Usual Menus, Unusual Venues

Consider the usual office building restaurant, sometimes a brightly lit bad-sandwich place, just as often a thinly disguised bar: If you're lucky, you might get a good Bloody Mary with your guacamole burger. Recently, the owners of Chopstix and the Locanda Veneta team of Jean-Louis de Mori and Antonio Tomassi (yes, them again) have separately opened new restaurants tucked away in odd corners of steel-and-glass behemoths--Canyon in Studio City and Il Moro in West L.A.

Canyon, as of last week still using the menu devised by quickly departed La Veranda chef David Slay (see Restaurant News), mines the basic pizza-pasta/American grill lode. Slay's signature toasted ravioli is cocktail-party snacking. The pork loin comes with a mountain of mashed potatoes capped by a caramelized onion sauce. Dessert can be a pure American biscuit-topped fruit cobbler.

When you try to find Il Moro--so far, the better of the two places--you might accidentally stumble into a glass-walled gym instead. (The art-strewn fitness center looks almost as much like a restaurant as the restaurant itself.) Once past Il Moro's deli cases and long-hall entryway, however, you find yourself in a modern cafe. The menu, sort of a Locanda/Ca' Brea greatest hits thing, has lots of salads, light Venetian-style appetizers, thin-crusted pizza, good house-made pasta. There's an excellent version of tagliata --rare, sliced steak arranged around a heap of arugula with shavings of Parmesan. For dessert, check out the crema di vaniglia , vanilla cream, which is like creme brulee without the annoying burnt-sugar crust.

* Canyon, 12001 Ventura Place, Studio City, (818) 508-1177. Pizza, pasta and entrees $7.95 - $14.95.

* Il Moro, 11400 W. Olympic Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 575-3530. Pizza, pasta and entrees $6.50 - $12.95.

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