Italian rusticity meets modern sophistication at Baci Ristorante, where an Old World appreciation for quality and service marries seamlessly with contemporary style and warmth. The rich, mahogany bar sets an elegant yet unassuming tone, while the classic Italian cuisine menu showcases the brilliance of fresh seafood, succulent meat, and rich accompaniments. Dine in the subtly modern dining room surrounded by art deco accents and crisp white linens, or dine al fresco on the romantic patio. No matter where you sit, a decadent and satisfying meal is sure to be had.Read More ...
Increasingly, San Diego is becoming home to a booming restaurant scene, with new restaurants emerging every month, if not every week. Yet, in an industry where the trend seems to be to pair the dining experience with over-the-top décor, fanciful presentation, and settings that emphasize the vibe almost more than the food, one wonders what happened to old-fashioned hospitality, gracious service, and reliable cuisine. That’s where Baci Ristorante comes in.
In a city where restaurants come and go, Baci Ristorante has quietly stood strong for over 25 years. Located on an otherwise quiet block of Morena Boulevard just across the freeway from Mission Bay, the restaurant hardly calls attention to itself. You’ll recognize it by the modest maroon canopy above the entrance, displaying white scripted letters that gracefully spell out Baci.
What lies behind the plain exterior is one of the city’s finest classic Italian restaurants, one that equates dining with tuxedoed waiters, white tablecloths, and classic preparation—an approach that has earned the restaurant the AAA 4-diamond award eleven times. The restaurant itself is a success story of hard work and steadfast ideals—owner Tony D’Amato opened the restaurant in 1979 as a one-room restaurant; he has not only kept it open for 25 plus years, he has steadily expanded the space from one room to five.
The first hint that elegance lies behind the unassuming façade is the doors—made of polished wood and glass, their surprisingly heavy weight suggests something important lies inside. Swinging open, they reveal a small entryway, with an intimate bar area on the right and the entrance to the dining room on the left. The bar is the first thing that greets the eye—filled with dark mahogany and mirrors, it seems classic and old world. Should you arrive early, do try to stop here for an aperitif.
When it was time for our reservation, we were led to an intimate room with just three tables just off the kitchen, and seated in one of the restaurant’s many semicircular booths. The dining room’s subtle art deco motif—the lighting structures, framed art, and frosted glass—suggested a rich and festive atmosphere, and we at once felt at home. Past the room we were in, we could view a second, more spacious dining room as well as an outdoor courtyard that looked absolutely charming in the early evening light.
Our meal began with a brimming basket of still-warm garlic bread. Lightly crisp, with just a hint of butter and garlic, it was one of the most tempting baskets of bread I’d been served. To distract ourselves from filling up before our menus even arrived, we perused the wine list, which offers an outstanding selection of Californian and Italian wines. While most of the wines are only available by the bottle, a modest selection of wines by the glass offers a decent variety of Italian and Californian varietals; we opted for two glasses—my date a Vola Sangiovese, and myself the house Chianti, Ca Del Doge.
The menu was quite approachable, spanning just two pages yet offering a range of options. In addition to the varied selection of pasta, veal, and seafood dishes, and limited steak and chicken options, Executive Chef Domenico Alioto always offers a rotating selection of fresh fish and daily specials. Some of these specials, such as the Osso Bucco and Veal Picatta, are so popular they are offered more often than not, although they don’t appear on the menu.
We opted to start with a classic Italian antipasti dish, the Carpaccio di Manzo. The broad plate that arrived was lively and colorful: thin slices of raw filet mignon sat beneath a layer of shaved arugula, and a third layer of even thinner slivers of parmesan. Olive oil, capers and a cherry tomato and olive garnish topped off the plate. While the presentation was delightful, we wasted no time scooping up generous slivers of the delicate dish. The meat itself was rich and flavorful, and was complimented perfectly by the earthy arugula and the crisp, biting parmesan. We enjoyed every bite of the authentic appetizer, but perhaps my favorite moment of the course came near the end: when D’Amato, who was making rounds from table to table, passed by, and spying a small portion remaining on the plate, he graciously lifted the platter, divided the remaining Carpaccio in two, and spooned half onto each of our plates. It was a rare and genuine act of hospitality.
