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Taste of Rome offers casual Italian-inspired dining in Sausalito

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Taste of Rome

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Now is probably the best time of year to visit Mt. Tamalpais. The recent rain means there's plenty of water in the streams, the number of waterfalls actively flowing numbers in the dozens, and every bend in the trail shows more flowers--including showy irises and native orchids--in full bloom. Temperatures are mild and the sun is shining.

Dining on the way back from a hike is better than sitting through weekend Golden Gate Bridge backups on an empty stomach. Going north and a little out of the way toward Mill Valley gives quite a few casual options. Sausalito is famous for its restaurants, but they tend to be either upscale places where sweaty heads and muddy boots wouldn't be appropriate, or annoyingly, self-consciously elitist "we're upscale but too good to dress for dinner" spots where, again, sweaty heads and muddy boots would be out of place. (Splash on some Acqua d'Gio and wear, like, your ex-girlfriend's jeans and your best "designer" t-shirt, man.)

Taste of Rome, located a couple of blocks north of downtown Sausalito at 1000 Bridgeway, is one of the town's few truly casual restaurants. Its breakfasts have a reputation for being good values and the pastries for being delicious if expensive. In the evening it specializes in wine by the glass and vaguely Italian or Italian-American food, including pizzas, chicken Parmigiana, and pasta dishes.

On my visit I had a cup of minestrone and the "gambieri alla Mediterranea", shrimp lightly cooked with garlic, basil, tomatoes, and white wine. The minestrone was pleasantly light and fresh-tasting, without the mushy indistinct vegetables found in bad versions of the dish. The shrimp dish, on the other hand, was ill-proportioned, overwhelmed by the tomatoes and basil, and that the pasta which came on the side was dressed with the kind of pasty red sauce typical of banquet halls and workplace cafeterias didn't help matters. It wasn't truly bad. I'd consider it "middle of the road" at a lower price. But at nearly $30 for the meal--$15 for the shrimp, plus more for the soup and an astronomical seven dollars for a glass of mediocre pinot grigio--it's subpar. That the dining room is cramped and outdoor seating less than comfortable (moving one's chair closer to a high "cafe style" table without tipping either table or chair is a feat) lowers my opinion further.

My recommendation: If you just want an espresso and a snack, Taste of Rome is alright. Otherwise, treat "casual dining in Sausalito" as a contradiction and turn up towards Mill Valley, or tough it out in bridge traffic on an empty stomach and have dinner on the Peninsula.

For more information, visit Taste of Rome's website or phone (415) 332-7660 during business hours.

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