Main Gate Square gained a new restaurant when Bacio Italiano opened on Friday, September 6 in the former Red's Smokehouse & Tap Room.
Bacio's interior features a variety of modern art from local artists ranging from mounted paintings to marker-scribble-style doodles made of metal on the wall. The western windows and garage doors let in natural light with the pizza oven featured prominently in the center.
Bacio co-owner Andrew Avella was raised in Staten Island and attended the University of Arizona. While he was a student, he worked in various Tucson Italian restaurants.
"I owe my recipes to my mom Joanne Avella, pizza experts Tony Gemignani and Francisco Pinello, and lots of practice," Avella said.
Bacio's menu features a selection of Italian appetizers, salads, pizzas, calzones, pastas, plates, sandwiches, and desserts. The style of the cuisine treads somewhere between Italian-American and traditional Italian. The pizza crust combines qualities of both styles.
"We achieve a hybrid Neapolitan-New York crust by using high gluten all-purpose flour and cooking it at a slightly higher temp than most pizzerias," Avella said. "While it's better for delivery purposes, we prefer a crispier crust in general and the taste profile is much different. Our goal is a crispy bottom and slight charring around the edge."
While the flour drastically affects the pizza, Bacio's use of the pizza oven is the other defining factor.
"The gas oven allows us to maintain the right conditions that will allow the all-purpose flour to cook slower and crispier," Avella said. "Our target is a steady 600 degrees. The heat put out by a wood fire is much much hotter and variable in temperature. Arizona wood is typically mesquite which burns too fast and very hot. We prefer a slower and less hot baking environment."
Bacio also takes pride in the ingredients they use, focusing on quality for an approachable price, Avella said.
"Our cheese is 100% whole milk and the company that makes the cheese just happens to have the same name, Bacio," Avella said.
Avella's favorite item on the menu happened to be one of our favorites from our visit too: the calzone ($12 plus $2 per additional topping).
The structure and crispness of the crust shines with the calzone. The quality of the whole milk mozzarella and ricotta created a superb stretchy and smooth mouthfeel.
The Antipasto Plate ($12) features an assortment of cheeses, charcuterie, nuts, fruits, olives, honey, bruschetta and artichoke hearts.
Other appetizer options include Fried Calamari ($11), Mozzarella Bites ($9), and Stuffed Mushrooms ($8).
Bacio's Spaghetti Carbonara ($12) leaned more towards the traditional side, properly coated in the rich sauce rather than swimming in it. Their version features flecks of pancetta. The spaghetti was cooked to a proper al dente as well.
Other pasta options include Spaghetti Marinara ($12), Spaghetti and Meatballs ($16), Fettuccine Alfredo ($12), Penne alla Vodka ($13), and Rigatoni Siciliano ($14).
Additionally, Marsala, Parmigiana, and scampi plates are available along with Parmigiana sandwiches, a sausage and pepper sandwich, and a chicken sandwich.
We wanted to try the Tiramisu ($6), but we arrived a little too early and it wasn't ready quite yet. However, we'll come back to try that. Also, be aware that Bacio also offers gelato, New York-style cheesecake, cannoli, and chocolate cake.
Bacio Italiano is located at 943 E. University Blvd. Keep up with Bacio Italiano on Facebook.
Jackie Tran is a Tucson-based food writer, photographer, culinary educator, and owner-chef of the food truck Tran's Fats. Although he...