Let me preface this review by saying that I fully intend to return to Bacco in the near future to give this Italian restaurant another try.
In a word, my experience at the lauded Bacco was disappointing. My preconception built of all the good things I had heard from locals and read in other reviews crumbled during my first course and tumbled into ruin by dessert.
To start, I ordered an appetizer of grilled octopus (Insalata di Polpo) served on a bed of arugula, celery and red potatoes. I adore this cephalopod for it’s chewy texture and delicate but sea-salty flavors. The appetizer was very, very salty and the sucker-bearing arms of the octopus were definitively, instead of lightly, charred. The bitterness of the char coupled with the salt level was just shy of offensive– the saving grace being the arugula’s spiciness and the very lemony vinaigrette.
My friend ordered fried squash blossoms filled with a cheese mixture, which were nice and light but hardly memorable.
My second course was a bowl of homemade pasta, rendered pancetta and a spicy tomato sauce, a dish recommended by our server. The pasta was cooked just under al dente. The pancetta hadn’t been rendered to sufficient crispiness but was in somewhere in between and tasted like sandy gelatin. I regrettably sent my pasta back to the kitchen.
As a side note, our server handled this uncomfortable perfectly, offering to recommend other dishes and bring me a menu. (I didn’t order another entrée.)
The bowl of tonarelli alla carbonara across from me looked delicious; my only complaint that it tasted too creamy to be made the traditional eggs-only way.
For dessert, my friend and I split the tiramisu, an obvious classic choice, and the vanilla bean panna cotta. The tiramisu was nothing special but also nothing terrible; it was the burger and fries of the dessert menu. The panna cotta, while tasty, was not so much a panna cotta but a pudding. Nigella Lawson describes panna cotta perfectly: it should quiver like a courtesan’s inner thigh. This panna cotta did not. The interior was melty and pudding-like and coated the back of my spoon as opposed to succumbing to it.
Our server was delightful and knowledgable about the menu, an increasingly rare combination. She was very sorry about my undercooked pasta dish and handled it with grace. It’s just as embarrassing for the patron to send back a dish as it is for a kitchen to receive it.
I’ll be returning to Bacco not because of my experience but because I’ve heard too many good things about this Mount Pleasant restaurant not to give it another try.