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dining guide 
April Fuel

Scallopini-style salmon, sautéed with lemon, butter and capers, is one of Modo Mio’s specials, as are the medallions of beef (background).

Tuscan-inflected Italian food has largely become the food we eat when we eat out, it’s omnipresent, often not very good, and increasingly familiar—possibly over familiar. Does carpaccio, so exquisitely sensual when prepared just right—musky arugula skin-thin meat, sharp cheese, fruity oil—now seem run-of-the-mill? Can tucking into a good bowl of pasta seem like slipping on that old familiar feed bag?

If so, you may find it refreshing (as I have) to visit MODO MIO, a pretty cucina restica just off Sunset Boulevard in Pacific Palisades. In a classy, cozy room with gleaming windows and rubbed, clay-pink walls, you’re greeted by warm hosts and served by high-humored, knowledgeable waiters.

Modo Mio is a well-loved neighborhood restaurant. Don’t be dismayed if locals have nabbed the best tables, along the walls and windows; the food here tastes equally good in the center of the room.

Nothing on the menu is innovative or surprising (except, perhaps, the incredible insalata di carciofi, a salad of chopped raw baby artichokes, Parmesan oil, and lemon). We’ve seen it all before—insalata tricolore (radicchio, arugula, and Belgian endive), linguine with clams, risotto with mushrooms, veal chops. What is refreshing and compelling about these old standbys here is the straightforward excellence of their preparation—reminding us all over again why we fell in love with this food.

Don’t miss a starter of in a rich, caper-enhanced tomato broth. Or the simple, perfect house salad made with escarole, chopped fennel, tomato, and fresh mozzarella.

The pasta here has a good suppleness and density, try the ravioli in a butter-and-sag sauce, or a simple penne with tomato sauce and basil. Also recommended are rosemary-scented lamb chops and veal round sautéed with lemon.

Augmenting the regular menu are up to 15 nightly specials, many of them seasonal, such as pappardelle (wide noodles) sauced with stewed venison. A delicious special porterhouse fills a dinner plate. Fish is simply prepared, if sometimes overcooked. But the scallopini-style salmon with lemon, butter and capers is brilliant.

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