Baci Ristorante – An Unforgettable Old Friend

| January 1, 2013 | 0 Comments

New Year’s celebrations have come and gone. The haunting strains of “Auld Lang Syne” have faded from hearing. By now, the year’s business has begun in earnest. “In with the new, out with the old” is a common theme, coupled with resolutions to do better, to be better. The New Year, to many, begins exciting plans for new adventures, new experiences, now pleasures.

Even plans for fine dining are affected. I’ve known foodies to pore over lists of new restaurants and dishes to try, wines to sample. Some favorite eateries are glossed over with the anticipation of going to new places to dine.

There is one restaurant, though, that I submit should remain in the planning. Visiting this fine dining establishment is like seeing an old friend in whose company one finds warmth, comfort and happiness. I refer to Baci Ristorante on Morena Boulevard at Mission Bay, perhaps the finest Italian restaurant in the city. It has served legions of happy guests for over 33 years, an amazing track record. Diners include famous old time celebrities such as Anthony Quinn, Jerry Lewis and Henry Mancini as well as modern celebrities. At lunchtime, local politicians and businessmen may be found there. It is a great venue for deal making by movers and shakers. The restaurant has consistently been recognized with many awards, including the Four Diamond Award for many consecutive years.

The interior seating at Baci.

Tony D’Amato founded the restaurant so many years ago. In the late sixties, Tony D’Amato, a young, hard-working man, then in his 20s, arrived from Palermo, Italy with his family. He worked hard for many years in several local restaurants. He went from dishwasher at Mr. A’s to captain. Then he decided he learned what San Diego people want when they go out for a good meal. Over the years Baci’s has grown from a small, one-room location to the comfortable multi-room restaurant and bar. It also features a comfortable outdoor patio.

With the passage of years, the restaurant has become a family affair. D’Amato’s wife and now grown son work there. The long-time chef, Domenico Alioto, is a brother-in-law. Many of the servers have worked there for many years. Frequent diners are quickly recognized and welcomed warmly, truly like old friends.

There is a sense of elegance at Baci, from the white tablecloths, lovely place settings and art that decorates that walls, that may not be evident from the simple wooden door entrance. A small vestibule leads to a bar on one side and a walkway to the tables on the other. The interior consists of several discrete dining areas and a lovely back patio that is accessed through an array of glass doors. The kitchen is at the far end of the restaurant, shielded from view. Service is quick, professional and attentive. The servers are all dressed in tuxedos, giving the restaurant a air of formality and specialty.

The chef’s recipes have withstood the test of time. Most of the dishes have been on the menu for years and have proven their popularity. Only the freshest of ingredients are used and flavors are full and robust. These are old family recipes and one can almost taste the love in the preparations.

Special mention must be given to the comprehensive wine list. It is unique. One may find special choices that cost many hundreds of dollars, some costing even several thousand dollars per bottle. Most wines have been specifically selected and imported by D’Amato and his chef to complement the dishes offered on the menu. While some are expensive, they are fairly priced.

The antipasti (appetizer) selections include such old time favorites as insalata caprese (Sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella with olive oil and basil) and prosciutto e’ melon (parma ham with melon). The calamari fritti are a full plate of deep fried chunks of calamari that combines satisfying crunch with tasty flavor.

Pastas are homemade and perfectly prepared. Linguini comes either with clam sauce or with tips of veal and tomato. The fettucine alfredo combines cream, parmesan and butter into a rich, flavorful dish.

Seafood, chicken, veal and beef round out the entrée choices. Surrounded by water on three sides, Italy has long ago mastered the preparation of items from the Mediterranean. Salmon is prepared with an amazing yet simple sauce made up of White wine, capers and fresh lemon juice. Pollo al limone adds fresh lemon juice, white wine and parsley to a rich chicken stock that is prepared fresh daily. Veal chop lamberti is a large grilled veal chop topped with a roasted garlic sauce in which large whole pieces of garlic add to their magic to the taste. Ossobuco, a traditional favorite, is an amazing braised veal shank over saffron risotto, with a large center bone full of wonderful marrow. The above are only a few of the many choices, all prepared to traditional recipes.

Dining at Baci Ristorante is an wonderful Italian culinary experience. To me, this is one of the finest venues in the city. Prices are moderate to high, commensurate with the quality of the food and the ambiance, but Baci is not a special event restaurant. It is a place to come just for the pure pleasure of quality dining.

Baci Ristorante is located 1955 West Morena Boulevard off Highway 5 between Clairemont Dr and Balboa Avenue. Reservations are recommended. Call 619-275-2094 for information and directions.

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