Dining in Marin is tough. I've said it before and I'll say it again: there's just not a whole lot to choose from when you're seeking really good quality food without twenty-seven small children running amuck in a spot that's actually open past 9 p.m. Because my folks live in Marin and I visit often, I'm always on the lookout for new restaurant openings and places to try, and ever since Bar Bocce opened a few months back, it's been at the top of my list. Wood-fired pizzas, beautiful patio right on the water, bocce ball courts, inexpensive/local wine list, kind of infamous brownie? This had to be mostly hype, right?
First thing's first: Bar Bocce has the menu and the kitchen staff under control. The menu is a simple, straight-forward and inspired mix of American and Mediterranean food and Robert Price (former Buckeye Roadhouse chef) is manning the kitchen. So far, life is good. The appetizers are all small plates--perfect for sharing--and we found the pizza to be an ideal size for two people as long as you're ordering a few other things for the table. So we did. I suggested the meatballs; my mom was dying to try the oven-roasted asparagus with pecorino. And the pizza? It was a unanimous choice with the Dungeness crab pizza with Meyer lemon and avocado creme fraiche.
After ordering, we had a chance to take in the scenery, the amazing view, and the crowd inside the restaurant. There's no way to quibble with the fact that the 22-person outdoor seating area is one of the more beautiful in the county. It sits right next to the Bay with a dramatic pergola and an inviting fire pit and bocce ball court. This is the new spot to gather for happy hour drinks and watch the sun drift off into another day. The best news? There weren't twenty-seven screaming toddlers. But after experiencing the dramatic outdoor space, there's something about coming inside that seems a bit anticlimactic. It's almost as if they literally ran out of money before they began developing and designing the interior space. It looks much more like an average pizza shop, complete with large televisions broadcasting live sports games. We could've lived without this.
But when it all comes down to it, the food is what will bring people back. And Bar Bocce has the food down. Our meatballs--a blend of three different kinds of meat, bread crumbs, and a secret blend of spices-- were incredibly flavorful and left us actually wishing we'd ordered the meatball pizza. The asparagus was perfectly roasted, and the Crab pizza was almost an order-again. The sourdough crust was perfectly chewy with a nice, slight char on the edges. Just the way it should be. But the crab itself was a little sparse and we thought the creme fraiche just came off as a little showy. A Dungeness crab pizza should stand on its own. And this one could, absolutely, with just a few tweaks.