I stopped by Bacaro last week with an old friend visiting from out of town. I’ve been impatient to try the new “Venetian Cicchetti” place since the team behind it is the same one that owns Peasant, a perennial Nolita FAVE of mine (with the greatest octopus dish I’ve ever tried, plus beautiful, fresh ricotta served gratis to every table with chewy, rustic bread, all in front of a glowing open kitchen…dreamy). Bacaro has a little ways to go to become a worthy sibling to Peasant, but it has some good stuff going for it. We were told the downstairs area wassn’t open because of an earlier private party, so we sat at the lovely upstairs bar, where we had some reasonably priced wine by the carafe and shared a few dishes. It turns out Bacaro is a pretty good deal, monetarily, since the dishes are priced as small plates, but the portions are very generous. The only disappointment was—gasp!—the octopus dish, which my companion said was slimy, and I thought was completely under-seasoned. Turns out big sis’ Peasant has em’ beat completely with the polpi. But the creamy radicchio lasagna was a standout, as was the unusual, creamed salt cod with polenta, which was like a Venetian version of the Southern (U.S.) classic, shrimp ‘n grits.
It’s ironic that the entire front of the place is beautiful picture windows, since the block on which it looks out is a somewhat sketchy one with no ambiance whatsoever. If you really want special at Bacaro, it looks like you’ll want to head downstairs with a group of friends. With a little flirty smile from yours truly, a gracious waiter let us take a peek at the wine cellar dining area, which includes a second bar and will be a wonderful setting for intimate, private parties held ‘round rustic tables, which are hidden in a maze of winding brick alcoves. Really sexy.
I want to host a traditional, Venetian, masked ball down there and all my guests can pretend they’re in Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet. It’s just the kind of candlelit space that, especially with a little Nebbiolo in your system, would inspire you to brazenly make out with a masked stranger. Just be sure to keep your wine goggles on along with that mask when you go out to hail a cab, because out there—well, you’re still in Chinatown baby!
Italian, Tapas, Other
136 Division St, btwn Orchard & Ludlow St