SPECIAL REPORT: Putting Down Roots : The Times Poll : Eating Your Way Across North County

When North County residents go out for the evening, 58% go out to dinner. Only 15 percent don't have a regular restaurant. A majority--64%--have a regular restaurant in their own community and another 20 percent say they travel to another community to get to their preferred eating spot. --The Times Poll

Each week, restaurant critic David Nelson reviews a North County eating establishment for Focus. (This week's review is on page 53.)

Here's a taste of what he's had to say over the past year:

PORTOFINO, 1108 First St., Encinitas, 942-8442--The first of the elegant, "Northern Italian"-style Italian houses to open in North County, Portofino has matured unevenly. The setting, particularly the sheltered, all-weather garden dining room, remains quite lovely, and the first-rate service also persists. The antipasto table seems less well-stocked than in the past, however, and the cooking of some entrees seemed less painstaking than formerly. The menu remains as formidable as ever and runs to great length with listings of such appetizers as the shellfish called scungilli , served in an excellent, spicy fradiavolo sauce; home made pastas, including the elaborate fettuccine dello chef, and such entrees as fine osso bucco , sea bass alla siciliana and veal Saint Moritz. Entrees from $12.75 to $26. Expensive.

BANGKOK BAY, 731 S. Highway 101, Solana Beach, 792-2427--One of the few Thai restaurants in the county to take its roots seriously, Bangkok Bay continues to employ seasonings with a free hand, although it does moderate the chili heat to suit the individual table's stated preference. The selections of appetizers, soups and salads are excellent, but the entree lists, while extensive, make use of precooked beef, chicken and pork, which guests may mix and match with any of two dozen or so preparation styles. The meats tend to taste reheated. Among good preparation options are the mint leaf and onion stir-fry, the cashew stir-fry, and the assorted curries; the Panang curry, sweet with coconut milk and rich with spicing, is especially tasty. Entrees $6.95 to $12.95. Inexpensive to moderate.

PARADISE GRILL, 1476 Encinitas Blvd., Encinitas, 943-9997--The Paradise in this casual restaurant's name evidently refers to the Deep South, a region whose cooking styles dominate the menu. Much of the food is deep fried, including the chicken fried steak, the corn meal-coated catfish and the coconut shrimp. The place also makes much of ribs and chicken cooked over hickory logs in its own smokehouse. Paradise Grill goes in for spiciness, notably with the conch chowder and the Pecos River chili. Entrees from $7.50 to $15.95. Moderate.

JAKE'S DEL MAR, 1660 Coast Blvd., Del Mar, 755-2002--Although it offers one of the better close-up surf views among local seaside eateries, Jake's makes only passing mention of the favorites of Southern California beach cuisine; those included are shrimp scampi and an Australian lobster tail-filet mignon combination. The menu heads eclectically hither and yon about the globe, with Szechuan and Cajun-style fish specials, a French-Italian seafood pasta, chicken in tarragon cream sauce and a thick, likeable veal chop with shiitaki mushrooms. At lunch, both the hot shellfish sandwich and the shrimp-crab quiche are pleasant, filling and warming. Dinner entrees $9.95 to $19.95. Moderate to expensive.

MISTER SUSHI, 111 N. El Camino Real, Encinitas; 944-2800--In a collision of styles that spans the centuries, this shopping center eatery serves traditional Japanese preparations in a high-tech environment that attempts to anticipate the 21st Century. Banks of television screens broadcast silently to the accompaniment of radio rock 'n' roll. The sushi bar offers a comprehensive selection made interesting by clever house specialties, and the better-than-average appetizer list runs to clams steamed in sake, "Cajun" seafood, banana tempura and a fancy seafood sunomono salad. The entree selection is a somewhat perfunctory but generally well-prepared list of typical tempura, teriyaki and fried, breaded beef, seafood and chicken. Entrees from $7.50 to $18.50. Moderate to expensive.

