noto co-owners wayne and kendele sieve photo by greg rannells

Noto Italian Restaurant owners to open Venetian-inspired cicchetti bar Bacaro in St. Peters in early March

The team behind Noto Italian Restaurant will open Bacaro, a Venetian cicchetti bar, in early March. Bacaro will be located in the same building as Noto at 5105 Westwood Drive in St. Peters.

The restaurant borrows its name from the Venetian taverns where patrons sip on wine or aperitifs accompanied by cicchetti, which are essentially Venetian-style tapas. Indeed, it was a trip to Venice last year that inspired Noto owners Wayne Sieve and Kendele Noto Sieve to create the concept in their own little corner of the world. “We wanted to come up with a concept of an aperitivo bar where people can come and have small bites, have spritzes, have Italian wine and just casually hang out and eat,” Kendele said.

Bacaro is based out of a lower level space that Kendele said is “pretty much underneath” Noto. The space was formerly used as a garage, but has been completely transformed, with an indoor patio extension and new interior features. “We made it look old, added a lot of textures, we have marble and stone and tiles, so the vibe is very rustic, but modern at the same time,” Kendele said. Bacaro will seat around 75 guests inside, and an outdoor patio will soon be added to accommodate a further 20 guests.

With the design of the space, Kendele and Wayne said they’re not trying to recreate the style of an actual bacaro in Venice. Instead, the decor pays tribute to the city itself, incorporating identifiable Venetian elements like Venetian masks, photos of Carnevale, the Rialto Bridge and St. Mark’s Square, stone walls and a graffiti wall that echo the streetscapes of Venice. “There’s definitely elements that will be very familiar,” Wayne said.

The food and drink at Bacaro will be a different matter. “We’ve matched our drink program and our food program to be exactly what you would do or what you would get out of a bacaro in Venice,” Kendele said. Wayne Sieve is developing the menu alongside Noto executive chef Justin McMillen, the former culinary director of Niche Food Group, who also operates his Elsworth Supper Club pop-up with Amelia McMillen. The menu will feature around eight crostini-style cicchetti options, small bites served in portions of three. Kendele said her personal favorite on the Bacaro menu is the mantecato, a creamy, salted cod-based cicchetti that is a staple in Venice. Another traditional Venetian option is mortadella with ricotta and pistachio garnish.

Bacaro’s menu will also feature a few tramezzini, a sub-category of cicchetti. These little triangular sandwiches are reminiscent of an afternoon tea sandwich, served on soft white bread with the crusts cut off and with a variety of fillings like Venetian-style tuna salad or prosciutto. Salads, charcuterie and a couple of desserts will also be offered on the menu, adding up to a total of around 15 to 20 items. Kendele said they’re still working out what desserts to put on the menu, but they’re not lacking options. “We might do a fragola, which is a strawberry and limoncello trifle, we’ll make our sponge cake, we’re also debating if we’re going to do panna cotta, gelato or sorbetto or maybe another pastry,” she said.

The experience at Bacaro is designed to be adaptable to what you’re in the mood for. “If you want to make it a meal, you can easily make it a meal,” Wayne said. Equally, if you want to stop in for a glass of wine and some cicchetti before or after a pizza at Noto, Bacaro’s menu is amenable to that too.

Spritzes will feature prominently at Bacaro, with eight spritzes on the menu. Travis Shook is creating the drinks, including a selection of seasonal cocktails. “It’ll be more of a mixology menu upstairs at Noto, where downstairs here at Bacaro will be more spritz, wine, Italian beer and then a small cocktail menu,” Kendele said. A sprtiz and cicchetti pairing option will also be offered. “Everything is definitely very much to be enjoyed with a spritz or amari with the cicchetti,” Wayne said. The spritzes come with an order of potato chips, another tradition in Venice and across northern Italy.

Wayne and Kendele are keen to differentiate between the northern and southern Italian culinary traditions that each of their restaurants represents. “We’re keeping the southern Italian amari upstairs, and then down here for Bacaro, it’s more northern,” Kendele said. The opening selection at Bacaro will include 10 to 12 amari, with names like Bordiga, Meletti and Amaro Montenegro represented. Shook is also working on creating Bacaro’s own amaro in-house – that won’t be ready in time for opening, but it’s in the pipeline. “I don’t know if it will be readily available all the time, but it could be something we offer once the batch is ready,” Kendele said.

As well as serving its own crowd, Bacaro will also provide a backup option for anyone who can’t get a table at Noto, which is essentially reservation-only with very limited space for walk-in guests. “We've been very fortunate with Noto, it's been successful and we couldn't be more thankful or grateful for that,” Wayne said. “We didn't intend for it to be reservation-only and that's just the way it's kind of been, it's always booked and that's a great thing. And we wanted to be able to still offer an extension, so [Bacaro] was a way for us to be able to offer walk-in guests that may not have a reservation a way to still experience what we do.”

Bacaro is aiming for an early March launch, and will be open for dinner from Wednesday to Saturday each week.