Vittoria is more than a just pretty face - it's got personality to spare.

Vittoria is more than a just pretty face - it's got personality to spare.

The Powell-area's newest restaurant is simply gorgeous, its spacious dining room - accented with gold, red, warm earth tones and dark wood - is bookended by attractive stone-clad fireplaces. The muted lighting adds to the dreamy ambience.

There's a lot to explore on the expansive menu, especially with the upscale entrees. Herb-rubbed lamb chops ($27) are among the best in the city - thick and proficiently charred for rich flavor and fork-tender texture. A special on one visit, a whole chicken ($22) is butterflied, seared in an iron skillet and finished off in the oven. Redolent with rosemary and other aromatics, the flavor is balanced and, more importantly, there isn't a dry morsel to be found. Even so, there's nothing wrong with a dip in the tomato sauce, punctuated with chopped kalamatas.

A radiant seafood flavor permeates the very good risotto Milanese ($25), which is firm on the tooth - not too hard, not too mushy. Accented with saffron and shallots, and pungent with Parmesan cheese, it is
strewn with lobster, shrimp and crab.

Meals are supplemented with some kind of roasted potato (thankfully, no mountains of mashed), a steamed vegetable medley, asparagus or risotto, all competently done.

Starters don't stray too far from the standard. Calamari ($8) are lightly battered and greaseless, served with two dipping sauces - a zesty tomato sauce (said to be spicy but isn't) and a robust garlic aioli.

Finally, a restaurant that's not afraid to use garlic in its shrimp scampi ($12), the plump shrimp served with rounds of crostini. The miniature hand-rolled meatballs are a memorable part of the Italian wedding
soup ($3.50 a cup, $5 a bowl), also served in a traditional style with chicken, spinach and acini de peppe in a light broth.

All dinners are served with an ill-advised house salad, made mostly of flaccid iceberg lettuce. Go with a more adult option, such as the Caesar ($6 for a small, $8.50 for a large), using leaves of crispy lettuce,
croutons and coins of hardboiled egg dressed in a lemony dressing, but not too much of it.

Vittoria's comely appearance does not gild a few disappointments. For one, none of the pasta is made in-house. Some of it is fresh, bought from local suppliers, but some hand-made noodles would really show a stronger commitment from the kitchen. That said, there's certainly nothing wrong with dried or shipped-in pasta as long as it's cooked right and the sauce is appetizing. The ravioli alichia ($17) is an outstanding dish - four thick half-moon pockets filled with ground beef, spinach and ricotta, smothered with a crisp tomato sauce.

Most desserts are bought from purveyors, too. The cocoa-showered chocolate tartufo ($6.50), an Italian ice cream, has a hazelnut filling. But overall, it's intensely frozen tasting. One offering that is homemade is the excellent panna cotta ($4.50), served in a martini glass. A drizzle of balsamic vinegar cuts through the richness of the milk custard.

The wine list, which doesn't list vintages, draws mostly from Italy and California, with a decent by-the-glass selection. To match the brawny notes of many dishes, try the 2005 Peppoli Chianti Classico from Antinori ($38 a bottle), full of anise, vanilla and leather.

At first glance, Vittoria gives off a very upscale vibe. But friendly service puts customers at ease. Servers are generally up to the challenge - courteous, attentive and knowledgeable, and keep the upsell to a minimum.

Pricing: Moderately expensive to expensive
Reservations: Accepted
Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Call 614-791-8100