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It's a Grill!

Once again, Prego is reborn

I appreciate Watt's lightening the traditional Italian palette, subtracting cream and butter and adding more flavor and clarity. But the other award winner in Prego's kitchen is pastry chef Pam Manovich, whose creations double as pinup posters for chocoholics. Her most famous concoction is Prego's signature dessert, Chocolate Vesuvius: a fudgy brownie topped with cinnamon ice cream and crowned with a dainty meringue harboring a hidden freight of hazelnuts. Figuring I'd made enough of a spectacle devouring the lobster, though, on my most recent visit I opted for the lower-profile but equally devastating Chocolate Godiva Cheesecake ($5.95). It's creamy, rich and understated, skillfully wrapped in a layer of rich, semisweet chocolate. A friend opted for the bread pudding ($5.95), and I was prepared to pity him for such a plain-Jane choice; to my surprise, it was every bit as tempting as the sexier chocolate choices, served steaming hot from the oven and loaded with berries.

For years Prego has pleased me as a peaceful corner to sit in, with its cozy mushroom-taupe walls, mahogany pressed-tin ceiling and warm, flattering lighting. I like looking out the long line of windows onto the increasingly frenetic food court that the Village is becoming.I admire Prego's ability to be both a high-end neighborhood cafe and a serious food forum, but most of all I appreciate John Watt's reinventing the menu cleverly and often, rewarding return visits. If you haven't been to Prego recently, it's time to come back.

Prego, 2520 Amherst Street, (713)529-2420.

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