Lunch 7: Date: Sunday 2/26/12
We were very excited and fortunate to have many family members as guests for this outing. We elected to meet on Sunday and were delighted to have Stephanie home for the weekend (turned 24 on the 24th), the rest of the family, and even Uncle Gary drove down for the afternoon to join us. Sounded like a great time to go to Baci Café Resturanté, 500 Main St., www.bacibistroandbar.com. Not really sure what to call this place: is it Baci? Baci Bistro and Bar? (as depicted on their website), Baci Café? or Baci Café Restauranté? (as shown on the building neon sign). The term baci, I presume, comes from Italian “baci”, which means “kisses”; must be why they “dot” the “i” in Baci with a heart. I am confused about the spelling of restauranté—if trying to be Italian, should be ristorante (no accent)—makes no sense trying to butcher la bella lingua….sorry Enrica—cosa si può fare?
When I mention to someone that I’ve been to Baci, they wonder if perhaps I meant Bocce (east Pleasanton bocce ball courts/restaurant), since the term bocce is often mispronounced/Anglicized as baci (in Italian, I think bocce would be bo-chā´), but I digress… I have been there (meaning Baci, although I’ve also enjoyed Bocce) many times over the years, both for lunch and dinner, and have always found it acceptable—not the best in the west, but certainly not bad. Mom had never been, and I’m not sure about the rest of the family. I called to make a reservation; not knowing if that was necessary, but as it turned out, there was only one other large party there plus a table of two. Not too busy for a Sunday noon lunch/brunch on a nice sunny Pleasanton weekend. Started to wonder if we should have gone to play bocce? But again, I digress…
Critique #1 location: 5 points. We’re still exploring the highlights of downtown Pleasanton dining!
Critique #2 ambiance: 4.5 points. I like the way a single room can be designed to provide a lovely dining experience. Boring layout, but the décor is fun. I have always liked the lighting and ceiling medallions (copied that idea for my own home). Emily especially liked the provision of crayons at the table to draw on the white paper placemats—they even have an exhibition of patrons’ finest art contributions….some decent entries, I might add! Last time we were there, Gary used the crayons and placemat to illustrate how we were going to strategize our mixed doubles game plan to win the next match. I think it helped!
|Baci interior: love the medallions|
Critique #3 menu: 4 points. The presence of a full bar greatly improves this score! We did see several menu items that were worth trying and many seemed very interesting. I went with the salmon sandwich and side salad, while both Gary and Jordan ordered the seared Ahi on greens. Emily was happy to find a BLTA on the menu, while Mom went for a more classic choice for her: the grilled fillet-steak sandwich topped with crispy onion rings. I was happy to see that the lunch/brunch menu was different than what you would find at dinner; smaller portions, better prices, and good lunch choices. One major criticism: the restaurant name would suggest Italian food (or at least Americanized-Italian style food). Really didn’t see that flare on the menu, other than items served over pasta. Not thinking you’d see a lot of seared Ahi in Italia!
|Mom and her steak sandwich--note the art work on the wall|
|Happy Birthday Steph!|
Critique #4 service: 4 points. We would have gone with a five for this category if based solely on the effort of our server. He was one of only two total servers working—but again, it wasn’t very crowded. He also tended the bar, but was very attentive to us. Steph had requested her Bloody Mary to be made spicy. When she later ordered the salmon in dill sauce, our server said he could have it blackened (not a menu choice) since he remembered that she liked spicy. Impressive. The fault of the overall service, though, was that the food took a very long time to be served. I repeat, it was not crowded. The other large party was served their food shortly after we had arrived. They were completely finished and tending to their bill by the time our food came. I’m not one to watch the clock, but it seemed like a good 30 minutes. Pretty long time for our starving crowd. Gary had ordered a cup of clam chowder—that also was not served for quite a while. Good thing we had the crayons…
Critique #5 food: 4.5 points. Mom was very happy with her steak sandwich-tender and very tasty. She was very happy also to take ½ home for later consumption! My salmon sandwich could have been served on something more interesting than a french roll—maybe focaccia? Again, really no hint of Italian-style food seen here. I liked my side salad, although when I tried Emily’s fries I thought they were pretty boring. Overall, the food was very good and-silence befell the crowd-we were all happy, especially now that we were finally eating! Jordan liked his Ahi—that might have been the first time he tried that...such a brave young man. One of the best things of the day was the clam chowder-very good, hot, interesting. Steph really liked her blackened salmon with dill—had a ton of dill, so I’m glad she went with the blackened spices to balance that flavor. Also, Uncle Gary was happy with his lobster ravioli-and he can be a tough critic!
|Uncle Gary visits, too!|
Critique #6 value: 5 points. Baci certainly shines here, at least for lunch. The prices were very reasonable: $13-15 per entrée. The bar items did increase our bill substantially, but that was as expected. Definitely in line with other downtown establishments for lunch prices with better food, lovely ambiance and an overall very nice experience.
Overall score for Baci Café Restauranté: 4.5 points: our highest thus far! I’ve always heard mixed reviews for this place: some love it, some unimpressed. We had a very enjoyable lunch for our extended party that day. We will definitely return for future meals and recommend this to our friends.