If you do want to bask in the patina of old Venice at Ca' Brea, order carefully and you can get a respectable meal. Start with either the verdure or the salumi along with an order of bruschetta, then have the melanzane or that fluffy gnocchi. For a secondo, consider the Kurobuta pork chop, which is much more straightforward than many of the fussy mains. It's perfectly cooked, rosy and juicy, a fine piece of meat. And don't forget to check out the daily specials.
Look around, and almost every diner is indulging in dessert. Ca' Brea's specialty is a big bowl of floury vanilla cream custard topped with what tastes very much like caramel sauce bought from a restaurant supply. Go figure. It's a childhood comfort food, I guess. Better, I think, is the tortina alla Veneziana, a delicate ricotta cheesecake served with strawberry and blueberry sauces. Or better yet, a glass of rustic grappa or an amaro (bitter digestivo from Italy). Followed, of course, by an espresso, dark and short.
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Rating: Half a star
Location: 346 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 938-2863; www.cabrearestaurant.com.
Ambience: Cozy Italian with dark wood, open kitchen and a handsome, enclosed patio.