Dear Mr. Gold:

My best friend is in town, and I want to take her to some nice places near her hotel in West Hollywood. But not too pricey — and the Sunset Strip looks like a nightmare. Can you recommend a small, cozy place near Sunset and Doheny? Italian, French, etc.!

—B. Mullins, L.A.

Dear B. Mullins:

Small and cozy isn't really the area's trademark, unless you mean small, cozy and loud, but Mark Gold's casual French-California food at Eva, Laurent Quenioux's innard-intensive but accomplished French food at Bistro LQ, and Gino Angelini's trattoria cooking at Osteria Angelini are all quite good and decent value. Comme Ça serves very good brasserie cooking but is definitely loud. You may enjoy the retro supper-club cooking at Mark Peel's new Tar Pit, which is a clubby old-school cocktail bar with a chefly take on retro American food. The genteel, produce-oriented Mediterranean restaurant Lucques, whose food seems to be getting lustier by the year, may be a bit more expensive than what you have in mind, but the patio is pleasant on a spring evening, and the quality of the cooking is superb.

Angeli Caffe is usually easy to get into at the last minute and has basic, well-prepared Tuscan dishes. The brand-new brasserie Delphine, run by the former chef of NYC's Pastis, might be worth a look, although it is not precisely known for its repose. Terroni has great pizza but is loud. Yatai, on the Strip, is a few years behind the curve, but the small-plates pan-Asian food is perfectly delicious. And if you're feeling nostalgic, both for the kind of knickknack-strewn patio the area used to be famous for, and for the Italian cooking of the early 1980s, you may find Il Cielo amusing. The customers populating the garden tend to be 75-year-olds on date night, but sometimes that's part of the charm.

IL CIELO: 9018 Burton Way, Beverly Hills. (310) 276-9990.

LA Weekly