Baci Ristorante Providenciales (Provo), Turks & Caicos IslandsRestaurant Review May/June 2013
Carpaccio di Manzo at Baci
Baci Ristorante has enjoyed unwavering success, popularity and longevity ever since owner, John Draper, opened its beautifully crafted wrought iron gates more than 13 years ago. The simple philosophy behind John’s success is a modest and unpretentious one, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! This is what we are; this is what we do.” In fact, John is ever ubiquitous, the first to greet you, seat you, regale you with the evening specials and take your order for your first round of “drinkies”.
Your Baci experience begins with the heady aroma of garlic that permeates the air within a one kilometer radius of those elegant gates. A captivating mermaid fountain adorns the courtyard and beckons you to enter as cascades of Bougainvillea provide splashes of color entwined through the iron grills, creating the ‘walls’ of the restaurant. The bar is a popular haunt for many devoted residents and returning visitors and is the focal point for lively conversation and camaraderie throughout the afternoons and well into the evenings.
Libations and food can be enjoyed while taking in the energy and entertainment of the open kitchen where Chef Ketty Firmence presides; and who John affectionately calls, “a rock star”. This is Mediterranean gourmet cuisine infused with delicate hints of the islands; a long-ago perfected combination of antipasto; pasta; vitello; carne, pollo e pesce and decadent desserts. What’s more, we observed a remarkable number of take-out pizzas going out the door, a booming industry in its own right. Dine ‘in’ with a completely alfresco feel, or out on the stepped terrace, right at the water’s edge beneath a sunshade by day and a canopy of stars at night.
Now, back to the garlic … your first indulgence is a heaping basket of aromatic and scrumptious grilled garlic bread to awaken your palate as you muse over the fabulous menu selections, drinkie in hand.
Lasagna alla Bolognese at Baci Ristorante
John reappeared to delight us with the evening specials beginning with the Zuppa del Giorno, Tomato and Basil. The fish is a celebrated house specialty; always fresh and always local with tonight’s offerings of snapper, mahi mahi and a 12 or 16 oz. lobster tail baked in lemon and butter “Whatever’s in the kitchen, we’ll fix it up” John offers. As we divvied up the antipasto selections, John jumped in and said, “Everybody’s got spoons; somebody has to have the soup!” My husband quickly volunteered his spoon and his palate. With the major decisions now out of the way, it was time to relax. “Make yourself at home” John invites; “We are at home” replied my companion. John confessed that his diners admit to him over and over and over again that it’s nice to see everything the same; same faces, same staff; and the fact that the flavours and quality of the dishes are always the same. For instance, the Veal Parmigiana will always taste the same, (fabulous) every single time you order it.
As will the Lumache alla Ligure, or more commonly known as snails; a particular favourite of my favourite dining companion. After some preliminary repartee with her husband over his implied lumache larceny, she turned and succumbed to her slugs. Pensive and preoccupied with these incredibly tender and “delightful” morsels, she sporadically uttered a few words. First, appreciative approval for the lemon that was subtle and restrained; quickly followed by wholehearted gratification for the intoxicating, unrestrained garlic.
Vitella Marsala with Scallop Potatoes at Baci
When it comes to Beef Carpaccio, Baci slices up a phenomenal rendition. Oh, so very precisely thin slivers of ruby red tenderloin are beautifully marbled; together with olive oil, lemon, capers and Parmesan this Carpaccio di Manzo is absolutely and undeniably exquisite. The Antipasto Miso plate is perfect for two to share, and as I obliviously indulged in the assorted cheeses, prosciutto, salami, olives and greens with a balsamic vinaigrette, I suddenly heard a reprimanding voice from across the table: “You know, that’s for two!” And finally, the Zuppa del Giorno. Thick and lovely this Tomato Basil soup was reminiscent of a bisque. Hailed for its intense tomato flavour, it had just the right kick and an invigorating freshness, compliments of the basil.
Linguini con Couri di Carciofo e Gamberoni
Perusing the wine list we all agreed that choosing this evening’s selections would be a no-brainer. A predominantly Italian wine list, there are also wines from Chile, France and the U.S.A. We revel in any opportunity to match wine, food and country and a 2007 Ruffino Reserva Ducale Chianti Classico was the ideal match for our appetiser selections. Characteristic of a good Chianti it was an elegant and luscious wine with plum and dried cherries on the palate, with just an intimation of smokiness and pepper. A rich and full-bodied 2009 Villa Antinori Toscana that followed was collectively praised as “a nice progression”. It flaunted intense cherry and spice on the nose as well as on the palate with a long, lingering and lovely finish.
