The Inquisitive Traveler
Sausalito: A Taste of Italy
By Patty Burness
Photos by Bo Links
If you’ve ever visited Italy’s Amalfi Coast, you’re familiar with the azure sea, the meandering coastline, and the picturesque fishing villages. We have our own slice of Italian heaven right here in Sausalito. For Northsiders, it’s so close to home, but often an overlooked destination. Especially in this economy, Sausalito is a beautiful playground — either for the day or overnight. My husband and I ventured out to find the latest and greatest.
Cross the Golden Gate and snake your way down to Fort Baker, the historic former Army post. There you’ll find luxurious Cavallo Point, the Lodge at the Golden Gate. Situated near the water’s edge and expanding into the hillsides, much of the resort also borders a huge lawn that was once the Army’s parade ground. From most spots on the expansive property, there are stunning views — the Pacific, San Francisco, Angel Island, the Marin Headlands, and naturally, the Golden Gate. The resort blends harmoniously into the surrounding Golden Gate National Recreation Area. In fact, Cavallo Point is the Bay Area’s first historic national park lodge.
The mantra at this unique resort is “Nature, nurture, culture, and adventure” — all of the tools are provided, and it’s up to you to experience them. Cavallo Point is committed to a green philosophy. The preserved, historic red-roofed barracks (dating from around 1901) and the new lodging are environmentally sustainable. Landscaping incorporates native plants and flowers. Hike the hills, stroll the grounds, or find a variety of treatments and services at the Healing Arts Center & Spa. Sharpen your skills in a cooking class or browse the art gallery. Choose the right yoga class and taste some tea. This is a getaway for body, mind and spirit.
Our suite was in one of the new buildings, up several flights of stairs from where we checked in. With benches perched along the way, we were able to take in the view at every turn. Inside, the rooms are spacious but cozy, with a fireplace and knockout views. High ceilings, bamboo furniture, and bold colors brought the outside in. And the resort is dog friendly — you’ll even find water dishes outside on some of the big porches.
Farley Bar (named for cartoonist Phil Frank) is the perfect place for a cocktail before dinner. How better to watch the sunset and soak up the view? You’ll feel at home in the leather armchairs. Or catch the vibe outside on the huge covered porch.
Murray Circle, Cavallo Point’s Michelin-starred restaurant, showcases the talents of executive chef Joseph Humphrey. Former officers’ quarters have been transformed into casual but elegant dining areas and are the perfect backdrop for Bay Area cuisine at its best. The intimate dining rooms — like the accommodations in general — boast fireplaces and stunning views. The menus scream local. With either a Grand or Chef’s Tasting menu, you’ll savor seasonal signature dishes. It’s whatever was in the market that day. Relish spot prawns with soft potato gnocchi, caramelized chestnuts and toasted Brussels sprout leaves; squab and lobster salad with mizuna and Zinfandel marmalade; and grass fed beef that has been wood grilled to perfection and served with potato gratin and baby carrots. An extensive list offers exciting wines from single estates and sustainable vineyards as well international wines from well-known areas. For a sweet finish, try a Bartlett pear tart with cracked pepper ice cream.
It was a hike back up to the room, but we stopped at a bench to take in the view of San Francisco twinkling across the water. Early next morning, we grabbed coffee and Danish from the lobby and were back in the City in no time. A terrific getaway in less than 24 hours.
The next time we headed for Sausalito, it was aboard the Golden Gate Ferry. Some say this is the second most beautiful ferry ride in the world just behind the Star Ferry ride in the waters between Hong Kong and Kowloon. You decide. It’s nothing but fantastic from the moment you leave the San Francisco dock until the engines slow to a murmur and the ferry slides into the landing in Sausalito.
From there, it’s a quick walk to The Inn Above Tide. Tucked into a corner of Sausalito, this plush hotel is situated over the water and offers unparalleled views of the bay from every room. (They even give you a map of the views and a daily calendar of events in the area.) The atmosphere is very serene and calming. The rooms are beautifully appointed and have fireplaces and Jacuzzis. Relax on the patio and use the binoculars to survey the boat scene. Grab one of the complimentary bikes from the hotel and discover the surroundings. Or stroll through Sausalito and explore galleries, restaurants and shops.
Sausalito has two main streets — Bridgeway for the tourists and Caledonia for the locals. Try both and you’ll experience the laid-back vibe. During World War II, Liberty ships were built here. Today, as you wander along the water, you’ll see remnants of the shipbuilding industry as well as a thriving houseboat community. Unwind in one of the parks, or climb up Princess Street for more shopping, beautiful homes and phenomenal views.
At 5 p.m. we headed back to the hotel for complimentary wine and cheese. It was a chance to mingle with other guests as well as watch the activity on the pier from the Drawing Room windows. Then we simply crossed Bridgeway to Poggio, for a casual dinner at this popular Italian trattoria.
Poggio is known for it’s Northern Italian cuisine, fresh ingredients from the garden on the hill (“poggio” in Italian), and the friendly neighborhood crowd. The menu changes daily, but favorites abound: chef’s selections of cooked and cured meats done in-house, house-made burrata, endive salad with all of the trimmings, spinach ricotta “pillows” or gnudi, served with beef ragu. Don’t miss the rosemary fennel sausage pizza with broccoli rabe, red onion and mozzarella. The pizzas arrive straight from a wood roasting oven. The food was paired with wines from Piemonte to add another layer of Northern Italian flavor. The panna cotta topped with huckleberries was rich and flavorful.
From Poggio, it was a quick walk to The Inn Above Tide where we fell asleep with a gentle fire and waves lapping outside our deck. Next morning, we woke up with Sausalito — the rising sun and the arrival of the early morning ferry. Back to the Drawing Room for a continental breakfast of juice, coffee, fruit, quiche, cereal, and more before catching the ferry back to the City. If only this were our daily commute!
In less than 24 hours, we unwound and mellowed out in Sausalito. Take the time to enjoy this local treasure — it’s easily accessible and well worth the trip.
Sausalito, Calif.: From San Francisco, Highway 101 North across the Golden Gate Bridge to the Alexander Avenue exit. Follow this road into downtown Sausalito. Golden Gate Ferry Service: www.goldengateferry.org; Tourist Information: www.sausalito.org
Where to Stay and Eat
Cavallo Point Lodge: 601 Murray Circle, Fort Baker, 888-651-2003, 415-339-4700, www.cavallopoint.com. Rooms from $265. Murray Circle: Grand Tasting Menu $85, with wine pairing add $65; Chef’s Tasting Menu $65, with wine pairing add $45; 415-339-4750.
The Inn Above Tide: 30 El Portal, 800-893-8433, 415-332-9535, www.innabovetide.com. Rooms from $305 (includes continental breakfast).
Poggio: 777 Bridgeway, 415-332-7771, www.poggiotrattoria.com. Antipasti from $8, soup and salad from $6, first courses from $9, pizza from $12, desserts $7, wines by the glass from $8.
Patty Burness is the travel writer for Northside San Francisco. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org