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Fresh Italian fare in a fantastic setting at Piatti

The dining room is a popular spot with neighbors, but the patio at Piatti is truly unique. Piatti’s patio was built around a huge tree, with high walls keeping the outside world at bay. Alfresco dining is pleasant by day, and it takes on a magical quality when the twinkling lights illuminate the garden setting at night.

The restaurant also has a separate bar area with a few tables. The central room features a large, open kitchen on one end and roomy tables and chairs spaced wide enough apart for privacy.

The restaurant serves lunch, dinner and a menu brunch on Saturday and Sunday. You’ll find plenty of weekly lunch specials, along with the regular menu items.

The lunch specials include panini sandwiches accompanied by mixed green salads for $9.95. Other lunch specials include roast leg of lamb with pesto, grilled eggplant and goat cheese and grilled fresh fish sandwich.

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The regular menu abounds with pastas, pizzas and several enticing entrees, such as grilled rib-eye steak with horseradish butter ($24.95), veal piccata with capers ($22.95) and our personal favorite, Pietto di pollo, which is grilled chicken marinated in Meyer lemon juice.

You would expect superior pastas from a good Italian restaurant, and you won’t be disappointed at Piatti. There are several pasta preparations on the menu, including homemade cannelloni with roasted veal, porcini mushrooms, Swiss chard, ricotta and mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce ($15.95).

Pizza is cooked to perfection in the special oven you’ll see in the open kitchen. These individual pies are priced from $10.95 to $14.95. There’s a white pizza made with mozzarella, roasted garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and basil, and one with homemade Italian sausage, pancetta, Yukon gold potatoes and oregano.

Piatti adds more than a dozen brunch items to the regular menu choices on weekends. The French toast has an Italian accent. It’s made with marscapone cheese and caramelized apples ($10.25).

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You can get a frittata di asparagi for $11.25. This egg-based dish is an open-faced omelet with asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes and shaved cheese. It comes with roasted rosemary potatoes.

Classic breakfast items such as eggs Benedict are included on the brunch menu, along with huevos rancheros. The brunch items range in price from $10.25 to $12.25.

No matter when you dine at Piatti, be sure to sample one of the desserts. There are no less than nine tempting choices, including a delicious tiramisu ($5.50). Creme brulee gets an orange flavor ($5.50), and the cheesecake is made with lemon marscapone and served with raspberry sauce ($6).

The welcome mat is always out for children, and the kids menu features several items priced at $7.50, like build-your-own pizza, penne pasta with marinara sauce and a grilled cheese sandwich.

When a restaurant is around as long as Piatti, they must be doing something right. In this case, they seem to be doing everything right, including the dipping sauce for the fresh bread served with every meal. It’s so popular, Piatti bottles it and sells it to go.

The restaurant also does catering.

Piatti Ristorante is at 2182 Avenida de la Playa. Call (858) 454-1589.