According to Chef Ketty, Linguini con Couri di Carciofo e Gamberoni is probably the most popular dish on the menu; and my guess is it’s probably also the most difficult to pronounce. In laymen’s terms, this is simply artichoke and shrimp pasta, but there is nothing simple about the taste! Perfectly tender and al dente linguini is suffused in a fabulous white wine and lemon sauce and tossed with artichokes, diced tomato and shrimp. The shrimp arrive ‘tail-less’ making it effortless to enjoy. A verdict of “marvelous” summed this dish up perfectly.
Baked Caicos Lobster Tail
If you’re a fan of lasagna, you’ll want to experience Baci’s Lasagna alla Bolognese. Certainly not for the faint of hearts or appetites, this man-size portion is oozing with cheese, crammed with meat and smothered in a rich and thick tomato sauce. Or should I say meats – 5 to be exact; prosciutto, bacon, ham, Italian sausage and ground beef. It’s no wonder this hearty and mouth-watering dish has been a perennial favourite of my fellow diner for over a decade.
Choosing a more adventurous and exploratory route, I had yet to experience the Scaloppini al Limone, but had observed my favourite dining companion enjoy it with pure and unadulterated gusto on many occasions. The most popular of the veal dishes, my generous portion of sautéed veal was tender and enveloped in a savoury yet delicate lemon butter sauce. Simplicity was the key to the perfection of this veal dish served with two fabulous sides - a delectable ratatouille and a tasty potato dish.
My husband took great pleasure in the Catch of the Day, Mahi Mahi topped with a caper, onion and tomato sauce. He raved of the robust flavours of the sauce and the “wow factor” of the fish. A long-time fan of Baci’s Spaghettini Puttanesca, John graciously indulged him with a side of this exceptional pasta, laden (by request) with anchovies. Together on the plate with the fish this was a superb and incomparable combination.
Before moving on to ‘dolce’, special mention must be made of the pepper mills. Yes, the pepper mills. And the strong and courageous servers that wield them for your dining pleasure. They also solve the mystery as to why many of Baci’s server’s sport unusually large biceps…
Tiramisu at Baci
Dessert, in my opinion, is another no-brainer here. Tiramisu is the Italian classic ‘dolce’ and needs no introduction. Light, yet rich and creamy and drizzled with plenty of chocolate. Viva Italia sure, but my unshakable vice is the Chocolate Pate served with Crème Anglaise and Fruit Coulis; undeniably one of the most decadent and sinful pleasures of the palate. Pair your dessert with a latte, espresso, cappuccino or a Specialty Coffee like Baci Coffee, made with Kahlua, Bailey’s and Frangelica.
As ubiquitous as John is at the start of your Baci experience, he is also just as omnipresent at the end … and begs your indulgence to answer three fundamental questions. Did you enjoy everything? Did everyone have enough to eat? Did the girls take care of you? There are so many reasons for Baci’s perpetual success, popularity and longevity, but John seemed to sum it up best when he said, “There’s no sense in making life too complicated. Bottom, bottom line is, it’s a pretty place, and we’ve been here a long time.”
Baci Ristorante in Harbour Towne at Turtle Cove
The wonderful fruitiness and robust flavours of a 2007 Fontanafredda Barbera D’Alba was a great balance to all of our entrées. With the last vestiges of the Chianti still lingering – upon my first taste of the Barbera my palate was instantaneously aroused with its huge mouth feel and fruity intensity.
Desserts evolved into somewhat of a contention for the title of true decadence.. myself espousing what I considered to be the superior virtues of the Chocolate Pate served with Crème Anglaise and Fruit Coulis – while across the table, the B–52 Cheesecake baked with Kahlua, Bailey’s and Grand Marnier was challenging my dessert’s decadence factor. I took it upon myself to concoct a scale of sorts based on the density of the dessert by the gravitational pull that was produced as the fork was extracted from my mouth... in my opinion, no contest – the chocolate pate reigned supreme!
For more than a decade, virtually all of our Baci experiences have been enjoyed out on the terrace; indulging in the pleasurable island breezes under a clear, moonlit sky. While this night certainly had an unprecedented and unforgettable climatic twist, John, the quintessential host, managed this full house of drenched, ravenous and thirsty diners with ease and with a great sense of humour. My dining companion summed it up best when he said, “Even when it rains, Baci shines!”
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