BY ARIEL CHATESSRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING - TUESDAY AUG 18, 2020
Cafe Baci is a Sarasota staple you might accidentally miss. A fixture on South Tamiami for nearly three decades, this family owned Italian restaurant has remained a classic for a reason. Greeted at the door by their personable front of house manager Leo, we are led into a warmly lit, large dining area with accented Italian stone columns reminiscent of ancient Roman architecture.
Although its high-angled roof and sand facade could easily be mistaken for an Alpine ski-lodge, the interior has true Mediterranean flair. In an Alice-in-Wonderland-like trick, once inside the space appears ginormous compared to the building you remember entering after you parked the car. The extensive menu ticks all the boxes for beloved Italian favorites: fettuccine alfredo, chicken parmigiana and lasagna, but the chef is also plating up a few more elevated takes on family-style, old-school Italian.One such dish is the special pasta of the night featured fluffy, pillowy stuffed cheese pasta smothered in a sun-dried tomato cream sauce with notes of truffle. It was decadent, luxurious and delicious. The type of rich sauce reserved for a memorable night out—certainly a treat.
I have a habit of being drawn to sample as many dishes on the menu as possible, often leading me to order multiple side dishes of various pasta preparations to sample with an entree. At Cafe Baci, each entree is served with a piccola prozione of pasta selected from a long list of classic options. I've narrowed it down to either the Chicken Francese or Penne alla Vodka when our veteran server Susan spookily reads my mind and suggests the exact combination I have been contemplating. A psychic reading with delectable results.The Penne alla Vodka gets a hearty addition of thinly sliced italian sausage and thick cut pancetta, while the Chicken Francese provides a nice, light antithesis with a lemony caper sauce and bright, zingy green beans.
For those even more indecisive than myself, there is the Vitella Di Abondanza which offers a tapas-like sampler of three veal entrees— Marsala, Piccatta, and Sarda—served with a side of your choice. My dining companion opted for the Tortellini alla Pappalina, extending our journey through cheese-filled, cream sauce pasta, which was finished with pancetta, peas and wild mushrooms. Of the three tastings, the crispy, thin Vitella Sarda topped with arugula and cherry tomatoes for a perfect summer bite, stole the show, .
The service was truly outstanding, and the food hits the spot when you're craving no-fuss classic Italian. Open Tuesday through Sunday from 4-9:30pm, Cafe Baci is the origin of nostalgic dinners which is what has earned them their thirty-year spot.