Evocative color photos of Portofino and Italy's Ligurian coast decorate Riviera Grill. On a cold night, they're even more inviting. And so is this new restaurant.
Riviera Grill keeps to tradition and old-fashioned service, warmly resisting the trend del giorno and the anything novello. There's neither a mango nor a stalk of lemongrass in sight. But you'll find plenty of bracing, satisfying food.

This had been the site of the Riva Grill, which specialized in fish and shellfish. Its successor is equal parts land and sea, at ease either way, all presented in straightforward style.

Come here for a soulful version of rigatoni alla Bolognese, a savory meat sauce; and a husky rendition of gnocchi with tomato sauce and Gorgonzola cheese. Pappardelle, or broad ribbons of pasta, with pesto brings on spring, as well as string beans in potatoes "like in Portofino." A sturdy, scarlet marechiara sauce boosts the green and white noodles with shellfish.

The hot antipasto, however, could be seasoned with ground Ambien: a sleepy combo of roasted shrimp, clams oreganata, mussels, stuffed mushrooms, zucchini, all serviceable, none memorable.

Instead, try a special of smoky, grilled baby octopus finished with garlic and herbs atop well-dressed greens; eggplant rollatine, with spinach plus the ricotta and mozzarella; deftly grilled vegetables; or a respectable tuna carpaccio.

Riviera Grill stands out with the broiled branzino, marinated with lemon and olive oil; and the red snapper, also herbaceous and given a little balsamic edge. And the house prepares a moist lobster fra diavolo, with just enough heat to trigger the dish, not the smoke alarm.

Sauteed cherry peppers ignite a pair of husky grilled pork chops. But the broccoli rabe has tree-trunk stems. Osso buco receives a tasty braise and arrives atop saffron rice.

The roasted rack of lamb shows up tender and to the point, though the Cognac sauce doesn't add much. Better: a thick, pepper-crusted filet mignon in Barolo wine sauce, positioned on creamy mashed potatoes. Devotees of veal Parmigiana receive the deluxe version via a pounded-thin chop.

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Sweets are standard, with timid fruit tarts and amply espressoed tiramisu, a few bland Bindi imported desserts and a professional crème brûlée.

But the real finale comes when your waiter pours a cool glass of the house-made limoncello, the delightful southern Italian liqueur, or digestivo, traditionally made with the lemons of Sorrento.

It's as if you're on a different coast, and Capri has come into view.

Reviewed by Peter M. Gianotti, 2/18/07.