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I wonder what would go through Ben Franklin’s mind today if he were to walk about the University of Pennsylvania, the college that was founded with his guidance. The mix of architecture, old and new — particularly the stately buildings designed by the great Frank Furness — the large campus bookstore, the shops, the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts and the diverse restaurants would bring a smile to his face.

I know he would love the hustle and bustle of Penn’s unique village. I enjoy walking around the campus, and occasionally having a meal at the White Dog Cafe or La Terrasse. Edward and I decided to head over to University City for an early dinner at Penne, the newest restaurant on campus.

Ben would have marveled at the traffic. It took us nearly a half-hour to travel a few blocks. We finally arrived at Penne and discovered every seat taken in the dining room. The booths in the bar area were full, but luck was on our side. We slid onto the only vacant seats at the bar.

Jumbo martinis ($7.25) were icy cold and expertly prepared. They were so large, I could not finish mine. The bartender took good care of us, serving and clearing with ease while tending to the needs of his other customers. He brought us warm bread and a ramekin of extra-virgin olive oil. The man next to me was eating a big soup bowl filled with cavatelli bathed in a tomato basil sauce ($9). It looked so good and the aroma was so enticing, I knew a pasta dish had to be part of our dinner.

The pastas at Penne are handmade by Roberta Adamo, who grew up in South Philadelphia. As a girl, she watched her nonna make pasta by hand, but didn’t try to prepare her own gnocchi and fettuccine until she was an adult. Adamo’s gnocchi are famous; she made them for Brasserie Perrier, where I first savored them a few years ago. They were light, melt-in-your-mouth little pillows on the plate.

Baby spinach salad ($6) was a good-sized mound of fresh, tender spinach leaves with sweet red onion, bits of tangy goat cheese and thinly sliced slivers of imported prosciutto tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette. Quite often, the "garde manger" chef, the person responsible for cool foods and salads, has a heavy hand with balsamic vinegar. It can be powerful and so overwhelming that the ingredients lose their fresh flavor. This vinaigrette was very well-done and did not detract from the freshness of each salad ingredient.

Some of my favorite ingredients were used in the beet and goat-cheese salad ($8). Tiny cubes of cool beets formed a pool on the plate. A round mound that resembled a timbale of fine baby greens was topped with fragrant, crisp fennel; long, thinly sliced strips of cucumber that were wrapped to form a circle on top of the fennel; goat cheese and a scattering of almonds, all bathed in a light citrus dressing. This salad is straight from Sicily, as lemons and almonds often form a fine, tasty marriage in that town’s cucina.

From the pasta, we selected the one that sounded the most unusual. Whole-wheat fettuccine with pancetta, Brussels sprouts and potato ($10) was a marvelous mix of textures and flavors. The handmade fettuccine was perfectly cooked. I sometimes prepare Brussels sprouts with pancetta at home, but never thought of adding these ingredients to a pasta dish. It worked beautifully. Adamo added tiny cubes of fingerling potatoes to the plate. We received a good-sized portion of pasta that was thoughtfully split in the kitchen.

I could not decide between the grilled loin of pork with a sweet potato/pear gratinee and sautéed broccoli rabe, topped with a balsamic/fig reduction ($17), and the game hen.

"Go for the hen," advised the bartender.

Since so many restaurants are still into vertical food, piling fish or poultry on top of mashed potatoes or other ingredients, we asked the bartender if we could have the vegetables served on the side. I received a pan-roasted Cornish game hen ($18) that had been rubbed with herbs and spices and roasted so well, it was still juicy inside. The breast bone was removed, so the hen was flattened out on the plate, making for easy eating. A round ramekin of tender haricots verts and fingerling potatoes, topped with a light walnut pesto, came with dinner. Here is an example of how a simple dish, prepared with top ingredients, can be so appetite-pleasing.

Grilled filet of salmon ($18) was still a bit translucent inside and was prepared in a lemon, garlic and parsley sauce. Mashed potatoes, studded with sun-dried tomatoes, and haricots verts arrived with the fish.

The wine list was carefully planned and there are a number of affordable bottles and wines by the glass from which to choose. A glass of Montepulciano was just $6.25.

Edward and I both felt the pasta and entrées could have been hotter. Still, the hen and fish tasted fine even though they were just a bit hotter than lukewarm. I thought the entrée portions were too small for a man with an average appetite.

Penne offers a number of moderately priced dishes. You can have a salad, a pasta and a glass of wine for about $20.

Two tips of the toque to Penne.