Baci Ristorante Restaurant Review March / April 2011
Shrimp Diavola Appetiser
On average, the Turks and Caicos Islands are blessed with 350 bright, sunshiny days a year; and likewise, 350 balmy and tropical, star–studded nights. This was not one of them! Even in the midst of a veritable monsoon brewing outside, Baci was abuzz with the lively and contented din of holiday revellers and long–time dedicated regulars enjoying the warmth, hospitality and fabulous cuisine that owner, John Draper, has been consistently serving up for nearly twelve years.
Carpaccio di Manzo at Baci.
Think Italian Riviera... but with a Caribbean twist! In the courtyard, a beguiling mermaid fountain ignites endless fantasies about that fascinating and alluring creature of the sea. Decorative wrought iron grills create the walls of the restaurant with an eye–catching floral valance of bougainvillea; an indoor dining experience with an al fresco feel. The bar has long been a popular and trendy gathering place for conversation and camaraderie before, during or after lunch or dinner. A two–tiered dining terrace overlooks the usually calm and peaceful waters of Turtle Cove Marina, where yachts and sailboats rhythmically rock in this calm and peaceful anchorage. Bend your ear and you will even hear the musical chimes as a halyard grazes its towering mast seemingly reaching to touch the dazzling evening skies.
This is Mediterranean gourmet cuisine infused with delicate hints of the islands by chef, Ketty Firmence; 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 on its own.
Taking in the bustle and animation of an open kitchen is always an entertaining and engaging pastime; captivated by the sights and sounds and lured by the scintillating aromas that drift through the tropical evening air. It’s a mix of the day’s cuisine, but in particular, the absolutely distinctive and always delightful mouth–watering redolence of garlic! It’s the first and foremost appetizing and aromatic indulgence to every Baci experience – a heaping basket of freshly grilled garlic bread. This is generally John’s cue to regale everyone with the evening’s specials, together with his now legendary rendition of, “A little drinkie before dinner?”
Tonight’s Specials featured a Zuppa del Giorno of Tuscan Bean Soup; two fresh catches of the day including Red Snapper and Wahoo; and Baked Lobster Tails – another celebrated culinary coup for John. “They’re huge... 12 to 16 ounces.” he enthused. “Lobster pasta, no problem, we’ll fix it up.” he added. My fellow diner was one up on us; having noted this evenings’ crowds he had already reserved one of his all–time favourites, Lasagna that’s “To die for.” It’s that good!
Lasagna alla Bolognese at Baci Ristorante.
Vacillating over which vino to accompany our appetisers, I advocated the ‘When in Rome’ adage and suggested we choose a Chianti. A Ruffino Reserva Ducale Chianti that decidedly “Took the chill off a rainy night.” A medium–bodied red, it paired well with all of our appetisers beginning with my Gamberoni alla Diavola: a foursome of plump and moist shrimp inundated in a flavourful and piquant tomato sauce. My favourite dining companion is consistent and unwavering when it comes to her love of slugs; Lumache alla Ligure, these tender little delicacies were steeped in a “Fabulous.” Garlic Butter and White Wine Sauce. “The usual perfection?” we solicited? She said ‘yes’ with her eyes, and upon finishing the last of the marvelous mollusks, she obliviously began plunging some reserved garlic bread into the excess sauce, eager to soak up every last drop! I have to admit that no one does Carpaccio de Manzo like Baci – you can see how fresh it is by its incredible ruby–red colour and perfect marbling, sliced so incredibly thin it simply melts in your mouth. Tonight was indeed an ideal evening to serve Tuscan Bean Soup – a thick and hearty stick–to–your–ribs type soup that was the perfect combination of chunky beans and vegetables and creamy puree.
Baked Caicos Lobster Tail
A topic of conversation at every Baci table has to be the infamous pepper mill – in all probability, the largest on the island – comparable to the size, weight and stature to a major league baseball bat, this memorable kitchen gadget promptly appears at the delivery of each and every course with an offering of freshly grated Parmesan Cheese. Cue John... “We have cheese, we have pepper, and we have wine?” “We’re good” was the unanimous reply.
While contemplating crustaceans, my favourite dining companion raved about Baci’s baked lobster tail admitting, “I don’t know how he does his tails, but he has never failed to be totally awesome. Melt in your mouth, they’re divine.” My husband took the bait... initially ordering a modest 12 ounce tail, the table intervened and said, “Get a big one.” He acquiesced admitting, “My wife wants half.” When this titanic tail appeared at the table we thought we were going to need a wide–angle lens! Judged to be, “Very tender and very flavourful.” it was impeccably paired with a side of pasta – linguine in an Aioli Sauce – a smooth, rich sauce made with garlic and olive oil. I had decided to take John up on his earlier offer of a “We’ll fix it up.” Lobster Pasta. Happy for the latitude to choose my preference of pasta and sauce, I opted for the linguini and a fabulously velvety, rose–hued Vodka sauce. The lobster was incredibly tender; bite–size morsels that were the perfect size to allow the sauce to permeate the entire dish with flavour. Across the table, Scaloppine al Limone surreptitiously and silently vanished. In fact, distracted in our unintentional three–way conversation, this dish had been consumed so swiftly and silently that by the time we glanced over, we discovered nothing but a puddle of the delicate Lemon Butter Sauce... just as hastily being mopped up with more of that celebrated garlic bread. The sides were particularly appealing – ratatouille and scalloped potatoes... also, gone. And lastly, did the diner with the Lasagna reservation have any reservations in the end? Absolutely not – a hefty helping that could even appease two, he took great pleasure in every forkful – with an emphasis on every – delighting in the spice factor expressing, “There’s a little heat to it... I’m finished, but it’s still there.” We grilled John for the secret ingredient to this classic dish – there were actually 5: prosciutto, bacon, ham, Italian sausage and ground beef.
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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