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MAJOR Marin gem – Nothing half & half about San Rafael’s Mezzo Mezzo … Top-class Sicilian ciao

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Restaurants & Bars San Francisco Bay Area San Rafael

MAJOR Marin gem – Nothing half & half about San Rafael’s Mezzo Mezzo … Top-class Sicilian ciao

rworange | | Jan 28, 2007 04:30 PM

Mezzo Mezzo is now on my profile's top five list based on an extraordinary first visit.

Bring a camera and an appetite … delicious food, beautifully presented in an intimate, handsome restaurant served by beautiful staff … beautiful in spirit and the ladies were really very attractive & pretty.

I had

- Mezzo Mezzo half spinach/half tomato soup
- Complementary olives
- Amazing house-baked bread & breadsticks
- The best panini on house-baked bread with speck, cheese, roasted eggplant & 3 sauces
- Accidental equally satisfying vegetarian panini … more about that … this made me fall in love with the place
- Vigna Al Cerri 2001 Aglianico Fattoria Practico (hope I copied the name of that red wine right)
- House-made canoli
- Caffe Mokarabia espresso

$33

I could have had a very satisfying lunch for under $14 if I had stuck to the soup and wine.

The meal starts with a nice little bowl of black olives.

The dense yet light, soft, flour-dusted slices of bread were attention-getting good. I wish they open a bakery some day. A dish of olive oil and balsamic vinegar was provided for dipping. The breadsticks were very good too.

The soup was a work of art … half cream of spinach … half cream of tomato … decorated with thin shavings of Parmiggiano and a perfect parsley leaf.

Neither soup was assertively flavored, but there was a richness to them and looking at the beautiful soup, eating an olive then a piece of the wonderful bread … a sip of wine .. very soulful and satisfying. The fresh ground pepper on the tomato soup upped the flavor a lot.

The panini roll is deliciously different … soft with a little chew … slightly blistered. The panini I had in the restaurant was lightly toasted and I haven’t had a better sandwich even on my trips to Italy.

There was a little green salad mixed with vinaigrette. The sandwiches also came with three little bowls of sauces … smashed olives, garlic and chipotle. All were very good, but the sandwich was so outstanding, all I did was sample the sauces. It seemed wrong to add anything else.

The wine was excellent and served in the correct stemware, I think Reidel. They were very generous with their samples. I asked for something different and first had a pour of the Cottanera Burbazzale (I think). The brief wine list is Italian wine and new to me except the Barolo Bussia.

Very nice espresso. The desert was another work of art. Two house-made mini canoli were on a plate sprinkled with cocoa & confectioner’s sugar. A fork was placed on the plate before the cocoa was sprinkled, so there was the image of a fork. On the powdered sugar side was a little flower made of a candied cherry on a mint leaf.

The shell was thicker than any shell I’ve had to date. Very nice ricotta filling with the suggestion of candied fruit.

A few of the other desserts I remembered were wild strawberry tart, Grandmother tart, something with limoncello, tiramisu and one or two others.

It is a small intimate restaurant in pink toned terra cotta, the walls a sponged damask pattern. There are rosewood colored chairs and a nice six seat bar in the back of the restaurant. Windows look out on C St. This is an attractive restaurant. Parking is easy. There is a two-story parking garage across the street.

I asked the owner about the name. He said it was because he was born and grew up in Sicily and then moved to the United States … mezzo mezzo … Sicilian-Amercian.

The restaurant had me with the food and service. There were two things that put them at the top of my list.

First, I had not planned to eat out. I planned to wash my car. It started to drizzle, so I gave that up. I was doing my worst impression of a bag lady … clothes & shoes that wouldn’t get ruined if they got wet … hair barely brushed … week-end dress down … way down. If I saw me on the street, I’d stay out of my way.

There’s only two times I ever dressed this badly at a restaurant. Once at Bizou and once at Chez Panisse (Café). Like Mezzo Mezzo both restaurants didn’t even acknowledge my dress … they just made me feel warm and welcome. I always consider that the mark of a really classy restaurant.

I couldn’t finish my salad and I wanted to take home that great bread, so I had a take-out container.

They opened the door for me as I left and everyone said ciao … which I thought was funny because I was thinking at that time that this was a true Chowhound type of place … the type that is the reason for Chowhound’s existence … so often people on the boards sign off their posts with the word ciao … so I turned around to smile and dropped my sandwich.

They insisted on making me another one and were so nice and pleasant and decent about it. The chef was really humorous and made me laugh.

This time they gave me the vegetarian panini which I am just blissing out over … excellent provolone that is the stuff of my memories from the Italian groceries where I grew up. Soft and smoky and full of flavor.

Under the cheese are wonderful marinated veggies … artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, roasted eggplant, julienne red and green peppers, onion … glorious in olive oil. The bread is spread with pesto and topped with greens … and I sigh in satisfaction with every bite.

I’ll type up the menu later tonight. This place is good for vegetarians and meat eaters alike.

For the meat eaters lamb, rabbit, filet mignon & quail. For fish lovers sardines, prawns, salmon, calamari, mussels, octopus. For vegetarians various appetizers, salads and pastas. Lots of cheese for everyone. More details to come.

Did I mention how much I liked this place? My ciao bells started ringing.

A brief mention & some background in the Marin IJ
http://www.marinij.com/dining/ci_4979584

Website link if for future reference. As of the date this was posted, it was under construction.

http://www.ristorantemezzomezzo.com/

Mezzo Mezzo,
1025 C St
San Rafael,

415-459-0330

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