visited Thursday April 18, 2013
My husband and I visited this restaurant a few months back and had a really good first experience in this new Carmens Hotel restaurant. So much so that we wanted to bring a few people here to try it out with us again. It was my mom's birthday dinner and my brother and his girlfriend joined us for what was indeed an incredible meal that all left us in a food comatose.
I had made reservations, but for a weeknight meal its probably not necessary. I also came earlier in the day to drop off a cake I had made for some birthday wishes to be made on. The staff was very accomodating to this request and informed me that $1.50 per person would be charged for cake cutting and dishes etc. No prob!
We all made it on time for our 7:30pm reservation and were seated promptly. Our server Will was amazing. He made the experience feel like fine dining, serving the ladies first, always serving on the correct side, referring to us as sir's and ladies' and being extremely friendly but still professional. We were quickly served water and brought out two small fresh buns that were served individually to each guest along with a trio of rabbit liver pate, balsamic vinegar in olive oil and marinated mushrooms. This was of course complimentary and I really appreciate when a restaurant goes that little extra step with the bread instead of just throwing down a basket of white tasteless starch. The pate was a delightful spread and the mushrooms were acidic and salty.
I ordered the Riesling by the glass for $7 and it was nice. The glassware, cutlery and plates were again more indicative of a fine dining restaurant, but the prices and rest of the decor were no where near fine dining. The decor in my opinion has a bit of an identity crisis. Some sports bar elements (read: flat screen tv's all over the walls), some bistro elements (read: simple chairs and tables that could truly be elevated by a simple white table cloth), some italian trattoria parts (read: open kitchen and open wood burning oven pizza making station) with some new york hotel bar elements (read: beautiful bar that invites you to order some classic cocktail). And to add they have some random posters of Sylvester Stalone, Audrey Hepburn, Leonardo DiCaprio and other actors that have no relation to each other or the theme in my opinion. Someone needs to come in and take all those pics down the tv's out and simplify it. But thats neither here nor there..the food shines here. Read on.....
Our party decided to order two pizzas for the table to share as apps, under my suggestion from the last time we came and how delicious the pizza was. We had the Trentino which had huge chunks of bacon that tasted closer to pancetta, mushroom, slivered potatoes, mozzarella and a rosemary olive oil base. It was amazing as was the second pizza the Calabria that had chicken, red onion, mushrooms, red bell peppers, mozzarella, bacon and a tomato base. The pizza's are huge maybe 12" and after we all sampled a piece or two we still had a full pizza left over to bring home. The pizzas are all $15 and would be a filling meal for one person in my opinion. They are thin crust, which isn't my favourite style, but the toppings and preparation are perfect so it really didn't matter. You can also substitute for a whole wheat crust and make it into a calzone which would be an excellent meal I assume.
Our main courses were timed just right to give us a slight breather after the pizza. Baci prides itself on 3 main dishes; the rabbit, osso bucco & lamb shank all of which are slow braised in their own distinct sauce and served over pretty much whatever you like (pasta, polenta, veggies). The small portion runs for $14 and the large is $21. After being here already once, I knew a secret..... THE PORTIONS ARE GINORMOUS!!!. The small will easily feed 2 people who have had an app and the large is just insanely large. Basically my mom and I ordered the large lamb shank to split, that they thoughtfully separated onto two plates and after filling our bellies to the max, we looked like we barely touched our food. We went home with a whole other meal for the next day for essentially $10 each! But was it good you ask???.....heck ya, it was delicious!!! The lamb shank was tender fall off the bone meat in a fennel red wine demi glace and served over buttered fettucini. It was extremely flavourful and you could taste the hours it had been slow cooking in juices.
The rest of the party all had similar experiences with incredibly huge portions and exceptionally well prepared food. We were all groaning of being stuffed yet it seemed we kept eating. The pasta dishes this week were also all half price and my brother and his girlfriend ordered a small Via Pescara (seafood pasta) to share along side their osso bucco. This picture doesn't give you an indication of how big it was but it was piled high and chock full of seafood and all of our eyes opened wide in disbelief when the server set it down and jokingly said "this is what the chef thinks is a small". For $7 it was like stealing food.
We were the last table left in the restaurant and every table prior to us had all left with take out containers and some with bags of food. We were no exception. It honestly looked like we ordered a whole other meal to take home. We were happy campers to say the least.
And the homemade cake I had made was brought out with the candles I had directed them to use. Somehow we stuffed that cake in but not without belt unbuckling. And that $1.50 cake serving fee was no where to be found on the bill at the end. Definitely a homey restaurant that wants you to feel welcome and at ease there for your celebrations.
For $117 five of us gorged on food, all had a huge amount of leftovers for lunch the next day and were treated to amazing service for this special occassion.
Overall 4.8 This is honestly extremely good Italian cooking, with exceptionally thoughtful service and amazing portions and prices. You must try this place and bring a hungry crowd so you can impress them with your restaurant selection. If only they didn't have those silly posters and tv's on the wall this place would be a 5*! Maybe they'll let me come redecorate?