Dining out; restaurants to satisfy your cravings

Where: Pasta Pomodoro, 421 Third Street, San Rafael

Hours: Sun.-Thu, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m.; Sat 11 a.m.-11 p.m.

Atmosphere: Tucked away in the corner of the Montecito Shopping Center, this restaurant is a little taste of ltaly. Dim lighting, tasteful Italian posters and shelves with displays of baskets, garlic braids, and wine bottles provide a romantic Italian atmosphere. Unfortunately, the restaurant is noisy, especially if you sit at the bar that lines the open kitchen. However, the whir of the kitchen fan and the clinking of plates does not seem to hinder the restaurant’s popularity. On a Tuesday night the place was packed.

Food: If you are in the mood for a traditional Italian meal, this is the place to get one at an affordable price. Warm focaccia bread and delicious pesto dipping sauce, brought as a complementary appetizer, could easily fill your stomach if you don’t pace yourself.

Dishes include a wide range of pasta with different sauces, appetizers, soups and salads, fish and meat dishes, and an extensive beverage list. Although the portions may be on the small side, they are quite rich, and after the bread appetizer, seem much larger.

I ordered Mafaldine, a creamy tomato pasta dish with plump, sauteed shrimp, asparagus, and sprinkled with chili Flakes. With a bit of a spicy kick, this dish was a delicious alternative to the bland pasta with tomato sauce that is so common at most Italian restaurants.

Pasta Pomodoro has everything you would want in an Italian restaurant, and it’s original and inventive dishes add a much-needed spin on the generic Italian meal.

Service: As soon as I walked through the door, a smiling waitress, sharply dressed in all black, greeted me and led me to a table. Water arrived right away, but I had to ask for the bread and pesto. I was given several minutes to decide what to order, and once I had ordered, the food arrived in just 10 minutes. At the meal’s end, it took a long time for the waitress to bring the check and even longer for her to bring the change.

Price: Prices range from soups and salads at $3.95 to pastas at $7 .95 and meat dishes at $10.95.

Customer Comments: “I recommend the Penne Porrobello; it’s like a Broadway show for your rasre buds,” said one pleased customer.