KURT'S AT THE WINERY, at the Bernardo Winery, 13330 Paseo del Verano Norte, Rancho Bernardo, 673-3756--This cafe rounds out the small complex of shops and galleries in the historic, century-old Bernardo Winery, a still-functioning winery whose buildings and grounds retain a rustic setting amid the housing tracts of this growing community. Operated by a Mission Valley caterer who trucks some items up already prepared, the place offers a menu of variable quality, and while sandwiches and salads may be freshly prepared to order, the boeuf bourguignon and chicken "brioche" (a misnamed variation on chicken a la king) seem weary and eminently worth avoiding. The brief wine list is limited to selections from the winery's own wines and is suitable to the menu. Inexpensive

LEONARDO RISTORANTE and PIZZERIA, 16705 Bernardo Center Dr., Rancho Bernardo, 487-3011--This smallish, storefront eatery boasts a cuisine sufficiently good to cause table waits some evenings. The menu, unusually ambitious for such an informal, family-style place, serves up a vegetable antipasto and a light-crusted pizza topped with some of the same items, including eggplant and roasted peppers. Pasta choices range from the traditional spaghetti with meatballs to an elegant plate of pennette with smoked salmon, caviar and cream sauce, and the usual veal entrees are supplemented by swordfish in a piquant tomato sauce, Naples' famous filet alla pizzaiola , and a savory plate of homemade Italian sausage with peppers and onions. The restaurant's own cannoli make a fitting conclusion. Pizzas and entrees from $4.95 to $13.95. Inexpensive to moderate

THE OLIVE GARDEN, 1884 Marron Road, Carlsbad, 434-1016--This eatery keeps its pasta machines busy all day preparing the basics for the immense platters of spaghetti, fettuccine and linguine that it sends out dressed with tomato, cream and clam sauces. The emphasis does seem to be primarily on quantity, a factor emphasized by unlimited free refills on the family-style salad bowl (a rather good toss of ingredients and tangy dressing) and the freshly baked garlic buns. The choice of entrees includes all the usuals, such as veal and chicken breasts in parmigiana and Marsala treatments. Entrees $6.25 to $12.95. Inexpensive to moderate.

DA TE, 2415 Vista Way, Oceanside, 721-0843--Although this Japanese restaurant advertises itself as a specialist in the mysteries of sushi and tempura, it may be best known for the immense "boat" dinners served in boat-shaped receptacles that amount to portable buffets of all the usual Japanese items, including chicken and steak teriyaki, assorted tempura, sashimi, salads, lobster and fruit. The combination plates are less Gargantuan, but hardly small, and offer competent if not brilliant examples of familiar Japanese dishes, including a sukiyaki that could feature more and better beef. But the tempura is delicate, and the sushi--as befits a house specialty--is fresh and sweet. Entrees $8.95 to $18.95. Moderate.

QUAILS INN DINNER HOUSE, 1035 La Bonita Drive, San Marcos, 744-2445--The soup and seafood salad bar--which offers a couple of daily brews, immense displays of shrimp, oysters, smoked fish and pickled herring, as well as all the usual salad items--remains a prime draw at this enduring, ever-popular eatery. The menu is very much in the style popularized a couple of decades ago and features prime rib, steaks, teriyaki chicken and Australian lobster tails, although there are updates, including a "stir-fry primavera" of vegetables and cream sauce over pasta. Other specialties include scallops parisienne, batter-fried shrimp and red snapper prepared in a choice of three methods. Entrees from $9.95 to $22.95. Moderate.

VILLA D'ESTE, 2282 Carmel Valley Road, 259-2006--One of the leading luxury Italian houses in North County. Villa D'Este charges for its pleasures but delivers--within the confines of a stylish environment--such delicious plates as chicken breast with roasted eggplant, a lavish antipasto plate, excellent pastas based on homemade noodles and light, savory sauces. There are also unusual entree choices such as pork filet with mushrooms in red wine sauce and excellent spiral-shaped sausage with grilled peppers. Entrees from $10.95 to $21. Expensive.

CHIN'S SZECHWAN CHINESE RESTAURANT, 1506 Encinitas Blvd., Encinitas, 753-2104--More than many of the Chinese houses that purport to serve Szechuan cuisine, this one seems to deliver the genuine article, although it consistently moderates this regional cuisine's traditional spicy heat unless requested to stoke up the flames. The house specialties page of the menu offers the most interesting choices, including a very fine Hunan beef, lamb Hunan style (neither of these are Szechuan, it may be noted), the savory pao hu (hot burned pork) and the "surprise lettuce delight," which adds shrimp to the usual minced chicken filling. Entrees from $4.95 to $15.95. Moderate.

