GORGEOUS GORGE

Dessert is no trifling matter. It is a separate buffet table. I do not catch the names of all the tempting cakes and pastries put forth for our gustatory pleasure, but let me emphasize that layer cake, cream pie, chocolate tart and cheesecake are only the beginning. I forgo these choices for brightly colored, frosted Christmas sugar cookies, a chocolate-covered (fresh) strawberry and an edible chocolate cup filled with swirled, white-and-dark-chocolate mousse. Need I tell you they are fabulous?

Sound like a rave review? It is.
There's only one thing I would change at Different Pointe of View, and it has more to do with the detail of restaurant design than its Sunday brunch. It's the rest rooms. The doors are etched with illustrations indicating which is for men and which is for women. Unfortunately, these etchings don't show up in the daytime, leading to much confusion. If you plan to be a guest in the restaurant, keep in mind that the door on the left is for ladies, the one on the right for gents. (Management, take note!)

After our meal, we adjourn to the patio, where we wander the garden, bending to smell roses and taking each other's pictures. It is a delightful day, the kind that vacationers, winter visitors and the rest of us who reside here year-round live for. We bask in the sun's warmth and in the pleasure of the fine brunch we've just enjoyed.

For months I've been eager to return to Nina L'Italiana Ristorante for brunch. Resort brunches are fun, but the idea of a restaurant brunch, especially an Italian-restaurant brunch, appeals to me. The price is right-$10.95 a person-and brunch provides one more opportunity to savor Nina Vincenti's angelic pastas and creative, Puglia-style cooking. How can I resist?

Sunday brunch at Nina L'Italiana starts at 11:30 a.m. and continues until 3:30 p.m. This generous schedule gives us late risers a chance to get in on the brunch action. Reservations are not required, but it's never a bad idea. The interior of Nina L'Italiana, a former nightclub, has never excited me, but the restaurant's white walls and Mexican-tile floor provide a bright and cheery atmosphere for brunch.

The setup here is interesting. First, there is a buffet of cold salads and antipasto fixings set up in the back of the restaurant, to which you may return as many times as you wish. The next course is a sampler plate of three pastas, followed by a three-meat sampler plate. Desserts are displayed on a separate table in the buffet area. Yes, you have to walk to get them, but you'll need the exercise, believe me.

By resort standards, the cold-salad buffet is small. No matter; size doesn't count when it comes to magnificent salads like these. On the day we visit, I like everything, from an interesting olive, beet and artichoke combination, to carrots with brown sugar, to tossed greens and roasted peppers, to white-meat tuna and Bermuda onion doused with olive oil and lemon juice. From the antipasto plate, I snag a fresh mozzarella ball with Roma tomato and basil, some hard salami and spicy prosciutto. It is with great reluctance that I hold back from seconds. I could quite happily feast from the offerings of this table alone.

But, I'm glad I am able to discipline myself. A good appetite is needed to fully enjoy the pasta sampler plate, featuring a lovely combination of creamy manicotti, spinach-and-ricotta gnocchi and spinach-tinged ravioli in a wonderful tomato sauce. There's not a loser here.

I'm a two-plate-per-brunch kind of girl, so our third-course meat platter is a bit of a trial for me. This time we are tempted with beef braciola, lemon-rosemary chicken, and sausage and peppers in more of Nina's fantastic tomato sauce. Oven-roasted potatoes fill out the plate. My favorite item in this course is the tender, delicately flavored chicken. The rolled beef is too dry and tough for me to finish, but I have no problem putting away the mildly spicy sausage and peppers. Somehow, after all of this, we manage to stumble back to the buffet to pick out a dessert or two. In an attempt to lighten my overworked, but satisfied, stomach, I concentrate on fresh strawberries with zabaglione. Okay, I admit it, I also eat a cream puff. It is memorable for its bittersweet, dark-chocolate topping.

Cappuccino is not included in the price of Nina L'Italiana's brunch, but it's needed at the end of a huge meal like this. I recommend that you splurge and order a cup. Relax and enjoy; at Nina's you're among friends.

THE ULTIMATE TRUE-OR-FALSE TEST YOU WOUL... v1-08-92

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