no booths, and dominated by a clever mural of Adam and God toasting
each other with wine.
You can't go wrong with the lunch special of pasta, salad and
coffee ($5.99), a price that feels good to your skinny holiday
wallet. On the day we were there, it was six mushroom-filled ravioli
in a tart tomato sauce, but first came an excellent Caesar salad and
basket of homemade bread with a small bowl of zesty marinara-like
The ravioli were filled with a mix of creamy ricotta cheese and
fresh mushrooms in a shallow bowl sprinkled with cheese freshly
grated by Benavente's sister, Erika, a Sophia Loren look-alike.
Benavente has said that presentation and freshness are important to
him, but on this occasion I found the ravioli not hot enough,
especially since they were served on a cold plate.
This was also true of the rigatoni ($7) my friend had. The
generous serving of short, ridged pasta tubes and chicken pieces in a
ground meat tomato sauce was cool around the edge of the plate and
just warm in the center. Cook Israel Salazar should be more aware, as
good taste is lost when not served at the proper temperature.
Spumoni ($4.50), homemade like everything else here, is really
good with a crumbled cookie crust vanilla, strawberry and green
pistachio ice cream topped with glazed fruit and nut mix. It's a
slice big enough to share and very festive scrolled with chocolate
Owner Benavente is planning a special New Year's Eve dinner, like
a family party, Erika says, with fairy lights aglow in the
lattice-like ceiling and candles lighted on all the tables, a place
to welcome 2003 with good food and good friends.
* MARY FURR is the Independent restaurant critic. If you have
comments or suggestions, call (562) 493-5062 or e-mail