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A Rose by Another Name

Next to a bike shop and across from Rose's Café on Steiner, Terzo is the latest restaurant of Laurie Thomas and Nice Ventures (owners of Rose Pistola and Rose's Café). The appropriately named small plates spot is Italian for "third" and represents a gathering place that's neither home nor work. If you want to gather here though, come early and snag a spot at the communal table or make reservations well in advance.

The space is modern with clean lines, Edison filament light bulbs, and warm hues. Designed by Cass Calder Smith, the restaurant is divided into three sections: the front spotlights a glass and stainless steel case to display some of the tapas; the main area showcases a zinc bar, communal table for ten, and leather banquettes with cozy fireplace; and the back section is a wine room that is also available for private parties. During the summer, there's also sidewalk seating.

The menu changes often -- daily at times, and features pan-Mediterranean small plates with flavors from Spain, France, Italy, Morocco, and Greece. Only a few staples are a sure thing: the mixed lettuces, marinated olives, spiced-toasted nuts, and the signature crispy onions.

The wine list, selected by Chef Mark Gordon, is extensive, and because it pairs tightly with the food, changes as frequently as the menu. There are about 30 wines by the bottle and as many by the glass, emphasizing wines from the Mediterranean and a few from California.

Since it's the norm for two to three items to change on the menu each day, my advice is to not get too attached to certain dishes (which isn't easy). Luckily the grilled halibut ($12) on a bed of garbanzo beans topped with a Moroccan-influenced charmoula sauce was on the list during my last visit. As was the hummus with made-to-order pita ($7) sprinkled with za'ater which tastes like a blend of thyme, marjoram, and oregano.

The slow roasted wild King salmon ($12) was deliciously tender and the accompanying fennel and cherry tomato salad offered a refreshing, crisp contrast. On a more comfort food front, the free-range chicken skewers ($10) with chunks of bread and onions were a safe bet, as were the thin, pink slices of roast beef ($12) over roasted potatoes.

Vegetarians will be especially pleased by the Blue Lake green beans with pesto ($8) and the roasted beets ($8) with a yogurt-garlic-dill sauce, which also makes for a satisfying summer dish.

The good thing about small plates is you usually have room to spare for dessert (all $7.50). With items like ginger cake with lemon verbena cream, a cheese plate with fig compote and toasted almonds, an ice cream of the day, and a cookie plate, it was a tough choice. We ordered buckwheat crepes with fresh ricotta and strawberries and the chocolate pot du crème. The crepes were a touch bland and needed a few more berries, but the pot du crème was sinfully rich and tasty.

The service was friendly and laid back, and the food pacing was perfect so that our area on the bar was never overcrowded. Sitting at the bar has its perks because Michael, the bartender, patiently poured tastes to ensure that we were happy with our wine selections.

Simple dishes with fresh, seasonal ingredients, adequately proportioned small plates, and friendly, genuine servers offering efficient service in a crisp, yet cozy atmosphere makes this a good destination restaurant for couples and gaggles of thirty-something girls alike.

Cow Hollow

Reservations Essential? Yes