Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bacco Ristorante

Inhabiting the quiet corner of Salem and Parmenter Street, the two-story Bacco Ristorante seems a world away from the exuberance of the North End’s main drag, Hanover Street, which is just a short, narrow block away. In a neighborhood that hardly allows for sideways sprawl, Bacco maximizes real estate with a chic bar downstairs and a candlelit dining room upstairs. Full of glossy hard wood and brick, the dining room features large Renaissance-style paintings that almost clash with the downtempo house music and otherwise modern ambience, but the odd pairing works.

A moody hostess in red stilettos brings us to our table, which looks out onto a small balcony covered with flower boxes – certainly a nice view on a spring day, but all we see is the torrential downpour of an oddly warm winter evening. A large pew-like bench offers seating for the tables along the other side of the dining room. Our waiter greets us warmly, making up for the hostess’ disinterest, and tells us about the irresistible specials.

Two of us start out with cocktails – a refreshing but overly sour mojito and a martini named Donna, a mix of Stoli Blueberi, Prosecco, cranberry juice, and pineapple juice. The Donna is done well in the tradition of girly martinis – fruity, but not overwhelmingly sweet. We share an appetizer of jumbo shrimp perched atop a salad of shaved fennel, cherry tomatoes, and lemon olive oil. The succulent shrimp are plump but not filling, an appropriately light prelude to the hearty entrees to come.

The daily specials are tempting, so we order both, along with a pasta selection from the regular menu. The seafood scampi special offers generous portions of lobster, shrimp, and scallops served over spinach linguine, artichoke hearts, and tomatoes. The scampi sauce, though creamier than expected, pairs satisfyingly with the thick green linguine. Artichokes are an unexpected gem amidst the pasta and seafood. A fried, airy cheese crisp balances precariously on top of the dish and almost steals the thunder from the other ingredients.

The second special also features a delectable seafood trio. Jumbo shrimp top a pan-seared salmon steak, which sits on a bed of ample lobster ravioli. The dish is finished off with a thick piccata sauce, a flavorful mix of lemon and butter with capers sprinkled throughout. Three asparagus spears lean against the tower of seafood, adding an agreeable crunch to the dish.

From the regular menu, we try the orecchiete (“little ears”) with sweet Italian sausage, broccoli rabe, garlic, and olive oil in a lightly tangy tomato sauce. A more traditional dish, it holds its own against the more daring daily specials. The delicate sauce bridges the gap between the bitter broccoli and mild sausage, and it makes this brimming bowl of pasta feel like a demure version of comfort food, warming your stomach but leaving room for dessert.

And it’s a good thing to leave room for dessert at Bacco. Even though gelato and pastry shops tempt the masses throughout the North End, Bacco’s ambiance is so relaxing that we pass up the nearby cannoli offerings and stay put. All desserts are made in-house, so the selections vary. We share a molten chocolate cake, a sweet ending to a surprisingly light meal.

It’s rare to leave an Italian restaurant without having to loosen your belt, but Bacco’s offerings satisfy without stuffing.

Bacco on Urbanspoon


  1. Welcome to the foodie blog roll! Are you getting hit with the big east coast storm today? We are getting it here in PA.

  2. Yummm! Lobster ravioli topped with salmon topped with shrimp basically sounds like some kind of heaven. I've never been here but am now very tempted to try!


  3. @Shelly - The snow seems to have calmed down here for now, but there's a lot on the ground!

    @Sues - I know, right?? It's a mountain of seafood. What could be better? I really liked my meal here; I'll definitely be back. Plus, they have half-priced appetizers in the lounge area - I think the hostess said the deal is every night, all winter long :)

  4. Great meeting you on Wednesday...look forward to reading more of your reviews :)

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