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It could just be fatigue, but we’re all a little confused by Alejo’s Presto Trattoria (4002 Lincoln Blvd., Marina del Rey). It looks and smells like a West Coast take on a thousand East Coast Italian-American dives, with big piles of pasta, a permeating aroma of roasted garlic, and a noisy, festive, familial atmosphere…except that pretty much the entire staff is Hispanic. Well, that’s no real surprise in L.A., but it does play with one’s sense of familiarity. The menu is long and overly-comprehensive, as one would expect…and as none of us are all that hungry, we split a few quick appetizers – bruschetta, insalata caprese, fried calamari – and move on to big plates of pasta. At which point, things become even more confusing. Far be it from me to criticize the recasting of a classic – especially so close to Hollywood – but how often is spaghetti carbonara drenched in a thick, cream sauce with tomatoes and little flecks of bacon? Well, it’s a first for me, anyway. It’s not bad, exactly, but it’s sure not what I expect.

Full of cream, tomato, and slightly mushy pasta, I pass on dessert. Though I do note with bleary amusement that the offerings include flan. Flan? Ah, the real Italian classics. Maybe they should just call it panna cotta and let everyone think it’s overcooked. (2/05)


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