The smell of paint was still heavy in the air last week, the grand entrance still resembled a construction site, and work guys in overalls clambered up and down the façade. But years after the announced expansion, years of squeezing in like drupelets for a taste of “Mamma’s” homemade gnocchi, burrata with vegetables, and trenette al pesto, the dining room at La Buca, the beloved pasta-intensive commissary down the street from Paramount, is at last bigger than the inside of a minivan — a soaring, wood-paneled space with wine-bottle chandeliers, picture windows looking out onto Melrose, and a peculiar glassed-in aerie above the bar that may eventually function either as a VIP room or as the observatory of a CAA panopticon. The menu is still a bastion of new-generation Italian comfort food: smoky pappardelle flavored with scamorza cheese, spinach-stuffed ravioli with butter and sage, and tiramisù for dessert. 5210½ Melrose Ave., Hlywd. (323) 462-1900.


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