Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Bacco and Venere, Temple Terrace, FL

I had a premonition that I was going to become a little enamored of Bacco and Venere.  Named for the Roman deities “bad boy” Bacchus (God of wine and debauchery) and Venus (Goddess of beauty and seduction), I was all in before I ever darkened the door of this 14-month-old Temple Terrace eatery.  Some fairly lofty expectations were conjured up by these images in my hedonistic little brain, which I am delighted to report were not unmet.

Despite its strip mall location, the atmosphere at Bacco and Venere is warm, convivial and romance-conducive.  There’s also a comfy outdoor patio with cooling fans for al fresco dining.  Relaxing, live music is featured on some weekend nights at a pleasing volume that keeps things conversation-friendly. 

You’ll find all of the usual suspects offered as starters, like scarlet, razor thin slices of carpaccio, steamed mussels, fennel crusted fried calamari and addictive Bacco chips with gorgonzola fondue, crispy pancetta and slivers of dried mission figs.

Beef tenderloin carpaccio with shaved aged parmesan reggiano, lemon Dijon vinaigrette and baby arugula:

Bacco Chips:

The Italian Clam Chowder (blistered corn mire poix, pancetta corn crème bay and crispy leeks) is on my top five list of favorite menu items tasted this year.  Not really a soup at all, a pile of freshly steamed baby clams is served atop a shallow, silken pool of cream, corn and pancetta with grilled ciabatta alongside for sopping and carrying all of the magnificently sweet and salty goodness from bowl to lips.  It truly opens up a whole new world of clam chowder enlightenment.

While billing itself as an “Italian” restaurant, menu is separated into two categories – “Old Country” and “New World”, making it an easy compromise for parties with members of diverse palates.   Most Old Country selections are priced at around $15 with the option to add a better than average Caesar or side salad for $2.50.  Traditional, soul-warming favorites can be found here, like classic lasagna, eggplant Parmesan, chicken Alfredo and veal saltimbocca – all delivered in portion sizes that will have you packing to-go boxes for your lunch the next day. 

The only thing more difficult than devouring an entire order of $14.90 Salciccia Alforno from the Old Country menu is not devouring the entire order.  This baked pasta dish is a hearty, cheesily-gooey troth of house ground, spicy Italian sausage; caramelized onions; roasted red peppers; sautéed mushrooms; red wine and Pomodoro sauce that kept me digging my fork around in UD's plate with annoying frequency.  Only annoying to him, not to me.  

On the splurgier end of that menu, seafood lovers can’t go wrong with the $23.90 Seafood Cioppino – a cornucopia of extra-large wild caught Gulf shrimp, clams, mussels, jumbo Nantucket sea scallops, and a salmon filet in fennel tomato shrimp broth, swirling around a center island of angel hair pasta. 
New World offerings include the likes of black pepper crusted grilled tenderloin of beef, fennel crusted tuna and garlic Parmesan airline chicken breast.  Porcini dusted red snapper with pancetta and Parmesan risotto is one of the best snapper dishes I've ever tasted…anywhere.  Scored to prevent curling, the exterior is seared to perfection and yields to a sweet and flaky center. The plate is painted with a candy-like cinnamon pear gastrique that serves as the icing on the cake of this exquisite entrée. Sorry, no photo...you'll just have to trust me.

Dessert options stick to the traditional side at B&V.  New York style cheesecake, tiramisu and chocolate lava cake are available as well as gelato.  Since the waistband of your pants will already be your worst enemy by the end of your meal here, consider sharing a four-bite, fat little cannoli piped with citrus-zesty ricotta and dipped in chocolate and crushed pistachios with your beloved and call it a night.

Bacco and Venere brings desperately-needed upscale dining to northeast Hillsborough county and is a worthy date-night destination from anywhere in the Tampa Bay area.  Service had a few unsteady moments on my visit (but remained friendly and was neither inattentive nor uncaring), which I attributed to the newness of the restaurant. Recommended.

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My blog entries contain the unmitigated, and sometimes unforgiving, dining truths and perceptions I experience as an ordinary restaurant patron. Every meal I post about has been fully paid for by one of the participating members of my personal dining party. I do not engage in the gratis blogger freebie dining events I'm constantly invited to attend and never will. If I ooze font-like love for a restaurant in my blog, it's because they totally earned it…not because they gave me free food or knew I was going to share the experience on the internet.

1 comment:

  1. Yummy!! All of this sounds delicious. I so need to plan a trip for a visit with you two!