BLUE BIRD CAFE, 646 Valley Ave., Solana Beach, 755-4426--One of the four nearly legendary Mexican restaurants in the Eden Gardens neighborhood, the Blue Bird is also the most restrained in atmosphere and the most old-fashioned in decor. The menu mentions many familiar items--the list includes tacos, burritos, enchiladas and the like in various combinations--as well as a flavorful chicken in mole sauce and such other chicken dishes as the layered chilaquiles (shredded chicken, tortillas, cheese and enchilada sauce) and tacos, burritos and taquitos stuffed with chicken. Entrees from $4.50 to $9.90. Inexpensive

THE VERANDA, Rancho Bernardo Inn, 17550 Bernardo Oaks Dr., 487-1611--The Veranda, less expensive and less formal alternative to the grand El Bizcocho dining room, nonetheless escapes the coffee shop menu and decor usually assigned to hotels' secondary rooms. In addition to a wide-selection of diet-conscious "heart-healthy" listings, the entree selection offers excellent seafood choices--notably the New Orleans-style tiger shrimp etouffe --and typical meats given untypical garnishes. Among the desserts, the satisfying bread pudding made according to a recipe from Vincent Price is just a little sweeter than the roles played by its creator. Entrees from $11.50 to $24. Moderate to expensive

VILLAGE CAFE FRANCAIS, 1524 Encinitas Blvd., Encinitas, 942-5968--Among the small handful of North County restaurants that accurately can be called one-of-a-kind is the Village Cafe Francais in Encinitas, which earns this distinction by serving a nightly fixed price menu of seven courses. The menu is set except for the appetizer and entree, where two or three choices exist. Recent entrees have included chicken breast in lemon-dill sauce, filet mignon with oyster mushrooms and peppercorn sauce, and halibut in spicy tomato sauce. The meal includes soup, salad, sorbet, a fruit and cheese plate and dessert. The restaurant has no liquor license, but patrons may bring their own wine. Meals cost $30 per person, exclusive of tax and tip. Expensive.

THE GENTLEMAN'S CHOICE, 1511-13 E. Valley Parkway, Escondido, 480-9922--One of the older full-service restaurants in Escondido, the Gentleman's Choice remains one of the more popular as well. The menu, while far from innovative, offers a wide selection of popular standards, including prime rib in several cuts (and barbecued rib bones, too), shrimp scampi or tempura, swordfish, citrus-marinated halibut and several steaks, including the house version of beef Wellington. The dessert list offers a homemade apple crisp flavored with Cheddar cheese. Entrees from $5.95 to $19.95. Moderate.

SAZIO, 5256 S. Mission Road. (at the intersection of California 76), Bonsall, 758-9855--The first major restaurant to open in the upscale River Village shopping complex, Sazio offers pleasant, comfortable surroundings and a reasonably sophisticated menu of typical Italian offerings. There are a few house specialties, such as the chicken liver-sauced spaghetti Caruso and the mustard-flavored salmon Montanara, both of which are noteworthy, but the bulk of the menu is devoted to familiar pastas, chicken and veal dishes. Entrees from $7.50 to $16.95. Moderate to expensive.

MANDARIN TOWER, 625 Encinitas Blvd., Encinitas, 942-1959--This restaurant is reliable rather than exciting, and convenient when a casual Chinese dinner of old, familiar standards fits the situation. Some of the better dishes appear on the "house specialties" page, but think twice about the crispy chicken in garlic sauce. Good choices include the savory, ever-so-slightly spicy panda pork and the yu-shiang shrimp. Entrees from $5 to $15.95. Inexpensive to moderate.

THE CHART HOUSE, 2588 S. Highway 101, Cardiff, 436-4044--This most quintessential of 1960s-style Southern California restaurants offers a fine, ocean-side location and has the sort of mood that encourages guests to pull their Hawaiian shirts from the back of the closet. The menu is an instantly recognizable compilation of prime rib, teriyaki chicken, steak and seafood offerings, which on the whole seem well prepared. This is one of the restaurants that popularized the California salad bar, and the one here would be hard to beat. Entrees from $14.75 to $21.65. Expensive.

DELMARIO'S, 2010 Jimmy Durante Blvd., Del Mar, 792-1131--Although an offshoot of the adjacent, prestigious and extravagant Remington's, Delmario's takes the opposite approach by offering a generally inexpensive selection of simple, familiar Italian dishes. A lack of innovation pervades the menu, but the homemade chocolate cannoli is excellent. Entrees cost from $4.50 to $12.95. Inexpensive to moderate.

