Ralph Brennan's BACCO
When it comes to cities rich in great food, New Orleans is definitely near the top of my list. I would find it nearly impossible to pick a favorite restaurant in the city. There are far to many great ones each with their own special flair, but consistently when you think of New Orleans you instinctively think of seafood and Cajun cuisine. Having said that, I have been pleasantly surprised on more than one occasion by high quality Italian food in this city.
Ralph Brennan is a very well known restaurateur in New Orleans and has numerous establishments throughout the city. Now I have to say that I am pretty skeptical when it comes to this type of set up. I tend to believe that most restaurants should stick to what they know and do exceptionally well. In this case though, I have to say that I was suitably impressed by BACCO.
Now let me tell you, Italian is by far one of my favorites. In true shameless style, fresh pasta with a great cream sauce or other decadent topping is at the top of my list of things to order. However, as anyone who truly loves Italian food, I can be pretty finicky about my pasta.
The BACCO menu was sufficiently varied with numerous choices for starters and entrees. The one thing that stood out almost immediately to me was the Truffle Fettuccine appetizer. Ohh...yeah. I have to get that!
It was just as good as it sounds. The fettuccine was freshly made (as is all there pasta) and perfectly al dente. The sauce was a combination of butter, olive oil, white truffle oil, and black truffle puree. Then just to make sure that they had a good $20 dollars worth of truffle in the dish they add some shaved black truffles. This was topped with what I assumed was diced flat leaf parsley and shaved Parmesan. Friends, I am in love...this is one of the best pasta dishes I have ever had. Of course, with that much truffle it would be hard for it to be very bad.
Now, when it came to the entree, I had to ensure I held up my shameless nome de plume and continue with the truffle theme. So, I ordered the filet mignon topped with black truffle butter and a veal demi-glace with roasted potatoes and carrots, and wilted greans. The steak was ordered medium and was a little closer to medium well, but the flavor was exceptional...perfectly seasoned and then topped with truffle butter. It was absolutely sumptuous. The potatoes were a little under done for my taste, but overall the entire dish was great.
PLATING:The was very straightforward and traditional for an Italian restaurant. While I don't think this is a requirement for great food, it does show attention to detail and influences the overall dining experience. They could improve on this front, but it is certainly not sloppy.
For me this was another mild miss. The decor is modern, which by itself is okay. But as sometimes happens with a modern aesthetic, it comes across a little stark. It is predominately hard flat surfaces which causes even quiet conversations to carry. This leaves the diner with the overall impression that they are in a noise restaurant and not a high end establishment.
The wine list at BACCO is very well suited to their menu. Nothing exceptional that I noticed, but I am sure no one would be disappointed.
Our server was was very attentive. Though he did come across a little insincere as everything we asked about just happened to be one of his favorite items on the menu. Now, I guess that is actually possible, but it came across as not being genuine with his recommendations. We were seated promptly even though we had no reservations. However, this was a weekday night and a little later in the evening. I wouldn't try doing that on the weekend.
The pricing is higher than many restaurants, but it is a fine dining experience, so that should come as no surprise. It is worth the money.
I will be back to BACCO when I am New Orleans again. Although there were a few misses that almost dropped them to a three knife rating, the food was good enough to get them a four-knife review. Give this a try next time you are in town.
BACCO is located at:
310 Chartres Street
New Orleans, Louisiana