Thursday, December 18, 2008
Bacaro - A Touch of Venice
Bacaro - 136 Division Street, New York, NY 10002
F Train to East Broadway
I wanted to go to Bacaro ever since I saw it featured on Mike Colameco's food show on PBS. Besides being an inviting and comforting place, the food seemed simple and fantastic. I just had to experience it for myself, as Kimberly and I schlepped over there last weekend--but it was so worth it!
Even before you walk into Bacaro, you could tell that it's something special. There's no sign on the outside, peaking your curiosity. Once you step inside, the mystique doesn't wither. You're confronted by a large, antique chandelier, a small bar area and a handful of cozy tables. Simple white candles line the upstairs room and the staircase leading to the cellar.
The downstairs is even more intriguing and it feels like you've stepped into a private supper club. The tables range in size, and each one is set with a gothic candelabra as its centerpiece. The impressively stocked wine cellar can be found in the front of the room, its contents taunting you to order a potent elixir with your meal.
Overall, Bacaro is a place that can be romantic or enjoyed with a small group of friends. Casual and comfortable are the key words here.
As simple as the food is, boring it is not. Kimberly and I chose the sharing route, as we ordered a couple of appetizers so we could try a bit of everything. Some of our choices included:
Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms - Oh how I wanted to try these! Their skin was fabulously crispy while the inside was soft and luxurious, filled with fresh ricotta cheese. The cheese was the best part, a sort of sweet surprise, which was not unlike the filling of a decadent truffle.
Stuffed Artichoke - Although this was a basic dish, it looked fancy. Shaped like a beautiful sunflower, the artichoke's outer layers were charred and crispy while its nucleus boasted a buttery bread crumb and herb stuffing. I loved both components and ate the entire thing, including the leaves. I know that some people scrape the leaves with their teeth but I just devoured them whole. Yum!
Crostini Platter of the Day - Another impressive plate, this one was quite large. I loved that it featured an offering of plump, red grapes alongside the crostini and three dips. The dips included an olive tapenade (good but a bit salty), a baccala or cod spread (refreshing and lemony) and a mushroom mixture (earthy and hearty). My favorite spread was the baccala because it was so unique--its taste was lovely and there was no unwanted fishiness.
Spicy Fried Meatballs - These were bite-sized meatballs with a curious kick. I liked them very much and was especially keen on their size--a tad bigger and the spice would've overpowered them. The meat that was used in them was also of good quality.
Panna Cotta with Dried Cherries - Because we ordered appetizer portions, we had room for dessert. The panna cotta was like a crafty magic trick--it felt light and smooth going down but it was deceivingly rich. The luscious cream, fresh ricotta and the sweet compote definitely satisfied our sweet craving.
Wine - We ordered a light, white wine from the Veneto. The flavor was sweet, fragrant and definitely worth the price. For a $16 carafe, we were each able to pour ourselves 2 full glasses.
Service and Cost:
Our waiter was friendly; he had good recommendations and was unobtrusive. Like everyone else at Bacaro, he had personality and flair, which I dig. Even when the restaurant got busy, our service didn't suffer.
It's astonishing how affordable Bacaro is--I guess that's why it's still considered a hidden treasure. Appetizers range between $9 - $14 and entrees top out at $18. Our entire bill was about $65 for 4 appetizers, 1 carafe of wine and dessert.