Bacaro Report (Providence, RI)
Bacaro is one of those places that's been around for a while, it's always on our list of places to eat, but maybe not at the very top. I recently recommended it in another topic on CH, so I thought it might be time to refresh my own recollection of the place. We finally got around to going a few weeks ago.
I've eaten at Bacaro probably a dozen times, upstairs and downstairs, for regular meals and for cicchetti (Italian small plates). By far, my favorite experience is sitting downstairs and making a meal of the small plates. I like the flexibility, the variety, and the relaxed pace of the meal. The downstairs houses the bar to one side and a small seating area on the other. The highlight of the room is the cured meats counter, almost deli-style, where a dedicated employee serves up the many salumi and cheese options. The restaurant is in what looks to be a converted shipping building, probably dating to the 1800s. The ceilings are very high, there's old wood everywhere, and big windows look out over the river. It's a very relaxed low-key vibe. Upstairs is also nice, with an open kitchen, large windows, and more of that great woodwork, but for me, downstairs is the spot.
We started with aperitivi. I'm always pleased to experience a properly executed aperitivo in Providence--it should stoke the appetite, often with bitterness or carbonation (or both!) Bacaro has a dedicated aperitivo menu (as well as a regular cocktail lineup), and it's great to sit by the window and watch other customers file through the restaurant while sipping a negroni. Plus, it gives you time to argue about what plates to order (hint: the person who controls the little pencil gets to make the executive decisions.)
Our server was quite attentive and understood what we meant when we asked for our small plates to be staggered as much a practicable. The chicchetti menu was unchanged from our last visit about six months ago, although they had a number of seasonal specials. We usually order a variety of old favorites and supplement with a few new dishes. We started with a cheese and salumi plate. The cheese options on the ciccheti menu are great, categorized by country of origin and milk with helpful descriptions to guide the indecisive eater. The cheese plate came with bread, nuts, jam, and other traditional fixings, but the highlight was the capocollo--absolutely delicious and a great way to start the meal proper.
On this visit, we swapped out one of our habitual orders, the grilled piadina (a sort of flatbread with sunchoke chips, chickpea paste, and herbs which I always found a little greasy) for crispy glazed pork belly. This had to be one of the best things I've eaten in a while. The pork belly had a perfect balance of fat to meat and was smothered in a dark, molasses-looking sauce. So delicious.
As always, we ordered the scallops with truffled mushrooms, and, as always, were underwhelmed. Who was it who said insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results? We did enjoy the sausage trio, fried squash blossoms, gorgonzola-stuffed figs, and prosciutto crostini with honey. Although Bacaro is probably more fun if you enjoy cheese and meat, I think it would also be a good place to bring a vegetarian (especially if some folks in the group are carnivores.) Not so much for the lactose-intolerant....
Now, I know that cicchetti are technically eaten in the Veneto, but we ended up ordering a lovely Sicilian bottle off the extensive wine menu. Interestingly, Bacaro proudly meets the definition of an enoteca, with representation of many Italian wine producing regions, as well as other international wines. I was satisfied with both the range of options and the value of our selection.
We didn't have room for pizza, but I can vouch for its deliciousness. It's thin crust and very tasty, grilled Al Forno-style. Deserts are made-to-order.
When we left, my husband and I both turned to each other and wondered why we don't go to Bacaro more often. Good question! We'll be back sooner than the last time, but I thought it was worth a positive report.
I live in The Berkshires, but am Rhode Island born and bred (Nelson Aldrich Jr. High, Classical, class of '62). My whole family in in Rhode Island, and I am there ever couple of weeks. I must say that Bacaro is one of my favorite restaurants in R.I. I loved your review...and...I have some friends who are goi g to Providence a few weekends from now; they had asked for restaurant recs, and Bacaro was at the top of the list I gave them.