I recently stumbled upon an article that described Bacio as
"South Jersey's Most Romantic Restaurant." I'm not sure I'd go that
far -- but it's certainly in the running. Bacio, which means
"kiss" in Italian, surely lives up to its name. The Tuscan-style
dining room exudes a casual, chimerical elegance, courtesy of lush
caramel-colored & mirrored walls, candlelit tables & tea lighted wall
sconces, and the genial glow of a semi-open kitchen.
But Bacio has infinitely more going for it than its charming
ambiance. The warm welcome, personable but unobtrusive service, and creatively
sophisticated Italian cuisine all conspire to make your evening at table a most
memorable one. Chef Robert Minitti holds forth as the power behind the stove,
and his culinary expertise is beyond reproach.
And the moment the bread basket hits the table, you know you're in good
hands, as the scrumptious focaccia and other offerings are accompanied by three
utterly enchanting tapenades -- eggplant, black olive, and chili pepper with
Parmesan -- the latter radiating just enough heat to keep the palate standing
at attention. Hard to resist. But don't get carried away, as appetizers have
their own unique rewards.
The chef's specialty salad, Insalata di Rucola ($6.50) is a highly
recommended starter. The baby arugula, peppery and potent, is by far the best
I've sampled anywhere, tasting as if it had been picked just moments before. It
is companioned by cherry tomato halves, marinated artichoke hearts, toasted
pine nuts, and gently tossed with a simple fresh lemon and extra virgin olive
oil dressing. Shavings of Grana Padano (a nutty flavored, finely grained hard
cheese similar to Parmesan) provide the perfectly complementary crowning touch.
Baby arugula also provides a sumptuous seabed for the pesto-grilled rock lobster
tail ($12.00). The crustacean exhibits just the proper texture -- neither too
tough nor too mushy -- and the greenery luxuriates in a superb blood
There are, however, several other gems worth considering: Timballo di
Melanzane ($9.00), for example, or the more innovative Olive all'
Ascolana ($8.50). The former is a temptingly traditional timbale comprised
of tender, thinly sliced eggplant stuffed with crumbled veal sausage, roasted
peppers, and ricotta cheese topped with fresh Mozzarella and sprinkling of
focaccia breadcrumbs, which arrives at table swimming in a delicate pool of
pomodoro. The latter consists of four jumbo olives that are stuffed with ground
veal and pork, then breaded and deep fried, and served surrounded by a delicate
pool of cucumber/tomato salsa. Both are incredibly delicious.
Entrées continue with style. The veal saltimbocca ($28.00) is a staple in
Italian restaurants, but here it is prepared with particular flair. For
starters, the veal is sautéed to just the right texture; the seasonings --
primarily sage -- are right on the money; and the tender scallopini are
set on a cloud of delectably creamy polenta. Veal may also be ordered Marsala-,
piccata-, or Francese-style.
And speaking of "Francese," the pollo rendition ($22.00) is
also quite excellent. Chicken may strike some as strictly mundane; but it is a
finicky bird that is often the victim of careless overcooking. Not so here. The
boneless breast is moist and tender of countenance, the breading applied with a
light and discerning hand, and it is companioned by shrimp, a tiara of Fontina
cheese rife with diced asparagus and roasted red peppers, and pillowed on more
of that marvelously creamy polenta.
Pasta and seafood hold prominent places on Bacio's bill of fare, and
the combos thereof are highly recommended. You may, for example, choose from
such options as Cannelloni di Pesce ($24.00), rock shrimp and jumbo lump
crabmeat cannelloni stuffed with ricotta, asparagus, and sun-dried tomatoes
baked in a roasted shallot-brandy cream sauce; Fettucini alla Pescatora
($19.50), shrimp, scallops, and jumbo lump crabmeat simmered in a sun-dried
tomato cream sauce over fettuccine; or Zuppa di Pesce "Fra
Diavolo" ($26.00), shrimp, scallops, mussels, and clams simmered in a
spicy pomodoro sauce over linguine.
On the other hand, if you wish to go solo on the seafood, when it is
available, you can't go wrong with the wild ivory king salmon ($32.00). The
filet is treated to a Santa Maria marinade (a light Italian marinade comprised
of extra virgin olive oil, garlic, lemon, and salt & pepper); it is then
grilled, served atop a seabed of baby field greens, artichoke hearts, roasted
red peppers, and crowned with a tiara of colossal lump crabmeat. Superb in
Side dishes should also not be overlooked. Try the angel hair pasta prepared
alio e olio ($5.00) with an emphasis on the alio, which is
guaranteed to keep the vampires away from your door... ditto the fresh sautéed
spinach rife with cloves of tender roasted garlic ($5.00); but even better, in
my opinion, are the superlative deep-fried artichoke hearts presented en
casserole with pomodoro ($6.00).
Desserts are sensuous and satisfying. The crème brûlée ($6.00) sports
rich vanilla crème layered with limoncello custard, a cinnamon-graham
cracker crust, and topping of fresh berries; and the blueberry bread pudding
crowned with a dollop of ginger gelato ($6.00) exhibits a homey but decidedly
elegant air. If you really want to delve into decadence, however, try Aunt
Yolanda's rich chocolate cake served with strawberries and vanilla gelato
($6.00) or the scrumptious homemade ricotta chocolate chip cannoli ($7.50).
Baccio, as noted at the outset, is the ideal setting for a romantic
rendezvous -- but infinitely more. It is the perfect restaurant for all
occasions. I recommend it highly.
Hours: Mon, Weds & Thurs, 5:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.; Fri & Sat, 5:00
p.m. - 10:00 p.m.; Sun, 5:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.; CLOSED TUESDAY
Credit Cards: All major
Attire: Smart Casual
Handicapped Accessible: Yes
Diner is an independent, freelance food writer. His latest review and an archive of past reviews for restaurants around the country and the world can be found on this site on the REVIEWS page.
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