Charmed by our gracious host, we next moved to a pasta course, where we sampled the unique Linguine Zingarella, a luscious dish of al dente linguini tossed with a creamy tomato sauce, veal tips, mushrooms, and peas. Each component of the dish was cooked to perfection—the thick, textured sauce was decadently velvety, the veal tender and soft, and the buttery mushrooms, juicy with a slight bite. As a whole, the dish offered the perfect ratio of pasta to accompaniments, and the dish resonated with a harmonious balance of ingredients. We twirled each spoonful slowly, thoroughly enjoying each bite.
We then sampled the most intriguing salad on the menu—the Insalata Capricciosa. As its name suggested, the dish was indeed capricious, with seemingly whimsical ingredients such as candied walnuts, thick rings of red onion, creamy goat cheese, and orange and cucumber slices. Yet somehow everything worked, with the disparate ingredients—which were dressed with an outstanding balsamic vinegar and olive oil—coming together to create a playful and light dish. We found every bite refreshing, serving as sort of a palate cleanser between courses.
For our main course, we were drawn to what seemed to be Baci’s two specialties—seafood and veal. The menu’s generous selection includes enticing dishes such as Salmon Picatta, Sea Bass alla Livornese (fish in a light tomato sauce with white wine, capers, and black olives), Valdostana alla Baci (stuffed veal, cream cheese, prosciutto, porcini, wine, and cream), and Veal Chop Milanese (breaded and pan fried veal). However, this evening we decided to try two specials—which were not on the menu but which we were told were available often.
The Sea Bass Mungia was inspired by a traditional Sicilian preparation of fish with mushroom sauce. A generous plate arrived with two plump sea bass steaks topped with sliced mushrooms, drizzled with a light brown butter sauce, and accompanied by scalloped potatoes, fresh green beans and carrots. The fish itself was thick and substantial, perfectly absorbing the rich, succulent sauce. The sauce—woodsy and buttery—seemed a completely intuitive way to transform an otherwise wholesome fish into a decadent meal. It was easy to see how, in a country surrounded by water, Italy’s cuisine had evolved to so expertly celebrate the bounty of the sea.
The Veal Picatta offered an equally rich celebration of traditional preparation. Two thinly pounded, light pink cutlets were surrounded by a lemon butter sauce and capers, also accompanied by scalloped potatoes and fresh green beans. The veal itself was the most tender meat we had sampled all meal, and the tart sauce cut perfectly against each rich, bite. In the mouth, a full taste burst forth that was at once sweet, sour, and savory—reminding us we should eat picatta more frequently.
As the white of our plates began to slow, we retired our forks and sat back, content. Around us, the lively bustle of conversation rose over Frank Sinatra’s familiar voice, which was piping from hidden speakers. The conversations were varied—a family of six celebrating a birthday, two couples on vacation, a group of well dressed men in suits, perhaps dining to conclude a successful business trip. Most notable, however, was the staff, who seemed to graciously and intuitively transform at each table, effortlessly sensing the amount and type of interaction each table wanted. Children at one table were addressed as “sirs,” the vacationing adults were bantered with, and a bottle of Barolo was decanted with grace and style for the table of gentlemen.
By the time dessert came, we were more than sated by the richness of our meal. We were intrigued enough to order the Crème Brûlée and house-made Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake, although when the generously portioned dishes arrived we managed not more than a few bites. The crème brûlée sat in a wide ramekin, a golden circle of creamy brûlée and crisp caramelized topping, accompanied by a dainty lady finger. The ricotta cheesecake was actually presented as a miniature cylinder, minus the crust, accompanied by a rich Dark Chocolate Chambord Pate—which was also prepared in-house. It’s difficult to follow such a succulent meal with equally succulent desserts, and I must admit we found the food to outperform the after-dinner sweets.
