The stand-up bar at the front of Il Bacaro has a nice casual feel to it. You can drop in for a few minutes, have a quick glass of wine and a tiny snack, and be on your way. Or you can claim a seat at one of the three small tables and linger awhile, directing your attention to some of the dozen or so wines served by the glass. Cold appetizer trays line the counter, an espresso machine grinds away in the background, and dancehall reggae or pop music plays on the stereo. Waiters from the main dining room come and go with drink orders, and customers drift in and out. Snatches of Italian can be heard from time to time.
The appetizers on display are called "cichetti" - think of them as bite-size Venetian tapas - and you can choose from a couple dozen varieties to go with your wine. It's all simple stuff like roast eggplant, roast potatoes with rosemary, baked tomatoes, and thick asparagus spears, plus mussels, sardines and other seafood and some excellent prosciutto. The prices contribute to the casual vibe - most food items are Y50 to Y100 (for small portions, naturally), while wines run Y200-580 a glass.
Behind the front bar are a couple of large dining rooms where you can order a full meal. The food is very good - we enjoyed great grilled fish and lamb chops, game meats in autumn and lovely mixed-appetizer plates. Prices are somewhat higher than you might expect for this rather unglamous dining space - maybe Y6,000-8,000 for dinner with drinks - but the food is worth it.
You can order from the restaurant menu even at the bar though, so if you find yourself lingering over drinks longer than expected you can round out your appetizers with a lamb chop or an order of lasagna before heading out into the night.
by Scott Cooper