There's a new restaurant in town called Amalfi. It bills itself as, "the newest and most beautiful Northern Italian restaurant," and if that doesn't make you suspicious, it should. The city of Amalfi is beautiful, but it is decidedly south of Naples, and its food is more notable for southern gusto than northern restraint.

Indeed, the best things I ate on my first visit were the small plain pizza and the linguine with clams. The Caesar salad would have been better if it hadn't been tricked up with olives and radishes and other items that didn't belong in it. Entrees--the usual veal and chicken dishes you find listed on menus in Italian restaurants--were variations on a theme. They all seemed to contain the same basic ingredients.

Amalfi is certainly not the most beautiful restaurant in town, Italian or otherwise, but there are comfortable booths, cloths on the table and good service by a polished maitre d'. The kitchen still seems a bit shaky, but then what can you expect from a place that doesn't know north from south?

Amalfi, 1640 Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood. 466-2210. Dinner for 2, about $40 (food only).

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