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May 30-June 5, 2007

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First Bite

Mezzo Mezzo

By David Sason

As a lifelong Marinite, my only points of reference for Sicily are, unfortunately, The Godfather films. And Mezzo Mezzo, the San Rafael restaurant that opened in January, is a quiet, one-room establishment cozy enough to make me feel Michael Corleone was going to exit the bathroom and interrupt my pasta. Although it had a great turnout for a Tuesday night, with half the tables full of mostly couples presumably searching for a quiet evening, I was surprised. The quiet spot, on C Street between Fourth and Fifth, was only familiar to me by way of the adjacent billiards hall and the Mac shop full of pricey accessories.

After walking in and realizing how ideal such a forgotten location was for a quiet eatery, we were seated immediately. With such a literally foreign menu, we needed a few moments, so held ourselves over with the tavula di immiscata ($11), a plate of thinly sliced salami and three different cheeses, shrouded in pistachios, raisins and blueberries. It was the perfect dish to warm up for the main course. At our friendly waiter's suggestion, we paired it with the Planeta Cometa ($45), a pure Sicilian white that we drank down like water.

When deciding on the main course, I was hard-pressed to find something light. The appetizer was more filling than I'd thought, and the dishes of steak, lamb and rabbit seemed too formidable for my stomach that night. I ordered the salmon Mezzo Mezzo ($20), served in a strong white wine sauce with scrumptious pistachios. The fillet had a strange texture but was perfectly moist and succulent, making me dream of fishing boats on the Mediterranean.

My friend ordered the quagghi co samorigghiu ($19), a grilled quail sitting in olive oil, mushrooms, artichokes and crisp lemon dressing. The sweet potatoes were a delicious touch and the meat was perfectly tender and juicy, but the resemblance to the bird's shape was a little disturbing to my liberal American eyes. But, as they say, "when in Rome . . ." We concluded our meal with a cannoli Siciliana ($7), a crunchy treat stuffed with ricotta cheese, pistachios and orange rind.

Although the menu leans toward the heavy side, the inviting décor, delightful food presentation and quaint location make Mezzo Mezzo a worthy addition to San Rafael's already eclectic downtown restaurant scene. Chef Davide La Rocca has successfully brought a little of his home country to Marin. Let's hope San Rafael is ready for the trip.

Mezzo Mezzo, 1025 C St., San Rafael. Open for lunch and dinner, Tuesday–Monday. 415.459.0330

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Quick-and-dirty dashes through North Bay restaurants. These aren't your standard "bring five friends and order everything on the menu" dining reviews.