I disagree with taranto on a different level: positioning and denial of objectives. It’s worth a lot more for the british to keep a larger fleet alive in the med than to kill the battleship of the Italians. And if you get all the good defensive units together at Malta seazone, the Italians have to split up their fleet if they wish to clear it. Now if you can make sure you keep some air units around, the transports will sink too.
I’m with you. Not very big on Taranto. Not only what you said, but I feel it thins the UK up a little too much by having to bring planes down from London.
Other than the first game of global I ever played as the Allies, letting the Italian fleet be has never been the difference between an Allied win or loss. The way you keep them at bay is by getting a solid US/UK force to SZ91 early in the game.