By Suzanne Parker
There’s no school like “old school,” and the folks at Il Bacco really have that classic Italian feel down. You expect the Rat Pack to come swaggering in. The feel is like a private club to which every newcomer is welcomed as a member.
The host takes you aside, with his arm draped around your shoulders, to tell you that the reason your reservation is being delayed is he’s waiting for a larger, more desirable table to open up for you. The waiter recites the specials in a conspiratorial tone, as if he’s telling you a secret he doesn’t want the other diners to hear. Whether or not this is an act—it works. They make everyone feel special. To complete the picture, a strolling guitarist visits each table, claiming to be able to perform any song in any language. Having no idea what to request, we punted with “Come Back to Sorrento.”
“Now you’re talking,” he responded, breaking into song.
Il Bacco has been a fixture on Northern Boulevard in Little Neck since 1992. It’s a family affair, operated by its Calabrian owner, Giuseppe Oppedisano, with his daughter Tina Maria. The chef, Luca Zannoni, from Rimini, Italy, is also currently the executive chef for the Italian National Soccer Team.
Multiple regions of Italy are represented in the menu, including the red sauced hearty fare of the south, and lighter, (both in color and heft) of the north.
The waiter’s seductive recitation of specials is worthy of consideration, but take in account that they tend to be priced higher than comparable menu items. We started with a grilled octopus, a regularly recurring special that was some of the tenderest, most flavorful cephalopod we’ve ever eaten.
The tortellini with mushrooms and truffle oil was like the crack of pastas. They were ordered as a primi piatti, but it took every ounce of will power not to fill up on these languorously funky puppies swimming in cream sauce. Tagliolini sassa is a dish more circumspect about calorie counts than the tortolini, combined spaghetti-like tagiolini with mushrooms, tomato, arugula and mozzarella. This would make a perfect main dish for the vegetarian in your party.
All of the entrees were presented with the same vegetable combo, carrots and Brussels sprouts with roasted potatoes without thought given to a synergistic pairing. A trio of lamb chops were tender, juicy, and sauced with a balsamic reduction. Pollo gelsomina is chicken scaloppine beautifully finished with a chunky sauce of mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and roasted peppers. The loser was a grouper special. The fish, while not spoiled, was not fresh either, and was barely edible.
Dinner was completed by mini-biscotti and complimentary after-dinner drinks.
The Bottom Line
Consider Il Bacco when you’re in the mood to be cosseted by solicitous staff, while savoring a classic Italian dining experience. If you’re after a more casual experience, or if you have the kids along, they also have a pizza menu. During the warm months, the rooftop affords dining al fresco.
Suzanne Parker is the TimesLedger’s restaurant critic and author of “Eating Like Queens: A Guide to Ethnic Dining in America’s Melting Pot, Queens, N.Y.” She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Il Bacco Ristorante
253-24 Northern Blvd.
Little Neck, NY 11362
Price Range: Appetizers $9.95—12.95, Mains $11—13
Cuisine: Old school and northern Italian
Setting: Tradition Italian elegance with seasonal rooftop dining
Hours: Open seven days for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch
Reservations: Recommended, especially on weekends
Alcohol: Full bar
Dress: Casual to dressy
Music: Strolling guitarist
Credit cards: All
Noise level: Acceptable
Handicap accessible: Yes