Monday, August 29, 2011

Venice On The Rock

This article originally appeared in Cyprus Gourmet eNewsletter 50 and The Financial Mirror issue of  July 6 - 12, 2011.

A few years ago while on holidays in Italy, my wife suggested visiting Venice, a city which, to be honest, never appealed to me given the hype. Being a good husband, though, I caved and booked a pair of train tickets from Rome to Serenissima for a three-day sojourn on our way back to Cyprus. I must admit that love is a word I sparsely use. However, that is the first thing that crossed my mind as we walked down the stairs outside the Stazione di Santa Lucia and witnessed Venice’s waterways unfolding before us like long wrinkled bed sheets being hung out to dry. The ornate edifications, the snail-paced gondolas, the blue sky and its streaky clouds reflected on the shimmering water, tourists sitting on the sidewalks dangling their playful feet over the ripples, and a lingering breeze all awoke us to the city’s majesty after the long journey. We spent our time avoiding Piazza San Marco and the throngs and losing ourselves in Santa Croce, San Polo and Dorsoduro where rich foods, local wines and espressos in casual osterias recharged our batteries for our next labyrinthine wander of the city.

To our surprise, we recently came across a pleasant reminder of Venice in Nicosia. Inaugurated a few months ago, Il Bàcaro is a traditional Venetian eatery close to Avlaia on Prodromou Avenue. The restaurant is housed in a cozy corner shop with ample outdoor seating, a gorgeous wooden bar inside and an overall rustic, somewhat French Country sensibility. According to its owners, Zenios Tselepis and his Italian wife, Manuela Migotto, the main idea behind Il Bàcaro is to focus on a limited selection of small dishes and snacks (cicchetti) instead of full-course meals. Additionally, he mentioned during our brief chat, the restaurant strives to change its lunch and dinner menu on a daily basis, a practice which certainly adds a refreshing element of surprise to each visit.

On our night there, we sampled most of the dishes listed on the chalkboard behind the bar. The chicken liver pâté was deliciously creamy and matched perfectly with the sweetness of the raisins sprinkled on the plate. The cheese platter was stacked with wedges of Le Moulis, Asiago and Cumin Tomme, black olives, roasted almonds and red grapes. We had pesto, fresh mozzarella and tomato tramezzini (triangular sandwiches with the crust removed), an Italian sausage with a mild sweet flavor, and a well-executed melanzane alla Parmigianna. Personally, the highlight was the baccalà alla Vicentina (dried salted cod, Vicenza-style), slow-cooked in milk and quite delicate in flavor. I could’ve easily had a large bowl of the fish, mopped up its creamy, oily sauce with some fresh bread, and dropped my head on the wooden table for a long nap. Keep in mind that for those customers with larger appetites, two penne pastas—that night, one with pesto and another topped with zucchini and pancetta—are on offer. For dessert, we split a torta di pesche e amaretti, which we agreed was too doughy and could have benefited from more fresh peach slices.

Il Bàcaro also functions as a wine bar, providing its patrons with exclusive wines from the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia regions of northeastern Italy. Many customers have asked Zenios to expand the wine list to include other areas, but he is adamant in his desire to focus solely on the Venetian. Prosecco, Venice’s more affordable answer to France’s Champagne, stars alongside several reds and whites that are available either by the glass or the bottle. Prices are reasonable, ranging from €20 to €35 for a bottle or about €5 for a glass. That night, I drank a couple glasses of the 2009 Casa Geretto ‘Confidenza’ Refosco, a decent wine with notes of dark cherries that was unfortunately served too chilled for my taste. Regardless of this, I can picture the wife and me sitting on Il Bàcaro’s patio, sipping on a glass of Venetian bubbly, nibbling on the bite-sized portions and shutting our eyes with the dear hope that when they open again we find ourselves observing the city from a vaporetti chugging slowly along the Grand Canal. 

Il Bàcaro – Vini E Piattini, 131 D Prodromou Avenue, 2065 Nicosia. Tel: 22 676969 or 99 143980. Lunch Tuesday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Dinner Wednesday to Saturday from 7 p.m. to about 1 a.m. €20 per person with a glass of wine.

Whine On The Rocks Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Sparkling Spatulas