Polishing off the last sips of our after dinner coffee—strong and dark, it was perhaps a perfect cup—we rose from our table. We walked out the door almost reluctantly, not wanting to leave this gracious, hospitable world. As D’Amato waived to us one last time from his seat near the door, we smiled. From beginning to end, we found our meal thoroughly filled with old-world charm and generous hospitality, providing an almost timeless dining experience.
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The nights special and it was great. Got to love it when the bone overhangs the plate. Pork chop over spinach, a great combination. Priced very well.
Fanstastic restaurant. Great atmosphere, food is outstanding. Best service I've had in a long time. This was a business dinner and I highly recommend this spot for either business, special occasion or an intimate dinner with someone special. Excellent!
We went early on a Friday. Food was delicious. Kids portions were perfect size. Bread was awesome. Could not stop eating it. Great place. Coming from NYC it has always been hard to find comparable Italian food, but this place was right up there with places in the city.
I loved this restaurant, very classy, very nice, very affordable. We will recommend it to anyone who asks!
It was our firat time in Baci restaurant and everything from the host, food, and environment exceeded our expectations, will definitely go back there.
The waiter did a great job describing the specials and he was very nice. The food was exceptional. A wonderful experience.
Great Experience, a sure bet and I will be repeating the next time I am in San Diego.
Great ambiance, great food and great service!
Service was amazing and food and drinks were great!!! I would recommend this to everyone.
This restaurant , its food staff and ambience are outstanding. Don't let the location fool you as it is the best for a great meal, servers who know their business and an owner who makes it all happen.
This is really a great place to visit if you would like an authentic Italian meal with some different choices on top of all the classics. Will go there again if I go back to San Diego.
Great service, good food.
We are from out of town and it was our 2nd time to eat here. The atmosphere, service and food is outstanding! We will continue to eat here at least once everytime we come to San Diego.
Love love love Baci. This is our favorite restaurant in San Diego. Just sit back and enjoy the great food and service!!!
The food here is excellent! I had the best salmon piccata that I have ever had in my life. The service was excellent too. I didn't see any young people there, probably because the decor is a little outdated.
Mario our waiter was the icing on the cake for our wonderful dinner! All six in our party enjoyed our meals and had a great time. Only negative was walking in to a very loud and obnoxious drunk woman in the bar, which was right by the front door where had to wait a few minutes for our table.
One of our favorite restaurants in San Diego and we go every time we visit. Have never been disappointed by meal. Pastas outstanding, osso bucco great as is seafood. Wine list if you love good Italian wine fantastic. Not inexpensive but worth it.
Great food and service
MY BOYFRIEND AND I WERE VERY HAPPY TO CELEBRATE OUR 1 YR ANNIVERSARY THERE!!!! AWESOME RESTAURANT
Friendly excellent service, the food is superior, freshest quality meals and a wonderful choice of wines. Very nice place to take someone you want to impress. -Linda S
Absolutely the best service I have ever had. Top quality food and welcoming atmosphere. I visit san Diego roughly 3 times a year and will be sure to return to this establishment.
The ambience and service was absolutely excellent! They were very attentive and were definitely on top of things including refilling water whenever possible. Which is a plus, because I'm basically a camel. The food portions could have been a bit larger for the price but I would gladly go there again for the great service and attentiveness of the staff.
We really enjoyed our experience and would go back most definitely!
Doesn't have the view that Il Fornaio does, but Baci is still hands down my favorite Italian restaurant in San Diego County.
My wife and I went to Baci for our 25th anniversary. The wait staff was attentive and intuitive. The food was outstanding. The ambiance was perfect. The owners came by several times to ensure everything was just as it should be. The chef made a special request that wasn't on the menu. We will go back every time we are in San Diego!
Two friends and I go out for lunch to celebrate one another's birthdays. When we don't know where to go, we always say, "Let's go back to Baci's". The food is always excellent and the service is great. We all live in Bay Park, so it is close and easy to get to.
