Al di La’s Bacaro
25 Magnolia Road
West Ashley
571-2321
Tues.-Thurs. 5:30-11 p.m.
Fri.-Sat. 5:30 p.m.-12 a.m.

John Marshall is one restaurateur who can’t wait for free pour, because once he gets rid of mini-bottles, he’ll be able to stock his new bacaro in West Ashley with the best selection of grappa in the city. And a good selection of grappa is key to a good bacaro experience. What the hell’s a bacaro, you ask? It’s the kind of place in Italy where old Vitos and Giuseppes slurp down Campari and sodas like they’re Kool-Aid. Charleston’s new bacaro is an outgrowth of Marshall’s authentic Italian trattoria, Al di La, where diners flock for a plate of delicate gnocchi so good it’ll make you moan in ecstasy. The bacaro’s got some pretty tasty fare of its own. The back of the long barroom features a wood-burning stove shipped in from Italy for cooking up delicious miniature pizzas, including my favorite, the portobella mushroom with gorgonzola ($7.25) which is built upon a base of crème fraîche (!). Egads, it’s scrumptious, rich, and hard to forget. The menu also features a classic insalate del mar (seafood salad, $7.25), warm Tuscan beans with poached shrimp ($6.50), a wide variety of salumi and formaggi (meats and cheeses) and alici ($5.75), an Italian delicacy also known as marinated anchovies — a strange but alluring taste. Specialty cocktails are heavy on the Campari, a bitter liqueur popular in Europe that’s a bit foreign to American tastebuds more accustomed to cloying rum drinks. There’s also the Bellini ($5), Italy’s answer to the mimosa, made with prosecco (Italian champagne) and white peach nectar. And if you’re going to spend time eating and drinking in a bacaro, don’t neglect the aforementioned grappa, a “digestivo” that’s sort of like rocket fuel but valued for its digestive properties. One mini-bottle sized shot of grappa is sure to help you digest your meal, even if that means knocking you out for the night while your body does its work. —Stephanie Barna