Baci Ristorante Providenciales (Provo), Turks & Caicos IslandsRestaurant Review November/December 2016
Escargot (Snails) in garlic butter
It begins with garlic. The wonderful, heady, intoxicating aromas of garlic. It hits you long before you reach Baci’s beautifully crafted wrought iron gates, and triggers an immediate and irrepressible urge to salivate. Here, the atmosphere is casual, warm and friendly and the bar is always popular – with a gang of ‘regulars’ you can almost set your clock by.
Not much has changed in the past 18 years. The chef, the long-time staff, the regulars, the menu, even the ristorante itself … and of course, the owner, John Draper.
The open kitchen bustles with activity, where Haitian Chef Ketty Firmence, prepares a menu of Mediterranean cuisine infused with delicate hints of the islands. It’s a long-perfected offering of antipasto, pasta, vitello, carne, pollo e pesce, pizza and decadent desserts … and that legendary garlic bread. I know what you’re thinking – it’s just garlic bread. But there is something special about this garlic bread. It’s completely addictive, crispy, with just the right char, and moreover, probably the most important ‘accoutrement’ to your Baci meal.
John is always happy to regale you with the evening specials. Tonight flawless execution included local fish and fresh local lobster tails. First, fresh wahoo done on the grill, with chopped tomatoes, onions and capers. "SOLD!" my fellow diner said with gusto. John smiled and added, "Nice, fresh, yellow fin tuna, it’s grilled with a touch of lemon sauce. You can have tuna any way you want it done. Lobster tails are baked with lemon butter, I have two sizes tonight, 12 ounces and 16 ounces. If anybody wants lobster pasta that’s no problem at all, we use angel hair with tomato and cream sauce, chopped tomatoes, lobster meat and a little herbs."
Baci’s baked lobster tail
Whenever possible, we match food, wine and country, and tonight was no exception. A 2013 Villa Antinori Toscana. Full-bodied and very smooth, with complex aromas and a long and silky finish.
Now, back to the garlic … and the garlic bread. My favourite dining companion is so predictable, if snails are on the menu. But I can’t blame her, Baci’s are fabulous, and these lusciously moist and tender snails were saturated in a rich and potent garlic butter and white wine sauce. Cue the garlic bread, you can’t resist tearing off a piece and plunging it into the sauce, now even richer tasting with the infusion of snails.
That same fabulously rich and potent garlic butter and white wine sauce infused my husband’s shrimps with marvellous flavour.
Roasted beets and goat cheese salad
There is no denying the delicious union of roasted beets and goat cheese, together with spinach, shredded carrots and a toasted almond topping; a fabulous salad, "Loved the dressing." John revealed the recipe: white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey and herbs. "If it has Dijon mustard in it, it’s gotta be good." We all agreed.
The Caesar Salad’s homemade dressing was delightfully creamy, with just the right tang. The romaine was fresh with a wonderful crunch. This lighter appetiser was a great precursor to my lobster tail.
Baci Ristorante in Harbour Towne at Turtle Cove
Lobster season had recently opened and, by virtue of that fact, I got the motherload…a colossal crustacean weighing in at 16 ounces. This titanic tail brought about jaw-dropping stares from every table in our vicinity. A side of pasta was the perfect pairing – Aglio e Olio, pasta in EVOO and garlic. The surface of the lobster had a great, crispy char that I loved. John explained, "The lobster is actually baked in the oven. Take it out of the shell, add a little olive oil, butter, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Just before it comes out of the oven, turn it over in the pan so it gets a little brown on the top." "So that’s why it’s the best on the island…", my fellow diner knowingly approved.
My favourite dining companion is often speechless, and tonight was no exception. When I asked her to weigh in on her lasagna, she looked up and said, "No words." So in went my fork. It tasted fresh – the tomatoes, the herbs. It’s the time-honored, legendary recipe that features five meats – prosciutto, bacon, ham, Italian sausage and ground beef, all covered with cheese and smothered in a rich and thick, slow-simmered tomato sauce.
I took a brief respite from my tantalising tail, to invite commentary from my fellow diner about his evening special of wahoo. "Fantastic piece of fish. Very meaty", The dish was topped with a sauce of chopped tomatoes, onions and capers.
My husband cannot resist Veal Parmigiana and even more so, the ensuing grated parmesan cheese. It’s actually a talented tag team that surreptitiously appear at your table when your food arrives. One that gently sprinkles or vigorously mounds the cheese; and another that brandishes a remarkably large pepper mill, equivalent to the stature and weight of a major league baseball bat. This sizeable baked veal cutlet, with tomato sauce and Mozzarella cheese, left virtually no room on the plate for his side of creamy pasta.
John often stops by and talk frequently turns to the old days. We went back to when he opened, May 1999. "Do you still go out fishing?" we asked. "Occasionally, not as much as I’d like to. I still have my little boat." He fishes for snapper – deep dropping. "It’s a real easy job. And if you don’t come back with anything – at least you’ve had a day on the water."
We asked John what’s popular. "Usually the specials: the fish, lobster tail, lobster pasta. And then all the old-school standard stuff: chicken parm, veal parm, lasagna. I sell a lot of lasagna. Out of the new things on the menu, the Mezzi Rigatoni Florio in the Marsala wine cream sauce with the chicken, mushrooms and caramelised onions. That has turned out to be very popular because it’s a different sauce, it’s not a standard sauce. It’s really tasty."
When it comes to fish at Baci’s, it has to be fresh and it has to be local. "I only do fresh fish, and only from here. I never, ever bring anything in. It’s difficult sometimes, when you don’t have fish. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to bring in fish. On those nights, just do different specials. People that come here all the time understand that. John, no fish tonight? No, sorry. Ok, we understand, because when we come we get nice fish." And for the record John, ‘nice fish’ is an understatement.
When it comes to dessert I have two words, Viva Italia! Tiramisu is the classic Italian dolce. The Chocolate Pate is an unwavering vice of mine. Tonight we indulged in a Creamy Orange Ricotta Tart. Very creamy, you could taste the zesty orange. And perfect dessert pairing? Baci’s infamous specialty coffees.
"Everybody enjoyed everything? Nice night?" asked John. "Always!" we said in unison and smiled, "Always."
Photos by Lisa Adara Photography
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