Maybe No Orgies, but Definitely Great Food

December 17, 2004

IN ancientRome, Bacchanalwas the name ofthe place wherethe orgies ofBacchus the godof wine were held.These nightlongBacchanalia heldonce every threeyears were so wildthat the RomanSenate bannedthem in 186 B.C.RestauranteBacchus in Santa Ana, a fast-developingCentral Valley town 12 kilometers west ofSan José, is not known for its Bacchanalia,but certainly offers an opportunity for afeasting spree of Italian and Mediterraneanfood.WORD of mouth has spread rapidly,and diners, including this country’s elite,are flocking to this newly opened restaurantand pizzeria.A party of five of us arrived on aSaturday night and found the spaciousrestaurant full, but a table on the verandawas immediately set and we were accordinglyseated. This courteous service continuedthroughout the evening, and ourwaiter, who spoke good English, wasattentive and obliging.Bacchus has taken up residency in anesthetically renovated 134-year-old historicadobe house, which offers bothindoor and alfresco dining on the coveredpatio and veranda.Italian owners Piero and MaurizioGallo have amalgamated rustic simplicitywith present-day sensibilities.“We are not only a restaurant but also agallery, and we plan to change our art displaysregularly,” Gallo said. “The housereflects this country’s traditions, and ourintention is to mix culture and Costa Ricanand Italian art with good European food.”WE ordered a liter of red house wine,Montepulciano de Pasqua that was quiteacceptable for the price of ¢3,849 ($8.50).An extensive wine list is on hand for thosewishing to imbibe something less basic.We enjoyed the fresh, warm bread,accompanied by an herb-and-garlic creamcheese, as we waited for our appetizers.The salmon carpaccio was worthy of aspecial award for presentation and flavor.Served with a crunchy Parmesan biscuit,avocado and arugula drizzled with lemonysesame-oil dressing and sprinkled withcapers, it was deemed “orgasmic.”The Caesar salad, authentically madewith romaine lettuce, had a whole anchovysitting on top – a nice touch for those whoaren’t partial to these salty morsels, yetsatisfying to those who feel a Caesar saladwithout anchovies is no Caesar salad at all.The mixed grilled vegetables servedwith bruschetta and the classic eggplantparmigiana are both recommended. Otherinteresting appetizers include salmontartare, warm trout salad, and French onionsoup. Prices range from ¢2,000-¢2,850($4.50-$6.35).The five meat, one chicken and threefish choices priced from ¢3,250-¢4,750($7-$10.50) were passed by, as were thepizzas and calzone from ¢2,950-¢3,950($6.50-$8.95).EVERYBODY was in the mood forpasta, and the choices included both homemadeand what’s listed on the menu ashard pasta – obviouslythe packagedvariety. All arepriced from ¢2,350-¢3,250 ($5-$7).The homemadelasagna created fromGrandma’s recipewas moist and tasty.The tagliatelleBacchus withshrimp and thebucatini with baconall came with freshtomato sauce andreceived neitherraves nor complaints.The gnocchi,small potatodumplings, were ofa soft consistencyand delicious, however the Gorgonzolasauce was very mild and needed a moregenerous addition of cheese.THE portions were not excessive –possibly not sufficient for large appetites –but this allowed room for appetizers anddesserts. We ordered the chocolate moussethat appeased the chocolate lovers,although it was slightly gelatinous in texture.Not to be missed are the fried raviolistuffed with apple compote and servedwith ice cream and caramel sauce in a filigreebasket of spun sugar. This exoticextravaganza is a captivating sight tobehold and blissful to eat. Prices fordesserts range from ¢1,350-¢1,750 ($3-$3.85).As we left, we agreed we’d had apleasant, relaxed dining experience in anattractive ambiance offering good serviceand quality Italian cuisine.

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