Are you familiar with this intimate Italian restaurant in the West Village? Yes, there are quite a few places that fit that description, but the newly opened Pagani (289 Bleecker St., 212-488-5800) stands out.

The man behind the spot is Massimo Lusardi of Uva, the Upper East Side standby wine bar. Mark Barrett (of Babbo) designed the menu, and his creations are excellent.

The  zucchini salad was simple, crunchy and rounded out with an almond vinaigrette. Those are decidedly summer flavors, ones that remind me to eat my vegetables, even in winter. Then there's the warm buffalo mozzarella, served with pesto and slices of baguette.

Made with fresh pasta and a comforting, meaty sauce, the pappardelle with "Betta's traditional Bolognese" was a high point. But the surprise was the pork tenderloin. (I normally just order pasta, but my quite carnivorous dining partner requested an item from the "meat" section.) The just-pink slices of tenderloin were flavorful and juicy and served atop a risotto that could have easily been its own meal.

Then there's the pricing. With entrees ranging from $16 (pappardelle) to $27 (steak), Pagani offers a safe option for date night. One starter, one salad, one pasta and one meat dish make the perfect meal for two hungry diners. There may even be enough for a doggy bag.

A great location, romantic yet casual ambience and excellent food make Pagani a winner in my book. And with a bill that doesn't make me (or let's be real, my date) cry into the pillow at the end of the night, that makes the price even more right.

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