Jamila Litchmore, Youthlink Writer
I've read once that "great Italian restaurants are like great art ... in the eye of the beholder". Now, I admit, at first glance this statement not only seems vague but also highfaluting - meant only to impress. After careful consideration, however, hopefully you'll realise that what author Bruno Somerset actually means is that the ideal Italian restaurant is crafted.
Ristorante Baci takes elements of your sidewalk Italian café, a trattoria, and appropriates it with less of the hustle but all the vibrancy, history and character one can expect from an Italian ristorante. The eatery prides itself on not offering a meal for more than $1,750/US$20, yet providing good food, good company, great surroundings and, of course, great prices.
"We kid around by saying in our advertising, 'Do you know why great Italian food is so expensive?' and people tend to look at me like 'Do you want an answer to that question'? Ultimately, they say no, we really don't know," states General Manager Jeffrey Lesker.
"We answer, 'Well, neither do we, because it really doesn't have to be'. We serve good quality products, very fresh. We grow a lot of organic produce, good-size portions and [offer] quality food at an affordable price," continues Lesker.
Satiated with history, the Wyndham hotel and, by extension, Ristorante Baci, further adds Lesker, "is looking to reactivate its reputation as a heritage hotel and a favourite spot for locals". This should be no problem considering the affordable, authentic slice of Italy Ristorante Baci offers.
For your primo pastro (appetiser): Bruschetta di Pomodoro
Undoubtedly one of its more trattoria elements, Ristorante Baci pioneers the concept of family-style dining, encouraging you to order a variety of offerings from the menu then sharing an appetizer or two with wanton abandon as the different flavours commingle.
The Bruschetta di Pomodoro encapsulates a mixture of different, very distinct flavours with its plum tomatoes, mozzarella and basil on grilled Tuscan bread with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The Tuscan bread is made by the in-house bakery famous for its cheesecake.
While the typical Italian starter includes cold cuts such as the Bruschetta mentioned, you may also enjoy sharing a pasta dish such as the Fettuccine Alfredo (made even better by its mixture of four cheeses) as recommended by Assistant Chef Alex White, or any one of the many pizza offerings.
For your portata principale (main course): Chicken Parmesan
General Manager Jeffrey Lesker describes the Chicken Parmesan as the "classic, traditional [just like] my grandma makes" choice on the menu. The Chicken Parmesan is a roasted, breaded chicken breast topped with melted mozzarella and marinara sauce, stuffed with mushrooms and served on top of a bed of tasty spaghetti.
*Youthlink's pick, General Manager's pick
For dolce (dessert): Melted Chocolate Fondant
The Melted Chocolate Fondant holds a special place in Ristorante Baci's menu and is the dessert for which consultation (and even a lesson or two) was sought just to make sure it was just right. This chocolate fondant is served with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream and a sweet mango sauce.
Ristorante Baci is located at the Wyndham Kingston hotel in Kingston and was transformed and reopened in May.
Go behind the scenes with General Manager Jeffrey A. Lesker and see what Assistant Chef Alex White and Sous Chef Veyona Martin recommend at www.youthlinkjamaica.com.
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View good eats here: http://youthlinkjamaica.com/gallery/ristorante-baci