Romance by the sea

You just might fall in love with Santa Monica Canyon
Wendy O'dea

The best first date I ever had was in Santa Monica Canyon. I thought he had taken me to a remote beach town until I saw bustling Pacific Coast Highway nearby.

But the buzzing traffic was unnoticeable when I was feasting on grilled fish and fresh pasta in the intimate dining room of Caffé Delfini ($$; dinner daily; 147 W. Channel Rd.; 310/459-8823). It's one of two top-notch Italian restaurants in the canyon, the other being Giorgio Baldi ($$$$; dinner Tue–Sun; 114 W. Channel; 310/573-1660), where Italian waiters recite specials as if extolling the virtues of their homeland (hand gestures and all).

Nestled at the western edge of the Santa Monica Mountains, just south of Pacific Palisades, the neighborhood's two-street retail section is home to at least six dining options, from casual to romantic.

Feast on a big breakfast at Patrick's Roadhouse ($$; 106 Entrada Dr.; 310/459-4544); enjoy steak and potatoes and fascinating people-watching at the venerable Golden Bull ($$; dinner daily; 170 W. Channel; 310/230-0402); or go for a more upscale meal at Sam's by the Beach ($$$; dinner Tue–Sun; 108 W. Channel; 310/230-9100).

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