In recent years, Carolina Group’s stable of restaurants has grown to include Italian diner Bar Carolina and upstairs cocktail spot Tetto di Carolina in South Yarra, as well as Marameo (the replacement for Sarti). But in 2020 focus shifted back to the group’s OG venue, Il Bacaro – a godfather of the city’s dining scene – the CBD stalwart had a head-to-toe makeover and rethink. Now, it's better than ever.
Firstly, it's returned to its original Venetian focus, after a lengthy stint as an Italian all-rounder. But while the menu is condensed, the dishes are more refined. Newer arrivals include the crudo di mare plate, which is like a charcuterie board, for seafood. It’s a delicate arrangement of red prawns with roe, seared kingfish, oysters with cucumber granita, plus tuna and scallops.
Larger dishes include duck breast dressed with peach puree, liver parfait and black barley; suckling pig with morel mushroom, prune and raspberry sorbet; and zucchini risotto with zucchini-flower pesto, mint and cheddar, crowned with silver leaf to celebrate the restaurant’s silver anniversary. (Il Bacaro diehards needn’t fear, though; classic such as the Moreton Bay bug spaghettini and agave-nectar cheesecake aren't going anywhere.)
The Venetian emphasis flows into the 400-strong wine list, which features back vintages from Tedeschi and Giuseppe Quintarelli, two of the region’s lauded producers. Plus, a well-rounded selection of nebbiolo, barbaresco and barolo.
For cocktails. there's a classic Bellini with peach puree; another with St Germain, cucumber and lemon thyme; and an almost-too-pretty lavender version with lavender syrup and crème de violette (violet liqueur). On the savoury side, there’s the intriguing parmesan Martini, which involves aged parmesan, black capers and dry vermouth, served with crisp parmesan crackers.
The space hadn't been touched for 25 years, save for a few coats of paint. So the team tapped original designer Chris Connell to do the refurb. (His original design was inducted into the Eat Drink Design Awards’ Hall of Fame.)
The iconic centrepiece bar remains but the floors are now stained a darker brown, the yellow accents that once swept the space have been swapped for sky blue, and Italian string lighting from Bologna-founded designer Viabizzuno subtly illuminates the intimate space. Walnut timber, polished-concrete render and white Carrara marble also feature throughout. Plus, for the first time there’s also outdoor seating, with space for 25 people.