LA BONNE BOUFFE, 471 Encinitas Blvd., Encinitas, 436-3081--Bistro cooking is alive and well at this unassuming but attractive strip-center establishment. Dishes feature strong flavors and are generously served, and among best bets are sampler plates of either the charcuterie (excellent pates and cured meats) or the vegetable hors d'oeuvres. The standing menu includes a classic boeuf bourguignon, carefully prepared fresh trout with almonds, chicken in tarragon sauce, sole in lemon butter and rack of lamb highly seasoned with herbs and garlic. Entrees from $12.75 to $21.25. Moderate to Expensive.

DEL MAR BISTRO GARDEN, The Inn L'Auberge Del Mar, 5140 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar, 259-1515--The attractive dining rooms and garden recapture at least some of the gracious, leisured mood for which hotel restaurants along the California coast once were famous. The menu is considerably more contemporary in tone, and quite attractive; selections include a handsome, spit-roasted Cornish hen, a seafood-stuffed quesadilla , a salad of black beans with grilled Chinese chicken and duck sausage, grilled prawns on creamy polenta and a selection of gelati , or Italian ice creams. Lunch entrees from $5.25 to $11.95. Moderate to expensive.

YAE, 11616 Iberia Place, Rancho Bernardo, 485-0390--Now a decade old, this most formal of the county's Japanese restaurants continues to occasionally update its menu, sometimes with such unexpected house creations as the "staminayaki," a soy sauce-basted variation on the Midwest's bacon-wrapped filet mignon. But the menu primarily holds to tradition with a wide selection of sushi, tempuras and teriyakis, along with such less-familiar offerings as stuffed chicken breast in vegetable sauce, the sukiyaki-like shabu shabu and the "bamboo gozen ," which offers tastes of many of the menu's offerings. Entrees are $10.25 to $24, and higher for advance-ordered kaiseki dinners. Moderate to expensive.

CARMEL MOUNTAIN RANCH COUNTRY CLUB, 14050 Carmel Ridge Rd., Carmel Mountain Ranch, 451-8353--The dining room of this semi-private club is open to the public, but now serves only lunch and Sunday brunch. The room is quite beautiful, and is by no means lessened by the grand view of the surrounding mountains. The relatively brief menu changes daily but offers several seafood and meat choices, a range of meal-sized salads and a pasta or two. The cooking generally seems careful and thoughtful. Entrees from $5.50 to $7.25. Moderate.

VINCENT'S FOUR SEASONS, 731 S. Highway 101, Solana Beach, 481-1141--Vincent Grumel, the peripatetic master chef of duck and potatoes, finally has come to rest at his own establishment. Such duck dishes as slow-simmered confit , roast duck in lime sauce, duck liver mousse and fresh foie gras are specialties. Grumel also makes a dessert of nearly unbelievable richness, the chocolate mousse-hearted bavarois au chocolat . Entrees from $13.00 to $25.00. Expensive.

MANDARIN GARDEN, in Mira Mesa Mall, 8242 Mira Mesa Blvd., 566-4720--Some of the typical dishes of China that have yet to gain a wide popularity in this country join a full range of familiar preparations at this excellent, long-established restaurant. The cooking is with few exceptions first-rate (hold the egg rolls!), and shines with such offerings as the jellyfish and vegetable roll appetizers, and entrees of fresh prawns, beef with Chinese greens, a noodle dish called "ants climbing the tree" and braised eggplant. Entrees are priced from $4.45 to $11.95. Moderate.

ANTHONY'S RANCHO BERNARDO, 11666 Avena Place, 451-2070--Reliability rather than innovation characterizes this northernmost outpost of the local Anthony's seafood restaurant chain, although the menu now notes reduced salt, calorie and cholesterol counts in selected items and also mentions variously flavored beurre blanc sauces with some of the fresh fish specials. It is these specials that give the place much of its appeal; the list varies with market and season but now offers fresh local lobster as well as rex sole, Idaho trout, tuna filet and orange roughy. The menu also makes much of shellfish, including a good starter of fried crab claws. Moderate.

THE FISH MARKET, 640 Via de la Valle, Solana Beach, 755-2277--This cavernous eatery prides itself on a fishing boat decor and atmosphere, --and, frequently, it seems that a dozen diesel engines have been cranked up just to drown out your own conversation. But the chief attraction is a menu that makes a comprehensive study of the riches of the sea. and offers a good many of them--especially fine, fresh shellfish and an excellent selection of fin fish gathered from far-flung sections of the Pacific. The kitchen aims for simplicity of preparation but treats everything with care, so that most dishes are quite satisfying. Moderate.

