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Veggie Girl: Osteria Marco

I enjoy dining at nice restaurants as much as the next person. Two problems: not only am I usually broke, but it's also hard to find a satisfying vegetarian meal at many of this town's finer estbalishments. While I'd love to try Fruition, the idea of paying $21 for what the menu calls "Grazing Vegetarians" doesn't appeal to me; I'm worried that I'd end up with a meal full of cutely cut vegetables that's devoid of protein or grains. And as much fun as I had with all the new flavors in the "Vegetarian Four Squares" ($18.50) at Rioja, I left that restaurant starved for some real "meat and potatoes" vegetarian food.

I find I often fare better at Italian restaurants, where, over a long lunch or brunch with friends, I can enjoy satisfying and innovative veggie-friendly options. Restaurants like Osteria Marco.

This week, a friend and I went to Osteria Marco, at 1453 Larimer Street, for lunch. Although we'd shared wonderful lunches on the patio, where we'd nursed glasses of wine over long conversations, the day was a bit chilly, so we opted for a table in the downstairs dining room. But our meal here was lovely, too.I ordered the mozzarella, basil, roasted pepper and pesto panini, served with a side of tangy dressed arugula. The cheese was filling, nicely offset by the crusty, chewy bread and the fresh flavors of the pesto and red peppers.

Osteria Marco makes its own cheese, including the mozzarella, a creamy burrata and two kinds of ricotta. And while I hear the restaurant has amazing meats, I've never been disappointed with its vegetarian choices, which include salads, the panini and several pizzas.

Since I could easily spend $7 on a sub from the sandwich shop up the street, it's nice to know that in these tight times, I can also get a gourmet grilled panini in a well-appointed dining room with excellent service for the same price. -- Aubrey Shoe

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