Jan Norris: Food and Florida

Food, Restaurants, Recipes and Pre-Disney Florida

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Il Bacio Hosts Comedian Guy Richards – Taping Live Tonight

September 24th, 2009 · No Comments

guyrichardsTwo reasons to go: The Guy Richards routine (A BiPolar Man) is funny.  And, the food.

That’s right — the food.

I’ve dined at Il Bacio (“kiss” in Italian) recently. I politely accepted (with not a little trepidation) an invite to sample small plates off their menu at a tasting in the club that was formerly City Limits – tucked away on a side street off Atlantic Ave.

Club dining? Typically it’s an afterthought —  just a way to meet laws that allow a certain number of people in a club, consuming copious quantities of alcohol.

But surprise: The food is good!

Here, however, chef Peter Masiello most lately of Bova, is spot-on with several dishes.                                     

The big don’t miss is the very grown-up  truffle mac n’ cheese.

Now, a confession: I am beginning to tire of this “comfort food for adults” stuff that’s playing out all over the restaurant scene. Lobster mac n’cheese, truffle mac n’cheese, brisket mac n’cheese, chocolate mac n’cheese  – OK, I made up that last one – but you get the idea.

I actually told the server, who said we’d love it, not to make it especially for me, and explained how often I’ve had it lately with fairly mediocre results. But, my partner wanted to try it.  Good thing.

An art to getting it right

Masiello’s version of  it had me wanting to break my friend’s eating arm on the spot to avoid sharing. It arrived in its ramekin hot and creamy, perfectly seasoned and not overwhelming with truffle oil  (smelly sneakers aroma when it’s too heavy-handed). The “mac” was al dente — another plus, since most baked pastas are overcooked – why? –  and the pasta is no longer distinct. Not so here.

Another standout, though in a too-large portion (my opinion), was the arancini: classic Italian rice balls. The baseball-sized crispy-coated orbs were creamy but chewy in the center — a perfect texture. Think a kind of molded risotto, with melty provolone and pieces of salty, smoky proscuitto  – mouthwatering even in description. A fresh pomodoro set it off perfectly. I want smaller portions, however: large foods on a plate makes me nervous.

Choices for everyone

Two other winners from this tapas group were the tuna crudo, with an avocado salsa and a wasabi dipping aioli (we could never make the chips/dip come out even – but kept trying as they were so flavorful), and the shrimp and white bean oreganato. I adore white beans – actually, beans of any kind – and if this dish had some creamy polenta under it, it would have been my idea of the perfect entree. The fat deveined shrimp were cooked by someone paying attention: not at all tough.

Ample portions of these small plates (and others — skewered skirt steak with peppers, crab cakes with a tropical pineapple salsa and a little chili fire, and their own house-smoked salmon: interesting) will fill you up and prepare you for the also good cocktails.

Example: One mean classic gin martini – dry, thank you -with two olives, and a mojito. Even if you’ve had good ones before, the bartender here isn’t just slinging drinks, he’s a  mixologist – the bar version of cooking. As with stove-jockeys, there’s good and bad — this one’s good. He knows what “dry” really means in martini parlance – a rapidly fading language.

So it’s not the most inspired food: What it is is just right for this crowd – flavor-based, familiar dishes, small plates for sharing, that have a nice fresh element to them.

Decor not same-old

Gray-white Italian leather covers oversized davenport-like seating, and crystal chandeliers dangling overhead and color-saturated lighting angled upward along the ceiling and walls, make for a comfortable yet Sobe-like interior.  The music is great, too — a DJ spins a good variety of contemporary dance tunes that crank louder as the night waxes. (Acoustics inside could be a better, but it’s a personal nit about hard surfaces and how sounds bounce to the ear. With a crowd of people to help absorb it, might work better.)

In the large palm-lined courtyard, there is a hilarious little “beach” — wooden high-back beach chairs on a sand-covered area with tiki torches — surrounded by palms, and elsewhere, canvas-shrouded cabanas. They’re little rooms:  perfect for private tete-a-tetes or groups who like being set among the action, yet partially hidden from view.

A long outdoor bar was lively the night we were there despite the heat. In season, it will rock hearty here with live bands on stage and a late-night dance scene.

Tonight: Guy Richards and an after-party for charity

Guy Richards has been around South Florida  a few days shooting some lifestyle video, and appears tonight ($15!) at the club. There will be a live taping, so get in on the party.

A breast cancer group is the recipient of proceeds from the after-party in the courtyard.

Il Bacio

Tags: Talking Tables

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