NANCARO'S, 17051 West Bernardo Drive, Rancho Bernardo, 487-7181--A throwback to the family-style restaurants of other years. Careful preparation and generous portions rather than any "gourmet" qualities characterize the menu of dinner-sized salads, simple burgers, sandwiches and specialty platters. Meal-sized items are priced from $5.75 to $16.95. Inexpensive to moderate.

TRIPLE CROWN, Del Mar Hilton, 15575 Jimmy Durante Blvd., Del Mar, 792-5200--In keeping with the trend away from dull, old-fashioned, hotel dining room menus, the Del Mar Hilton's upscale Triple Crown takes a highly seasoned, Southwest-cum-Italian approach. This is best expressed by such appetizers as the spicy, poblano cheese tortellini and the deeply flavored Dungeness crab chili, although the mood continues with entrees like the cumin-mint-flavored lamb chops, salmon with chili pesto and marinated shrimp with grilled peppers. Entrees from $15.75 to $22.95. Expensive.

BUNBURY'S, 9906 Mira Mesa Blvd., Scripps Ranch, 578-8666--Prime rib, teriyaki steak and chicken and Australian lobster star at this very 1960s-style restaurant. The dining room features the hanging plants and salad bar popularized in that era. The kitchen cooks the prime rib to a tender-chewy finish. One particularly pleasant item is the simple, grilled chicken breast, served with a tangy "honey curry" dipping sauce. Entrees priced from $8.25 to $23. Moderate.

SHIEN OF OSAKA, 16769 Bernardo Center Drive (The Plaza, Suite 11), 451-0074--This pleasant Japanese house avoids the trap common to ethnic eateries by serving not only "showpiece" dishes, but the more typical everyday preparations of lunch counters and home kitchens. Many of the most unusual are appetizers--including mountain yams paired with quail eggs and sliced squid with fermented soybeans--and garnished noodle dishes. The sushi bar offers all the usuals as well as a few specialties, and the entree list sticks closely to tempuras and teriyakis. Entrees cost from $5.15 to $15.25. Moderate

GALILEO, 12440 Poway Road, Poway, 748-2900--One of the older Italian restaurants in inland North County, Galileo takes a traditional approach to this cuisine with an extensive menu that includes a juicy chicken Marsala, shrimp sauteed with or without garlic, fish filets stuffed with crab and a number of veal dishes. The pasta choices cover two pages and range from an all-American spaghettini with meat balls to the creamy, seafood-enriched fettuccine Giovanni. Entrees priced from $7.95 to $16.95. Moderate.

TARYN'S AT THE TRACK, 514 Via de la Valle, Del Mar, 481-8300--Barely a stone's throw from the backstretch of the Del Mar track, this handsome, comfortable eatery has revised its menu to include such imperatives of the moment as pasta and designer pizza, including a unique Cajun prime rib pie. The kitchen brews an excellent Manhattan clam chowder and fries up fine coconut shrimp, but don't bet the rent on the pepper steak. Desserts are made on the premises and include chocolate walnut pie and creme brulee. Entrees priced from $7.95 to $13.95. Moderate.

WHEN IN ROME, 828 N. Highway 101, Encinitas, 944-1771--Pan-regional in its approach to Italian cooking, this well-established house offers spaghetti in the rich sauce proper to Bologna. The pasta list offers nearly 20 choices, all available in appetizer and entree-sized portions. Entree prices range from $9.95 for spaghetti in a basic tomato sauce to $17.95 for the veal chop and a French-style preparation of salmon in a butter-Cognac sauce. Moderate to expensive.

KATSU, 1020 W. San Marcos Blvd., San Marcos, 744-7156--This restaurant in San Marcos' sprawling Old California Restaurant Row makes a specialty and a point of its unusual "cooked sushi," which seems designed to take some of the challenge out of this Japanese delicacy. Various types of seafoods garnished with vegetables and white sauce can be had rolled in seaweed cones or fried "crepes," and there are a number of unique combinations. The dinner menu concentrates on combination plates consisting of lackluster tempura in tandem with chicken, salmon or beef teriyaki, sesame chicken or beef sukiyaki. Moderate.

SEA FARE, 15721 E. Bernardo Heights Parkway, Rancho Bernardo, 451-2026--So small it seems more a bistro than a restaurant, Sea Fare takes a traditional French point of view with its written-daily menu and emphasis on carefully prepared seafood dressed with simple but sprightly sauces. The scallops in Champagne sauce, when available, are delicious. The restaurant also serves a good Caesar salad and a light, but almost fudge-like, "flour-less" chocolate cake. Moderate.

