Before it closed several years ago, the Cinegrill was Salt Lake City's miniversion of "Little Italy." It was tucked away downtown between aging buildings. The interior decor was quaint, complete with red checkered tablecloths and flickering candles. During our many visits, we were often entertained by an accordion player as well as thrilled by the sensational house salad dressing. As a high school student in the early '60s, my wife remembers being serenaded by Eugene Jelesnik. The Cinegrill may have been corny, but the food was wonderful.

As we entered Cannella's for a recent weekend dinner, we thought about the similarities between the two Italian restaurants. Certainly size (small) and location are comparable; and perhaps reputation as well. For several years, the local lunch crowd has thronged to Cannella's, willing to stand in long lines and order at the counter in the back as well as share tables to get their fill of such specialties as meatball sandwiches and hearty salads.Now Cannella's is open for dinner; though only on Thursday and Friday nights. The later hours allow those of us with hectic lunch schedules to have a more leisurely meal. On our recent visit, nonetheless, waiting customers were enduring either the cold night air or the folksiness of an adjacent bar until a table became available.

The cozy, white interior is decorated with the works of local artists. The place literally hums with chatter from nearby tables as customers, usually regulars, swap tales and the efficient, friendly service scurry about.

The regular menu features standard Italian favorites such as spaghetti, capellini (angel hair pasta), and rigatoni, each $5.95. Served with either tomato sauce or garlic butter, the entrees also include dinner salad, garlic bread, and choice of sausage or meatball.

Our waitress recommended the nightly specials, which included grilled salmon ($10.95), clam linguini ($5.95), meat tortellini with cheese ravioli ($5.95) and scampi ($7.95). Two soups, cream of broccoli and tomato vegetable, were also offered. To help in our decision, as well as titillate our palates, we noshed on a complementary appetizer plate of soft warm bread sticks, slices of provolone cheese, and sweet red grapes.

In addition to the very good lasagna ($7.50), we sampled three of the specials. They were each well-prepared and pleasant, though a bit bland.

The salmon, perfectly moist and served with a lemon wedge, needed just a bit of seasoning, perhaps some herb butter. The ample serving of clam sauce with al dente linguini was chock full of clams; but again, it only came to life with a hearty dose of parmesan and pepper. The same understated flavor was apparent with the tomato sauce on the ricotta-filled ravioli and tortellini.

The house dressing, a slightly sweet blue cheese, covered a large crisp salad of greens, as well as fresh cucumber slices and tomato wedges. The garlic bread is a spongy commercial brand. The desserts, around $2, included several cheesecakes and chocolate frozen yogurt. We were especially impressed with the turtle cheesecake, a rich chocolate cheesecake topped with dark fudge and pecans.

Other dinner selections include Italian sausage sandwich ($4.95), chicken sandwich ($5.25), veal ($6.50), chicken parmesan ($6.75) and New York steaks ($9.95 and $5.95). Salad choices include large and small Italian salads, or turkey, seafood, and pasta salads priced from $3 to $6.

Perhaps the only things that Cannella's needs to do to replace the Cinegrill are to consider a livelier salad dressing and add a bit more seasoning with its sauces. Until then, this little Italian restaurant offers diners warm hospitality and good Italian food.

Rating: * * *

Cannella's, 204 E. 500 South. 364-3843. Open for lunch, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Dinner on Thursday, 5:30 till 10 p.m.; on Friday, until 11 p.m. No reservations. Accepts checks with guarantee card and major credit cards.

- HERE ARE some recent "Dining Out" capsule reviews:

The Carriage Court Restaurant, 71 W. South Temple, 531-1000. In harmony with the comfortable modesty of the beautifully restored Inn at Temple Square, this elegant restaurant offers reasonably priced gourmet specialties. Seafood with tempting sauces are especially good. * * * *

La Dolce Vita, 61 N. 100 East, Provo. 373-8482. Literally "the sweet life," this little Italian eatery takes its name from an old Fellini film. But the inexpensive homemade pasta and dessert specialties quickly erase any cinema noir aftertaste. Residents of happy valley and occasional visitors should appreciate this very good restaurant. * * * 1/2

Old Salt City Jail, 460 S. 1000 East, 355-2422. Predictable steak house fare served amid a re-created Western jail. The decor is nicely weathered and the menu consistent. * * *

Cafe Rude, 961 S. State, 595-6660. Off beat, occasionall spicy, eclectic dishes are the specials of this small eatery. Creative pasta, vegetarian, seafood and chicken dishes are spiced with a blend of Mediterranean, Southwestern, Cajun or Oriental seasonings. * * * *

La Puente, 3434 S. State, 466-1194. A lively Mexican eatery that serves up hearty servings of Mexican food and hospitality. Combination platters, smothered burritos and smothered soft shell tacos are especially good. * * * .

Siegfried's Deli, 69 W. 300 South, 355-3891. A cafeteria-style lunch counter offers downtown diners a chance to sample some of the 70 different kinds of sausages and smoked meats available in this festive delil. Homemade sausages such as weisswurst, bratwurst and liverwurst are especially good. * * * 1/2

El Farol, 7223 S. State, 255-3742; 1769 E. Murray/Holladay Road, 272-4737. Uncomplicated, moderately-priced, freshly prepared Mexican specialties are the main ingredients of this unpretentious restaurant. For years, El Farol (the lantern) has beckoned diners with consistent quality. * * * 1/2