, soppressata sausage and provolone. Can't decide whether to get a pizza or a meat dish? The paillard is like a pizza made out of chicken, except for being served on a bed of roasted potatoes and fresh green beans.

But the emphasis really seems to be on the pasta dishes, all apparently made with fresh pasta. The best, for my money, is tagliatelle con panna di cucina, prosciutto e asparaghi. The name is the recipe; it's a narrow noodle tossed with asparagus and Italian ham in a cream and white wine sauce. One of the nightly specials might be the same pasta with green beans in place of asparagus.

The lasagne al forno is surprisingly delicate. It's made with slithery fresh pasta, just a few layers separated by meat sauce and mozzarella, making it the antithesis of every heavy, rubbery lasagna you've ever had.

If you want a more substantial pasta, the fettuccine alla Bolognese is a good portion tossed with a rich veal sauce and Parmesan. It has an alluring, smoky quality, as if there were porcini mushrooms in it.

On the other hand, the fettuccine alla scoglio--despite all the mussels, fish and this restaurant's usual good shrimp, even despite a decided dose of red pepper flakes--suffers from a surprisingly dull tomato sauce. And pappardelle alla Umbria will probably appeal only to vegetarians. The broad noodles are tossed with leeks and Parmesan, but mostly you just taste mushrooms.

For dessert, there's a mushy flourless chocolate cake, chewy biscotti-like cookies and a very good tiramisu (the cake layers arrestingly flavored with espresso). And then you can go (in peace, or PAH-chay, of course).

BE THERE

Pace, 2100 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 654-8583; fax (323) 654-7043. Lunch 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday; dinner 5-10:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 5-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; brunch 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Beer and wine. Valet parking. All major cards. Takeout. Dinner for two, $40 to $65.

What to Get: gamberi saltati all'aglio, insalata alla romana, Zeus' pizza, Mamma G's pizza, tagliatelle con panna, fettuccine alla Bolognese, chicken paillard, tiramisu.

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