a selection of offerings at bacaro photo by meera nagarajan

First Look: Bacaro at Noto Italian Restaurant in St. Peters

Bacaro, the new cicchetti and aperitivo bar from the team behind the ever-popular Noto Italian Restaurant, a Sauce Best New Restaurant of 2020, is set to officially open on Wednesday, March 6, after a soft opening last weekend. Bacaro is in the same building as Noto at 5105 Westwood Drive in St. Peters, just downstairs and toward the back of the main restaurant.

The upscale space is decked out with Italian marble, beautiful stone-topped tables, warm lighting and enough space for 75 inside, with an upcoming patio that should have room for an additional 25 guests. Their vision was to create a Venetian-inspired aperitivo bar — people sipping on spritzes and Amari and snacking on cicchetti, or snacks.

The beverage portion of the menu was executed by bar manager Travis Shook, who took inspiration from co-owners Kendele and Wayne Sieve’s vision for Bacaro. The cocktail list has a range of approachable drinks like the blackberry bellini with blackberry puree, Amara, spiced simple syrup and prosecco. (An off-menu white peach version is also always available.) There’s also a creative Caprese martini with sun-dried tomato infused vodka, bianco vermouth, radicchio-basil-balsamic shrub and saline for a more savory option. The Venetian comes with a mix of Contratto red bitter, Antica Rosso vermouth, Contratto Rosso vermouth and Bordiga gin. “It’s like a more bitter and intense Negroni, it’s popular in Venice, we discovered that every hotel and little place had their version of this, vermouth or vermouths and bitter liqueur and we added gin for taste,” Kendele said. Of course, there are spritzes, and you can even create your own spritz by selecting from a list of aperitivos like Aperol, Pilla Select (similar to Campari) or Italicus (flavored with bergamot), to name a few.

For riffs on classic cocktails look for a vanilla-infused Knob Creek 9-year whiskey paired with a 25-year-old balsamic in their Italian Old-Fashioned, which gets topped with Frizzante club soda, orange bitters and Demerara brown sugar syrup. The Bacaro Negroni comes with espresso bean-infused gin, Pilla Select apertivo, antica rosso vermouth, nocino liqueur, which is made from green walnut and orange bitters.

Shook, who started at Noto just four months ago, wanted to help launch Bacaro particularly for his interest in making amari – like his Robarbaro, featuring a Chinese rhubarb that carries a smoky note, plus other ingredients like toasted white oak, cherry bark, cinnamon, elderberry, elderflower and other light florals for a total of 19 ingredients. Another house-made option on the list that he helped create is the Felsina, which is made with apricot, honey and bitter orange peel for a more citrus-forward profile. He also worked on a house red bitter, similar to an Aperol but without any artificial coloring, just spirits, roots and sugar for a more pared down mix. Also, look for familiar bottled options of amari like Amaro Nonio, Strega, Vecchio Del Capo and new-to-market products like Centum Herbis, an herbaceous, mint-forward amaro on the shelf.

Rounding out the beverage menu are Italian sodas like an Italian cola, which come in beautiful glass bottles, as well as other flavors like lemon and blood orange. A trio of NA cocktails are available, including the Danielle, with Lyre’s Dry London spirit non-alcoholic gin that they infuse with rosemary then mix with lime, cinnamon simple syrup and New Orleans bitters, which carries notes of star anise, wild cherry and hibiscus – all garnished with a sprig of rosemary. A selection of Italian beers like Birria Morretti and Poretti lager are also on the menu. 

The food menu focuses mainly on cicchetti, snack-style small plates, and was a collaborative effort between Wayne and Noto executive chef Justin McMillen, who joined the team early this year. Here, similar to Noto, which is certified by the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana in Naples, commitment to sourcing unique and special ingredients both domestically and from Italy is on full display.

This commitment is evident in the Armatore brown anchovies that come delicately draped atop hard-boiled eggs and an herbed aioli; these egg bites taste like a Caesar salad with anchovies caught in the Tyrrhenian Sea just off Italy’s Amalfi Coast. Look for more eggs on the menu in the ouvo cicchetti section, including a version topped with caviar or salted cod. Another specialty from the Armatore brand is the wild-caught blue fin tuna, which gets folded with a dill-caper aioli and topped with fresh arugula and sliced, boiled egg, served on white Pullman loaf in the tuna tramezzini sandwich.

You’ll also find a selection of dips, including the whipped ricotta dip that’s topped with extra virgin olive oil, cracked black pepper, marinated olives, fresh herbs like chive, dill and parsley; or the verdura dip with sun-dried tomato and cannellini bean hummus, a fiery orange base that’s topped with roasted and marinated mixture of vegetables and garnished with herbs; both are served with crostini and are substantial snacks. Light snacks like the adorable spritz setup comes with potato chips, marinated olives and Taralli or round breadsticks, which is the perfect trio when sipping on a classic Aperol spritz. 

“We’re tapped into resources so we can buy more unique things,” Wayne Sieve said. Their mortadella is one such find, a domestic version made by an Italian family in New York, that is served on a crostini with whipped ricotta and topped with toasted pistachios. The menu features cheese and charcuterie boards as well. Cheeses like a mild mountain gorgonzola from the Alps, a Toma riserva, Ciresa fontina and meats like Coppa, porchetta, mortadella or bresola are also offered.

Whether you’re popping in for drinks ahead of a Noto reservation or going to Bacaro just for spritzes and snacks, it is sure to be a popular destination as it brings a unique, Venetian-inspired experience like nowhere else in the St. Louis area. Bacaro is open 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and does not take reservations.