If you like eggplant, head for La Bottega Marino. The counter may display as many as three types of eggplant for antipasto and probably also a homey version of eggplant parmigiana. From this group, we chose melanzane al pomodoro, finely sliced eggplant stewed with tomato and basil. The thin strips are ideal for an appetizer. Serve them with cheeses, tomatoes and bread (like Marino's ciabatta bread), or combine them with marinated artichoke hearts, olives, mushrooms and cheese on an antipasto platter. Reheated, the eggplant can be served as side dish with grilled pork or chicken.
Melanzane al pomodoro, $8.99 a pound at La Bottega Marino, 203 N. Larchmont Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 962-1325.
Plate and napkin from Pier 1 Imports stores.