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HOUSE DRESSING
SINATRA'S REMAINS A FIXTURE WITH MENU AND TRIBUTES TO FRANK

Sinatra's restaurant has been a fixture on the Buffalo side of Kenmore Avenue for many years, famous for at least two wonderful things: its standard Italian menu and its music. The tapes that play continuously almost always feature -- surprise! -- Old Blue Eyes himself. (No relation to the owners of the restaurant, sad to say.)

The place is on the small side, informal yet elegant. There's a busy bar with a few regulars firmly in place, and the dining room boasts starched white tablecloths and napkins. The place is always crowded. Be warned.

Red sauce you can get here. Sinatra's has its share of favorites, like the house sauce with meatballs, which will run you $14.95. Puttanesca is a little fancier, so that goes for $15.95, and you can actually get Pasta con Sarde made from fresh sardines, tomatoes, raisins and fennel for that same price.

But at the same time, the young chef is not afraid to experiment a little. On our recent visit, we ordered a Rice Ball as a first course. Picture a softball-sized crisply fried portion of Arborio rice filled with bits of prosciutto, peas and sausage. Outstanding.

As was the Artichoke Francaise appetizer, in which the slices of the fresh vegetable were smashed flat, battered with egg and cheese, fried and served with a lemony sauce.

Both my husband and I are well-known at Sinatra's and frequent customers during down time. That means we are familiar with much of the menu and gives us freedom to experiment, as well. On our recent visit, we enjoyed the huge (16-ounce) Veal Chop ($32.95), about the thickness of Shaquille O'Neal's fist and simply broiled as it should have been. That allowed the quality of the meat to shine through.

But we also enjoyed an evening special of pappardelle with a good spicy marinara sauce. Hot sausage and peppers added extra zing. Huge portion, though. Made a great lunch the next day.

Guests were happy with both Chicken Piccata ($17.95) and Veal Marsala ($24.95), the latter with a good strong dose of wine.

But then every dish is well-thought-out here. The salad is fresh, the bread is also, and even boring old Clams Casino ($8.95) turn out to be something special. They are crisp and adroitly seasoned, casting a whole new light on creatures from the sea.

And speaking of light, note the tiramisu. It's so airy it almost floats away.

SINATRA'S ****

WHERE: 938 Kenmore Ave. (877-9419). A very popular Italian restaurant that serves both standard and creative dishes. Credit Cards: MasterCard, Visa.

FAVORITE DISH: Rice Ball appetizer

NEEDS WORK: Food is of excellent quality.

PRICE RANGE: Dinner entrees from $17.95 include a side of pasta or potatoes.

SERVICE: Excellent

NOISE LEVEL: Moderate

HOURS: Dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. daily. Reservations recommended.

HEALTHY CHOICES: Free-Range Chicken; Mustard-Crusted Salmon; North Atlantic Cod

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: One narrow step in front

PARKING: Lot in front and the rear

KID APPEAL: Older children will enjoy.

e-mail: jokun@buffnews.com