Baci Ristorante

1955 Morena Blvd., San Diego CA 92110
$$$ Italian Top 10 Special Offer Private Room

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.

Old World Charm Where You Least Expect It

Review by

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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Business Info

  • Address: 1955 Morena Blvd., San Diego CA 92110
  • Cross Street: Ashton Street
  • Location: Mission Valley & Clairemont | Bay Park
  • Cuisine: Italian | Pasta |
  • Cost: | Moderate
  • Category: Fine Dining
  • Star Rating:
  • Reservations: Recommended
  • Dress Code: Business Casual
  • Meals Served: Lunch | Dinner |
  • Parking: Street | Private Lot |
  • Payment Options: VISA | Amex | MasterCard | Discover |
  • Corkage Fee: 25.00 | Per 750ml bottle
  • Staff: Domenico Alioto | Executive Chef
  • Phone: (619) 275-2094
  • Features: Full Bar, Famous Chef, Outdoor Seating, Private Room, Takeout Available, Wheelchair Access, Personal Wines Allowed, Lounge / Bar,
  • Occasion: Romantic Dining, Dining Alone, Business Dining, Quiet Conversation, Special Occasion,


Baci Ristorante - Insalata Capricciosa
Baci Ristorante - Braised Lamb Shank Baci Ristorante - Linguine Pescatora Baci Ristorante - Bresaola con Arugula Baci Ristorante - Ricci Pasta Baci Ristorante - Water Fixture Baci Ristorante - Booths Baci Ristorante - Glasses Baci Ristorante - Baci Ristorante Baci Ristorante - Smaller Dining Area Baci Ristorante - Outdoor Patio Baci Ristorante - Outside Seating

Business Hours

Reservations Available
Lunch - Main Dining Room 11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5:30 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Lunch - Main Dining Room 11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5:30 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Lunch - Main Dining Room 11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5:30 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Lunch - Main Dining Room 11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5:30 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Lunch - Main Dining Room 11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5:30 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5:30 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Closed - Main Dining Room


Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, Baci Ristorante is open for lunch on Monday through Friday from 11:30am until 2pm.
No, but there is street parking near the restaurant.
Baci Ristorante's Executive Chef is Domenico Alioto.
100 people
Yes, Baci Ristorante features patio seating.
Baci Ristorante has been open since 1979.
No, Baci Ristorante is open Monday through Friday for lunch, Monday through Saturday for dinner, but they are closed on Sundays.
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Customer Reviews & Ratings

4.5 out of 5 stars based on 1 votes