NOBU, 315 S. Highway 101, Solana Beach, 755-0113--Proprietor Kazunobu Tsushima, a master sushi chef with 44 years experience, offers about that number of sushi at both a lengthy bar and in assortments sent to the table. Choices range from the commonplace to the rare, such as sushi garnished with red clams; the preparation overall seems first-rate. End the meal on an unusual note with a dish of red bean ice cream. Moderate.

CALLAHAN'S PUB AND BREWERY, 8280-A Mira Mesa Blvd., Mira Mesa, 578-7892--The main attraction at this noisy and sometimes crowded shopping mall eatery is the house-brewed ale, available in two versions: Callahan's Gold, as light in flavor as its color, and the somewhat bitter but decidedly interesting Callahan's Red. When not engaged in deep conversation or intense games of darts, the lively, predominantly youthful crowd turns its attention to a simple but competently prepared menu of fish and chips, corned beef and cabbage and respectable hamburgers. Inexpensive.

PACIFICA DEL MAR, 1555 Camino del Mar, Del Mar, 792-0476--Flavors from Asia, from the Pacific Coast of the Western Hemisphere and from a few other locales with an interest in good eating meld into a highly conceptualized and largely successful hybrid at Pacifica Del Mar, a sophisticated, handsome eatery in Del Mar Plaza. The restaurant makes a specialty of such things as a " kim chee Martini," won ton "tacos" filled with peppered ahi, a combination of grilled sea scallops and duck barbecued Chinese-style, ahi cooked as if it were a Hawaiian steak Diane and, for anyone who wants a real steak, a very good one that has been marinated in beer. Moderate.

MANDARIN SHOGUN, 600 E. Vista Way, Vista, 758-8288--Mandarin Shogun offers a menu of both Japanese and Chinese dishes, but the alliance seems one of convenience since the sushi bar is what dominates the dining room. All entrees, including those from the Chinese list, are accompanied by soup (the Japanese miso is typical, tofu-enriched and tasty), sticky rice and lettuce in a heavy dressing of seasoned mayonnaise. Japanese entree choices include tonkatsu (deep-fried pork cutlet); sesame chicken, shrimp, scallop and chicken tempuras, and swordfish teriyaki. Moderate.

DANTE'S RESTAURANT, 9379 Mira Mesa Blvd., Mira Mesa, 693-3252--There's nothing infernal about the unabashedly continental menu at this comfortable, old-fashioned eatery, which makes a specialty of Italian cooking and offers an unusual scampi dish, Malaysian tiger shrimp in a caper-studded cream sauce, duck a l'orange and a variety of steaks. Forget the seafood cannelloni, but bring an appetite for plenty of food, since meals include a complimentary appetizer plate, soup of the day and a fine house salad. Moderate.

TRENTS, Carmel Highland Golf & Tennis Resort, 14455 Penasquitos Drive, Rancho Penasquitos, 672-9100--Some diners in this quiet, decorous room may find their appetites stimulated by watching the exertions of the golfers on the other side of the windows; others may discover sufficient stimulation in a menu that offers appetizers of grilled shiitake mushrooms, cold duck breast and salmon tartare, and such entrees as swordfish basted with paprika and olive oil and an unusual, marinated pepper steak. The dessert cart lacks imagination but does take chocolate-as-concept right to the limit with a fudge-like "rocky road" mousse cake. Moderate.

SKINNY HAVEN, 2657 Vista Way, Oceanside, 721-1033--A calorie count follows every menu listing at this restaurant devoted to the diet-conscious and those with other dietary concerns. Many entrees are prepared according to American Heart Assn. guidelines. The food is spare and lean, but Skinny Haven does emphasize flavors by offering dishes prepared in the style of Mexican, Italian and Japanese cuisines, and even serves short ribs in barbecue sauce. A lengthy dessert menu offers creations based on the restaurant's own low-cal ice cream. Moderate.

VILLA DI GALLO, 1733 S. Hill St., Oceanside, 433-5811--Hit this place on the right night and the specials list will include toasted ravioli, a simple but unusual treat soaked with a garlic butter sauce that gives no quarter. The list of 20 pastas includes many familiar choices as well as linguine disperata--with tomatoes and anchovies--and fettuccine with creamed chicken. The entree list includes such favorites as veal and chicken piccata, but goes them one better with the rollatini of chicken breast, the artichoke-garnished veal Maria and the stuffed eggplant. The cannoli sings with cinnamon and makes a fine end to the meal. Moderate.

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