With river-adjacent seating, charming exposed-brick walls, and sunny windows, Wild Goat Bistro is real-estate gold for lunchtime and post-theater dining. Espousing a commitment to locally-sourced ingredients and approachable Mediterranean-influenced dishes (pizza, burgers, salads and heartier evening entrees) its got broad potential.

The kitchen, however, still needs some gentle herding.

Housed in the former Sooze Wine Bar location there are some solid menu picks at Wild Goat, especially at lunch. Thin and crispy pizzas lead the charge:In Season” ($11.75) is an oft-changing featured pizza we had with pear, gorgonzola and arugula. Served on wooden boards, it’s picture perfect. A steak-and-potato topped pizza (The Rancher, $12.50) missed the mark not with flavor, but presentation: Biting into a slice with long vertical strips of steak can make for embarrassing (and messy) cheese-meets-steak-meets-chin slapping.

Salads are also tasty: The springy Cobb ($12.50, also available in half-orders) hits all the right notes with its lighter take on the classic and is enough for two to share easily.  The restaurant serves up a few heartier entrees in the evenings, along with many of the lunchtime fare, including seasonal fish, The Petaluma Burger (grass-fed Niman ranch beef) and pasta. Cakes are sweet and rustic, housed on covered cake plates along the counter. Charm-points.
But the devil’s in the details. Mismatched thrift-store-esque dishes are only quaint when they’re ironic or in a dorm room. Neither of which they are here. Fancy plating techniques can become classic fails in over-ambitious hands: Water crackers stuck into a hunk of chevre is giggle-worthy (though the toasted slice of baguette in a wire basket impressed). Potato wedges are best left on the plate rather than teetering over my burger. Flavor pile-ups (tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, olive tapenade and goat cheese) distract. Both of my dining partners looked on horrified when a plastic Heinz squeeze bottle of ketchup was thunked on the table. Fine at a diner. Not when we’re the bill is going to be over $60.

Overall, minor faux pas…but restaurants are in the business of appealing to all the senses and mangled details detract from the otherwise well-crafted experience.

Just out of the gate, Wild Goat has good intent, but like any gal trying to impress, sometimes needs a quick look in the mirror. Remove a few overly ambitious-accessories and invest in some foundation pieces. Because simple, confident and classic is often the best way to go.

Wild Goat Bistro,  6 Petaluma Blvd N, Ste A5 (in the Great Petaluma Mill), Petaluma, (707) 658-1156. Lunch from 11:45am to 3pm daily, Dinner from 5 to 9pm Sun-Thursds; 5 to 10pm Fri, Sat. Live music Friday and Saturday from 7 to 9:30pm.