Who knew that the little Italian restaurant on Tamalpais Drive in Corte Madera could be so good? I've driven and walked by Benissimo hundreds of times—it’s been there since 1987—but it only occurred to me to check it out for the first time this past Saturday.
It was nearing 8 pm by the time we approached the restaurant. It was so nice to be seated right away on a Saturday night—especially without a reservation. The host (probably one of the owners) was kind enough to offer us a bigger table near the back or a small table up front. I wanted the table near the front by the window.
The restaurant was bigger and more spacious than it looks from the street. About half the tables were occupied, so it wasn't very noisy (which was a relief).
We brought a bottle of 2006 Pine Ridge Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon to enjoy with dinner and put it on the table as we sat down. A server arrived a few short moments later with wine glasses—and not with attitude because we brought our own wine. He proceeded to open the bottle while he told us the specials.
The specials sounded amazing, but so did so many dishes on the menu (the four different kinds of risotto, the short ribs, the lamb, the pastas).
After tasting the Cab, I knew I had to order red meat. The wine was lush and jammy and full-bodied with silky tannins. It had sweet blackberry, black cherry, earth, and vanilla flavors and a long, rich finish.
The wine paired perfectly with the short ribs, polenta and sautéed veggies.
My boyfriend ordered the seafood risotto and it, too, was absolutely delicious.
The service was great without being intrusive—the server actually checked in a few minutes after we received our entrees (sadly, this has not been the norm recently) and cleared our plates shortly after we had finished. We were too full to consider dessert, but I bet they have a tasty tiramisu.
My only complaint was the portions are quite large; I overate because it was so good. But overall, it was a terrific experience and quite possibly the best Italian food in Marin!
P.S. Corkage was only $15 but it's waived on Tuesday nights. Cheers!