Owner Antonietta Costantino holds the Paccheri ai Gamberi (tube pasta with shrimp, zucchini and diced tomatoes), with husband and co-owner Amedeo Costantino at Cafe Sole in La Canada Flintridge

Owner Antonietta Costantino holds the Paccheri ai Gamberi (tube pasta with shrimp, zucchini and diced tomatoes), with husband and co-owner Amedeo Costantino at Cafe Sole in La Canada Flintridge (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)

La Cañada Flintridge's Cafe Solé has a Manhattan Italian restaurant feel to it, with a modern but classical decor. It's certainly not what you would expect in a strip mall. The restaurant is close enough to the Glendale (2) Freeway to hit it with a frozen meatball.

The restaurant had my party of three hooked with the complimentary bruschetta — fresh ciabatta served with a tomato salsa with olive oil — that raised our dining expectations.

Cafe Solé has been open only a few weeks under new-old ownership. A large banner hanging from the restaurant's patio awning declares that "The original owner is back — ANTONIETTA." Antonietta is an older woman with a ready smile and a motherly disposition. When asked if they bake their own bread, Antonietta was quick to reply, "We have an Italian bakery bring us our bread," she said, with an emphasis on the "Italian."

There were a number of items on the menu that whetted my appetite, but I settled on the Penne Arrabiata with spicy Italian tomato sauce ($11.95). It was excellent. The sauce was a perfect blend of spices and the serving portion satisfying.

My wife had the Margherita pizza ($11.95). We both found it too salty and the crust a little overdone. However, this isn't a pizza joint. You come to Cafe Solé for the menu.

My son raved about his Petto di Pollo Ripieno ($17.95), chicken breast stuffed with Fontina cheese and prosciutto in a Marsala wine sauce. He said that the fresh seasonal vegetables, which accompanied the chicken, were not just delicious but served a necessary role in providing a contrast to the richness of the stuffed chicken.

On the antipasti side, the Vongole, steamed clams in white wine and garlic sauce, sounded scrumptious, but I decided to hold that for another day.

The day's special was a stuffed crepe with a Béchamel sauce for $17.95.

Although there was only one veal item on the menu (Pappardelle al Ragu di Vitello for $17.95), our waiter told us the restaurant could do anything with veal that we wanted. A tempting offer, but another item to be left for a later visit.

Included on the eclectic pasta menu was a Gnocchi a Placere ($13.95), homemade potato dumplings with a choice of sauce — tomato, pesto or Bolognese.

The restaurant also has an excellent beer and wine list.

Cafe Solé offers an inventive menu and excellent food at a reasonable price. Our meal came to $73.84 with tip, which included two glasses of the house Chianti.

On my five-star rating system, I award Cafe Solé four stars for food quality, five stars for cleanliness and four and a half stars for ambience.

Stan Wawer has been a writer and editor for Southern California newspapers for 47 years and more recently has been freelancing restaurant and travel stories for publications throughout the country.

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Infobox

What: Cafe Solé

Where: 1929 Verdugo Blvd., La Cañada Flintridge

When: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday and 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Prices: $11.95 to $17.95.

Contact: (818) 790-6062; http://www.cafesolelacanada.com. The website is under construction.