A common perception shared by folks who’ve never taken advantage of the $15 lunch and $29 dinner prix fixe menus featured during Savor Sarasota is this: “Participating restaurants must be dialing back the serving sizes of their featured menus so they can still make a profit during the 2 week long event.”
Wrong!!!!! I am here to tell you, tummy so full I could burst, that was so not the case when Jill and I had dinner tonight at the ever popular Café Baci, a beloved staple on Tamiami Trail just south of Bee Ridge Road.
Before I launch into the description of our Savor Sarasota 2013 foray to Café Baci, I am embarrassed to admit that we hadn’t been back since about 2 years ago, when Jill’s real estate clients, Sarasota transplants Stan and Nancy Hayes and Tina Jones, invited us to dinner. I recall being enamored with Café Baci’s delicious food at a popular price point, spot-on service, and welcoming ambiance. It’s no wonder Stan, Nancy, Tina and friends dine here every Friday without fail. There’s a reason for such strong loyalty.
We were so overdue for a return to Café Baci, it wasn’t even funny. This 22 year (and counting) local fixture seems to get better with time. Check that . . . it absolutely is better, starting with the pleasure of being seated in Richard’s station, an all-pro server I’ve known for over a decade.
Café Baci turned out to the perfect place to dine during Savor Sarasota, as the prix fixe menu made second guessing of their tantalizing menu less of an issue on my part. It was also especially nice to see the featured Savor Sarasota menu side-by-side with the full menu, which allowed us to see the regular prices vs the savings we enjoyed on the prix fixe menu. Ka-ching! That’s money we would gladly have spent – right back into our wallets! Savor THAT, Sarasota!
There were three options for our first course. Jill went with the sublime Lentil and Bacon soup, while I could never turn down anything of the signature variety. . . in this case the Baci Sacchets, sometimes referred to as “Beggar’s Purses.” These pasta pockets were deliciously filled with four cheeses and topped with a light cheesy cream sauce dressed with truffle oil. Mmmm-Mmmm . . . so good! I WILL beg for these little nuggets any day. Jill took a few bites and declared they were worth a return trip all on their own!
The second course had four options, a Ravioli De Fungi. a Grouper Francese, the Vitella Di Abondanza and Café Baci’s acclaimed Ossobuco – normally served only on Wednesday nights. With our zeal for veal, we decided to have both veal offerings on the menu, with Jill opting for the Vitella Di Abondanza, an incredible sampling of three of the chef’s veal dishes — the Veal Marsala with a brown mushroom sauce, Veal Piccatta with lemon and capers , and Veal Sarda, the latter being a new taste for both of us — a lightly breaded veal cooked with lemon and topped with fresh arugula, balanced atop roasted potatoes and fresh green beans. And yes, this tastes every bit as good as it was presented!
The Ossobuco is a must at Café Baci, so I’m absolutely thrilled that they’ve included it for the occasion. I’m all in for this tender, braised veal shank, served over the delicate saffron risotto. Believe me when I say you could cut the veal with a paper knife! It was so delicious I couldn’t resist sucking the marrow from the shank bone. If the picture doesn’t have you grabbing the phone for reservations, just take my word for it. This is veal shank nirvana!
Dessert was a simple decision at this point. We ordered one each of the two selections on the Savor Sarasota menu, the Tiramisu and the creamy-smooth Crème Brule , the two desserts Café Baci proudly makes entirely from scratch in house.
If you’ve seen the Volkswagon sign and drive commercial with the couple swooning over their dinner experience and the wife says she’s going to dream about ‘that tiramisu’ . . . well this was that kind of dining experience. I mean, seriously — look at the size of the tiramisu! We couldn’t finish it!
Throughout our meal we marveled at the efficiency and professionalism of the wait staff and service crew — right down to the bus staff. We just had to compliment Richard before we left.
“You don’t understand,” he said, “Café Baci is so well run, it’s a breeze to work here. We serve mostly repeat and regular customers every night, it’s like waiting on friends and they treat us so well. Café Baci is where professional servers come to die — meaning no one quits! If we can’t work here, you won’t find us working anywhere else.”
We can feel the love. Taste it too!
Arrivederci Café Baci. But not for long!