HYDE PARK – As you walk around Hyde Park, the suburban feel can make it easy to forget you are still in the city of Boston. If you step into a restaurant named Antonio’s Bacaro, you might just think you have landed in Italy. It opened about a year ago with a simple goal of bringing a Venetian style bacaro to Hyde Park.

“The whole idea about this place was to get as real Italian as we possibly can. I didn’t just want to have another American-Italian place,” said owner Joe Garufi.

“We really do offer the traditional dishes that are served if you were to go to Venice and you were sitting down there in the café,” added his wife Sonia. “They’re simple dishes. There’s not a lot to them and they’re so good and I think that’s the key.”

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Before the Garufi’s opened Antionio’s, they did their research by hiring chef Anthony Haley, and bringing him on an eating extravaganza through Northern Italy.

“We literally ate our way through it,” he said. “He [Joe] just wanted me to experiment and get a taste of the food and the cuisine, and he wanted me to just take what I learned there and put my spin on it and bring it back here.”

The type of recipes they brought back can be summed up in one word.

“Simplicity. I mean everything here is very simple. Over there everything I had was 3, 4, 5 ingredients. So here, I try to do the same thing. Ninety percent of my menu we make from scratch, and the other ten percent, if I can get it imported here from Italy, we do,” Chef Anthony explained.

Since the food at Antonio’s Bacaro is inspired by Northern Italy, the recipes are a bit different than your typical red sauce favorites.

“Northern Italian has got more of a European influence. So there’s a lot less tomatoes and olive oil. They use more butter, cream sauces, cheese, smoked cured meats,” Anthony said.

Prosciutto wrapped mozzarella at Antonio’s Bacaro (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Starters include a bountiful Salumi Plate loaded with imported meats and cheeses, and crispy Prosciutto stuffed with melted mozzarella.

“Stuffed prosciutto is probably our most popular dish,” Anthony declared. “It’s fresh mozzarella, we wrap around it some prosciutto, and then we crisp it up real nice so the cheese is all gooey on the inside and the prosciutto is nice and crispy. Top it with some housemade balsamic vinaigrette, some basil oil, and people love it.”

For something fried, the Calamari is a good choice, but the oversized Arancini is even better.

Arancini at Antonio’s Bacaro (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

“They’re traditionally stuffed with ground beef and peas. I wanted to make my own with a little twist,” Anthony said, “so we added lamb and have some more herbs in there. There’s light, fresh mint and rosemary, and we stuff it with some mozzarella, so when you open it up it’s really oozy. I mean it’s so good.”

Pastas here are pretty much perfect, whether you go for something simple like the Pomodoro, or something a bit more decadent, like the Spaghetti Carbonara.

“We get big blocks of Pecorino Romano cheese, and then we crisp up some pancetta, really, really crispy. Then we just toss it in a lot of butter, Pecorino Romano cheese, some egg yolk, and then fresh ground pepper, and that’s it,” Chef Anthony said.

Bigoli Anchovy at Antonio’s Bacaro (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

For a pasta dish you will rarely see outside of Venice, order the Bigoli Anchovy with caramelized onions. It’s a sweet and salty combination so delicious that it will turn anyone into an anchovy aficionado.

“I’m not a huge anchovy person, and I love this dish,” Sonia said. “He [Anthony] takes the anchovies and he reduces it and then adds the caramelized onions to it. People take a bite of that and they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh; it’s so good.’”

Another dish that always gets rave reviews is the Tagliatelle Ragu, Italian comfort food as its finest.

“Slow cooked beef, veal, and pancetta in a tomato sauce. We cook it on the stovetop for about three, three and a half hours, get it really, really tender,” Anthony described. “With some red wine, and with the fresh pasta, and we finish it with some freshly ground nutmeg. It’s really aromatic.”

Veal Osso Buco at Antonio’s Bacaro (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Entrees at Antonio’s can be light, like the pan-seared, espresso rubbed Salmon, or hearty, like the slow cooked Veal Osso Buco.

“We braise it for about three hours with some figs and tomato. So the figs give it like a sweetness, but it’s also like an earthiness to it. So it’s kind of like contrasting flavors,” Chef Anthony said.

For dessert, the cannoli trio is a sweet way to end the meal.

Cannoli Trio at Antonio’s Bacaro (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Before you paid you bill, take a minute to take in your surroundings, because not only is Joe the restaurant’s owner, he’s also a restaurant designer. He built Antonio’s Bacaro with comfortable red leather booths, marble tabletops, and an inviting bar, to create an atmosphere that encourages customers to linger.

“When you go over to Italy, when they get together, they’re getting together,” Joe said. “They’re relaxing and they’re enjoying their food, and that’s what I want people to do here. Take a step back, relax, enjoy your friends, your family, your people, and that itself rewards us.”

You can find Antonio’s Bacaro at 5 Fairmont Avenue in Hyde Park, and online at antoniosbacaro.com.

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