A Chelsea pioneer, Don Giovanni has been serving excellent affordable, Italian food to the neighborhood long before the current gallery explosion. On a recent unseasonabiy sultry afternoon. we ventured westward to sample an outdoor lunch. The dazzling Ms. Deborah Harry was also dining there and politely refused to be photographed but offered a hearty endorsement of one of her favorite restaurants.

We began with a Garlic Bread Special, this $7.95 bargain is a generous sunflower arrangement ot creamy mozzarella slabs. counter-pointed with thinly sliced and grilled eggplant rounds. mounds of sundried tomatoes. basil and a hefty sprinkling of pignoli nuts.

Pizzas are a specialty, with over sixteen to choose from. Brick oven baked. the dough is thin and crisp. which seems to be the New York way to go. We loved the $9.95 Romana, a classic delicious pie topped with chicken breast chunks, onions, red peppers and artichokes. Another house favorite is the Alla Vongole, with clams and bacon. Additional toppings are always available.

Twenty-eight pastas are available, from Lobster Ravioli alla Vongole, to a classic Lasagna Verde. But we went for a huge portion of Eggplant Parmigiana, $7.95, delicate, ungreasy, and smothered in a flavorful cheese topping. A large pasta portion accompanied the entree, and would have been a delicious meal for two, along with a salad.

Don Giovanni is a family affair, and the strains of classic Neapolitan songs creates a unique and charming ambiance for an urban eatery. Service is smooth and easy, and the informality is well appreciated in the onslaught of pretentious Italian places. A new branch has just opened on West 44th Street. and no doubt will mirror the success of the downtown original. Don Giovanni remains Chelsea’s best bargain and the place to go for delicious Italian food in an informal and charming atmosphere.