Like all Capital Region cities, Troy doesn’t lack for pizza, but restaurant owner Jim Scully offers wood-fired pizza at his Bacchus restaurant. Situated in the basement of a historic 1892 brownstone, the eatery is downstairs from its sister restaurant, the elegant and consistently good Daisy Baker’s.
Bacchus Wood Fired
WHERE: 33 Second St., Troy. Phone 687-0345.
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesdays to Thursdays, 11 a.m. to midnight Fridays, 4 p.m. to midnight Saturdays, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays. Closed Mondays.
HOW MUCH: $29
MORE INFO: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover. Reservations for parties of 10 or more. Accommodations made for children’s meals. Wheelchair accessible.
The reasons to visit Bacchus are many, not the least of them being the custom-made, thin-crust pizza. The restaurant is across the street from the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, it’s hopping on Troy Night Out and weekends, has a hip urban feel, and it’s smart, yet warm and cozy. In fact, it is probably the handsomest pizza restaurant in the area.
Three rooms make up Bacchus, which has a slightly different layout from the previous restaurant at that location, the Allegro Cafe. Sit in the room on the right in view of the massive dome-shaped oven, sculpted to resemble the god of wine and intoxication himself. Or opposite, where you’ll be in the bar with its high tables and lively atmosphere. Between those spaces is a row of roomy wooden booths. Bacchus gets points for lighting: it’s done cleverly and subtly so that the ambience is intimate, but there is always a spotlight available to shine on the menu.
It is straightforward — pizza on the right and pasta on the left, with a couple of appetizers and a few desserts above and below. A basic pizza starts at $9.95. It’s very cool pizza, and you get to eat it in a very cool place.
My favorite is the pizza Margarita — pizza in its simplest incarnation. Its perfection is the result of fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella. Try one of their signature pies, like the Ambustus (8-inch for $10.95, 12-inch for $14.95) with blackened chicken, mushrooms, jalapeno peppers and spicy tomato sauce.
On the pasta side, the Hercules (lunch $7.95, dinner $12.95), is a heroic dish of prosciutto, ham, and Italian sausage with roasted red peppers in a lemon wine sauce tossed with bowtie pasta. It’s spicy, wonderful and hearty. Or choose two toppings and sauce from their pizza or pasta selections to make up something all your own.
Dining companion Mary and I visited Bacchus in the early evening when only a few tables were occupied. So we were able to secure a comfortable booth. There was plenty of friendly staff on hand, and service remained attentive throughout the meal.
We started with two beautifully browned roasted garlic bulbs ($5.95) seasoned with olive oil and rosemary and served with slices of freshly made focaccia. “If it’s soft, you can spread the garlic on the bread,” said Mary, observing that the garlic cloves were still a bit crunchy. “But I like to eat them this way, too,” she added. We would have liked them cooked a bit more.
The accompanying focaccia bread is made daily at the restaurant. We both liked dipping the bread into the residual olive oil in the baking dish.
”What’s that spice?” asked Mary, examining the bread. It was rosemary, which is often used to season focaccia. Their bread is strongly flavored with it, something I don’t mind as it tastes fresh. Mary didn’t like it as well. The bread is served on the side with the pasta dishes, and used for their garlic bread. Scully said they’re experimenting with other kinds of bread.
Mary did like her custom-made pasta dish, very much. She ordered bowtie pasta tossed with mushrooms and anchovies in marinara sauce ($12.70), which came with a big wedge of focaccia on the side. A pasta dish at Bacchus is truly a full meal, and this was a generous portion. We both liked the pasta cooked just the way it was — soft. “I don’t go for that al dente stuff,” said Mary. “I like it cooked.”
She especially liked the texture of the sauce. It was chunky and hearty, though she would have liked more anchovies. The next time she orders it, she told me, she’ll tell them to go heavy on them.
I ordered the grandly named Broccoli Ultimatus pizza ($9.95), a pleasing combination of garlic, fresh broccoli, slices of plum tomato and roasted garlic Alfredo sauce, topped with mozzarella cheese.
We’re talking crust
Now let me tell you about the pizza crust at Bacchus Wood Fired: The crispy edges are my favorite part, especially if they’re a little charred, and while it’s soft in the middle of the pie, most of the crust is sturdy enough so that you don’t need a knife and fork — which to me, is anathema. Hold it, or fold it, and eat it. Surprisingly, it surrenders completely when reheated at home, which allows you to focus on the toppings. It’s good stuff.
The fresh plum tomato slices turned sweet from cooking, the broccoli florets were fresh and still crisp, and the underlying flavor of garlic supported the mild cheese admirably.
In fact, while I finished half the pie, I found the fresh vegetables so tasty that I picked them off and ate them and took home the bare slices. If you’re hungry, an 8-inch pie will fill you up, but I’m not sure the large size is enough for two with big appetites. Order your own pie and there’s no fighting over the toppings.
Service remained attentive, our glasses were attended to and the smart white square plates were delivered and removed promptly. We were mistakenly charged an additional $1.75 for the anchovies, but straightened that out.
I’m sorry to tell you we didn’t plan well and had no room for dessert. Bacchus currently offers tiramisu, limoncello cake and cheesecake, but changes are being made there, as well.
The tab for dinner with one soda and some leftover pizza came to $29, before tax and tip. Both Daisy’s and Bacchus Wood Fired are restaurants husband Eric and I visit repeatedly. I’ve eaten pizza at Bacchus four or five times, and every time, it’s good. Perhaps the casual, sophisticated ambience, reliable service and hearty pasta dishes have won Eric over, but for me, it’s definitely the pizza.