The few times a year that I go to Ketchum, I follow a predictable routine. First, I rummage through Bruce Willis and Carrot Top's castoffs at the thrift store. Then, I blow my remaining funds on overpriced food. My most recent trip was true to form. After pinching the bike of my dreams for pennies on the dollar, I grabbed a pal who had been hanging out in a cabin north of Ketchum for the week, tending to infirm pets and drinking gallon after gallon of strong, black coffee. This dawg desperately needed to be taken out to hobnob with our collective betters, and the ideal spot was Baci Italian Cafe and Wine Bar.
After ordering a Cotes Du Rhone from the vintage "not-the-cheapest-on-the-list-but-squarely-in-the-bottom-third," we were rewarded with some celebrity-ish sightings. First, someone who looked like Kurt Vonnegut without the moustache walked through the temperature-controlled, well-lit outdoor tent in which we were seated. Then, one of the unfunny SNL cast members from the 1980s said "Hi" to the couple at the table next to ours, who were watching a waiter decant their wine into a comically large beaker--one of several oenophilic concessions we witnessed the pleasant, unpretentious waitstaff make during the evening. After all that excitement, we were ready for a meal.
The arugula salad with sliced pear and pancetta vinaigrette looked intriguing, but we were suckered in by the Caesar topped with white anchovies. The sweet, vinegar-cured fillets complemented the salad's light garlic dressing while also providing a talking point between glasses number one and two. Unfortunately, our mouths were too full of delicious spicy duck sausage pizza to get any words out.
We embraced the bacon train with the next unique appetizer: fresh radicchio wrapped in pancetta, then grilled and served with a smear of goat cheese and a drizzle of creamy garlic dressing. Due to the natural bitterness of the radicchio and the overpowering saltiness of pancetta, this intense treat isn't for everyone. However, when mixed with the tart and creamy goat cheese, I thought it was the highlight of the night.
Coffee Boy, however, was tickled by the spicy lamb meatballs we ordered from the pasta menu. His twitchy hands were unusually stable as we competed for the final orb, which had been served over rigatoni with basil pomodoro and chunked fresh mozzarella. As the cubes seeped into the pasta, I thought we had reached the pinnacle of melty depravity. But any good grazing session deserves dessert with the dregs of the wine.
Baci's gelato, handmade at the restaurant, is offered in white chocolate, dark chocolate and espresso. I twittered when I heard the dark chocolate, while my man-date's already gaping pupils further dilated at the mention of espresso, so we split a half-and-half order to cap a snackfest that had gleefully wandered into "grand buffet" caloric proportions.
--Nicholas Collias has no idea if Carrot Top actually lives in Idaho.
Baci Italian Cafe and Wine Bar, 240 S. Main St., Ketchum, 208-726-8384. Mon.-Sun.: 5:30-10 p.m.