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European edition, Thursday, September 13, 2007

POZZUOLI, Italy — Location, location, location.

The Zona A restaurant and pizzeria in Pozzuoli has that and more.

Flanked by the girlhood home of Italian actress Sophia Loren on one side, and the ancient Roman Flavian amphitheater on the other, the restaurant run by Urbano brothers Vicenzo and Mario capitalizes on history and fame to draw in customers.

And its owners have a sense of humor to boot: They named the locale, established in 1983, for the high-risk earthquake zone in which it is located. “Zona A” is similar to the U.S. version of ground zero.

“Ahhh, we just decided it would get people’s attention,” Vicenzo said, chuckling.

In 1983, midway through a two-year period in which the area was hit with hundreds of tremors, an Oct. 4 quake measuring 4.0 on the Richter scale damaged some 8,000 buildings in the area, forcing the evacuation of about 40,000 people.

If the name doesn’t catch a customer’s eye, the adjacent amphitheater might. The Roman Flavian amphitheater, the third biggest in Italy, is in excellent condition and famous for its large underground caverns.

But heck, it’s a restaurant we’re talking about, and it’s the grub that will bring patrons back.

“We draw all kinds of clients, from the young, especially on Saturday nights, to the old,” Vicenzo said.

The family-style restaurant offers typical cuisine of the Campania region, of which Naples is the capital. Specializing in seafood fare, the locale offers fish dishes from a varying appetizer sampler that itself could pass as the meal.

But this is Italy, where diners partake of appetizers, a pasta or rice dish, followed by meat or fish and side dishes.

Pasta dishes range in price from an inexpensive bean and pasta dish for 6 euros to pasta with lobster for 22 euros. Meat dishes include steak, fish and cutlets, ranging in price from 8 euro to 15 euros.

And the pizza is some of the best in town. The famed Italian dough pies range in price from 4.50 euros to 9 euros. The owners like to promote their special “racket pizza,” shaped in the form of a large pingpong paddle with a mozzarella di bufala cheese ball in the center.

Now, the service might not be all that fast, so take the time to enjoy the ambience, including walls lined with photographs of Loren, who spent her early childhood years on the first floor of the mauve-colored building nearby.

“That’s very special for us,” Vicenzo said. “She used to live right next door.”

To see previous After Hours reviews, go to legacy.stripes.com/afterhours.

If you go

Hours: Open 10 a.m. until midnight daily except Wednesday, but closed 3:30-6 p.m. for a break. On Wednesdays, the restaurant is open only until midday.Prices: From about 4 euros for appetizers to 22 euros for pasta with lobster.Specialities: Campania region cooking, especially known for seafood dishes and pizza.English menu: NoDress: CasualAddress: Via Solfatara, No. 4, PozzuoliTelephone: 081-526-2624Web site: None

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