Although a little out of the way, this restaurant is well worth seeking out. The welcome, food and staff were first class and not overly expensive
Had a great dining experience! The staff was awesome and the food was amazing! Thanks
We went to Baci Ristorante for our wedding anniversary. It was an excellent experience. I loved how we were treated like royalty as soon as we walked in the door. The waiter was very attentive and helpful. I wouldn't want the restaurant to change a thing! Glad I read a previous review someone wrote about the neighborhood being a little scary at first. We would have been scared otherwise. No worries though! It gets nicer the closer you get and we had no problem finding free parking.
I lived in Florence, Italy for 15 years and I have to say this was the most amazing Italian meal I've ever had in the States..for that fact it was better than many in Italy. The staff was incredibly attentive and took time to explain both in English and (Oh, the novelty!) in Italian all the possible variations and choices. The menu was extensive to the point that I was nearly in tears at having to choose! Really, it was amazing. My Lamb shank on a bed of truffled risotto fell off the bone it was so tender, it melted in my mouth and my husband's sword fish was the best ever had. We left with the traditional exchange of kisses...after all that is what "Baci" means!
Everything (food, service, etc.) was superior. Definitely added to our favorite list in the San Diego area.
Baci's a wonderful "hidden" secret in Bay Park/Clairemont: excellent service with TLC and the menu is fabulous. The veal selections were outstanding and delicious!
very good...the restaurant you can't miss
Fabulous - whether it be lunch or dinner; casual dinner/lunch or for a special occasion Baci's is wonderful -
This restaurant will never disappoint. Consistently good dining experience. Appetizers are excellent in both flavor and presentation. Entrees are of a generous portion and well prepared. Wine list has some reasonably priced quality offerings. Staff is quite knowledgeable and professional.
The atmosphere was definitely authentic Italian! The food was marvelous, the staff made everyone feel at home.
Great dining experience, excellent service, true professional waiters and staff, anyone will enjoy this experience, and when in San Diego should always enjoy this great resturant.
I would have never found this restaurant if I wasnt looking for a romantic dinner for my wife and I. I typed in San Diego's Top romantic restaurants and the Baci Ristorante stood out the most. Im coming back as soon as possible right after I brush up on my wine names.lol
For the past 30 years my wife and I always choose Baci for special occasions, and are sure to recommend to out of town visitors. Always great service and food.
Excellent food and service!
As we drove down Morena blvd we discussed how we must have written down the wrong address because the neighborhood didn't appear the place to house a top rated Restaraunt. We were dressed to the T and wanted a fine dining experience. We walked through the door and were surprised to find a highly experienced wait staff dressed in black ties. The atmosphere immediately welcomed us and instantly transformed our scepticism to anticipation. The ambiance was rich but not gaudy, the wait staff superb, the food recommendations amazing and the wine pairings were absolutely correct. We expected the usual small portions for our meals but were shocked to find that we barely had room to enjoy The succulent deserts. Overall excellent dining experience, we will visit again. I highly recommend the Filet.
excellent pick for a nice comfortable dinner.
We made long distant reservations from Canada for our anniversary dinner while in San Diego. We always loook for restaurants that have been around for a long time. There is always a reason for it. You came highly recommended to us and delivered. From the gracious and knowledgeable server, the authentic atmosphere, to the wonderful meal. We will remember our time at Baci Ristorante and will return when in California. Ross and Joanne Ottawa, Canada
If you are in the San Diego area and you want great food, excellent service for a fair price, visit Baci!
I am a fish lover and I cook frequently. We had calamari for appetizer and it was flash fried just right which is very hard to do given the thinness of the flesh and tentacles. The batter was light and the calamari succulent. I also had the swordfish special. It was seared fried then oven baked with Italian herbs. Wonderful ! It was done perfectly, moist and tender. I will definitely go back next time I am in the SD area.
Food was great, lots of food, great service.
love this place.
We came from out of town with a large party for a business dinner. Baci was chosen for it's "best of" in multiple categories and did not disappoint. The ambiance, service, food were all outstanding. I am a creme brulee snob and found this to be in the top 3 ever tasted (and I've tasted a LOT). I would return in a heartbeat!
Food, wine, restaurant as a whole was great.