In the shadow of a 16-theater multiplex, amid a cluster of commercial chain restaurants, rises La Capannina, the offshoot of a little Wainscott pizzeria. Unlike the East End original, this newcomer has an aura of sophistication, its name emblazoned in blue neon on an imposing edifice. Inside, the place is both pizzeria and affordable ristorante, its crew eager to please. Before or after a movie, I'd choose it over the surrounding competition.

THE GOODS

A 12-inch Margherita pizzette emerges from the brick oven with a crisp, blistered crust and an appealing tomato, garlic, basil and mozzarella topping. I like the sprightly seafood salad "Calogerro" made with calamari, scungilli and shrimp in an oil and vinegar dressing. Spinach with garlic and oil - listed as an appetizer but available as a side - turns out to be addictive.

Owner Lorenzo Renna's Southern Italian origins are reflected in the spirale Siciliano, a savory baked mélange of spiral pasta, eggplant, ricotta and mozzarella. There's comfort in a simple plate of eggplant parmigiana; its close relative, chicken parmigiana, wears a cloak of sauce and melted cheese and is tender enough to cut with a fork.

I like the penne Bolognese del Nonno, its savory ground beef and marinara sauce enriched with cream. A special of beef ravioli San Guiseppe with tomato sauce proves a huge hit: Al dente pillows of pasta are stuffed with soft, braised beef and topped with tomato sauce, caramelized onions and peas. And the sweetly marine linguine vongole alla Giuseppe has lots of clams in a sauce that tastes subtly, rather than harshly, of garlic.

$imageCaption

A finale of tiramisu is outclassed by a panna cotta (vanilla pudding) light as dream.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

THE GAFFES

The seven tiny clams in the vongole oreganata are good but gone in seconds. And while I like the calamari marinara, it's surprisingly spicy. My guess? The kitchen sent out calamari fra diavolo by mistake.

MONEY SAVING TIPS

Go for lunch. Or start dinner by sharing a pizzette. Since pastas and entrees are ample, you can either share with a friend or take home leftovers.

La Capannina Ristorante is located at 173 Morris Ave., Holtsville, 631-569-4524, lacapanninapizza.com