By Jessica Tuggle
VERO BEACH - In downtown Vero Beach, 14th Avenue is known as the arts district. And one restaurant in that area is putting its own artistic stamp on breakfast and lunch.
Baci Trattoria is a charming Italian breakfast and lunch restaurant in Vero Beach's "gallery row." Breakfast is served with a smile all day, and the lunch items keep customers coming back for more.
Whether a dinner party is seated indoors in the chic black, white and gray dining area, or the cute outdoor patio in a breezeway, the service is prompt and the seats comfortable.
Owner Karen Fulchini, though raised in New Jersey, comes from a strong Italian family background. With the help of her husband and cousin, she is bringing the tastes of her home to Vero Beach neighbors and guests.
"I grew up on peasant Italian food, all made with fresh ingredients," said Ms. Fulchini.
"With olive oil, onions, garlic, basil and a little bit of pepper flakes, there's not much you can't make," she said.
Not all of the items on the menu are traditional Italian fare, but they all bear the Baci flair, from their names to their presentation.
The "Dirty Face" Belgian waffle is an all-in-one breakfast and dessert.
The large chocolate waffle is filled with chocolate chips and dressed with fresh red strawberries, cream cheese glaze and a dollop of whipped cream. The waffle's crowning glory is the Bosco chocolate sauce, which customers can add to taste.
"Bosco is kind of like Hershey's chocolate syrup. I guess because it sounded Italian, that's what we always bought back home in Jersey," Ms. Fulchini said with a laugh.
Risotto is an Italian rice dish cooked in broth and containing vegetables or seafood and parmesan cheese. Baci's shrimp risotto features creatures of the sea and the dish smells heavenly.
The creamy rice dish is served in a hot pot, so every last spoonful is hot.
On Wednesdays, customers flock to Baci's for the chef's special Italian rice balls, a dish that requires extra preparation time, so it is not served daily.
"People come here just for those rice balls," Ms. Fulchini said.
The house special dessert is another reason to stop at Baci. The panna cotta is a light, silky egg-less custard served cold and accompanied with fruit compote. Depending on the season, the panna cota can be served with mangos or strawberries. Its light texture, combined with fruit, makes it the perfect summertime dessert.
Baci can accommodate groups such as baby or bridal showers and other larger parties with advance notice.
Restaurant hours are Monday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Baci Trattoria is located at 1918 14th Ave., Vero Beach. For more information, call (772) 794-4747.