Bäco Mercat.  Just when I thought I knew Los Angeles… I found the bäco.

Here’s how the story starts: we sat down on a sunny little patio for lunch at Bäco Mercat.  I would love to report that we quietly enjoyed ourselves while having a sensible, lovely little lunch filled with polite conversation and amicable banter.

However the sordid truth is, lunch was a self-indulgent feeding frenzy that allowed only for the occasional nondescript (yet happy) grunting noise.  It was an out-of-body experience I would probably rather never mention again, except that it was so good… we went back and repeated the whole experience for dinner.

The same day.

PART 1:

I wish I had known what I was getting myself into here- I might have been more prepared.  Or maybe not.  Can anything prepare you for chef Josef Centeno’s perfectly seasoned hamachi crudo?

 What about those shaved, warmed “ceasar style” brussel sprouts?  Perfection.

I was weak in the face of the “Japanese confit” tomatoes and charred lettuces alongside a weeping pile of fluffy burrata.  

I embarrassed myself over this fresh fava, chickpea “falafel” style bäco.  Our server suggested it.  Bless her.

Here’s the thing… when you’re dining at a restaurant like Bäco, and the cuisine is truly the focus, the wine list absolutely has to have something interesting to say about the food.  I was so impressed at the size (or lack thereof) of Bäco’s wine list.  It’s tiny.  Laser-focused.  Geeky, but not alienating.  Then I met GM Daniel Flores and I started to put the pieces together.

First, I love that the wine list is peppered with obscure Italian wines.  Daniel attributes his love of Vino Italiano to the time he spent at Mozza, working with Alex Weil, David Rosoff and Jeff Porter.  With wines on his list like Elena Walch’s Lagrein, Pecorino from Poderi San Lazzaro, and Le Piane’s Maggiorina, it’s clear Daniel chooses little gems from producers known for laser-focused acidity, food-friendly minerality and honest, Italian terroir.

Daniel knows his stuff outside of Italy, too.  I was super-impressed with the Getariako Txakolina we ordered- a white wine from Spain that just shimmered with acidity.  Alive, mouth-watering and full of a bright citrus- green-apricot fruit that just sang with all of our dishes.

The Humbling Wreckage!

 PART 2:

At this point we knew better.  But the decision had already been made.

No less than 5 hours later we were back for more.  

Begin with a house-barrel-aged Negroni.  

Given the option, how else would you start?

At this point my photography begins to seriously decline, although the quality and creativity  of the food remained.  Everything we tasted that night, from the crispy favas and chick pea “bar snacks” to the confit duck leg, was mind-blowing.

 

 

The food is seasoned agressively, spiced just enough to make you think about what you’re eating.  Global.  Universally delicious.  And again, a complete challenge for most wine pairings!

Thanks to Daniel Flores’ uncompromising standards for wines that simply reflect the chef’s cuisine, we selected with confidence.

Our decision? A wine I had never seen before: Nanni Cope.  One single vineyard, one wine, one seriously geeky wine grape, and one man (Giovanni Ascione, whose childhood nickname was “Nanni Cope”).  Only 7,000 bottles of this wine for the entire world, and yet there it is, staring at you from Bäco ‘s tiny wine list.

Nanni Cope’s wine is made primarily with the indigenous grape, Pallagrello. Woodsy, rough and totally feral- this wine was the perfect match for Chef Centeno’s kaleidoscopic cuisine.  Brambly berries and a salty minerality- totally unique.

Unique. Like everything about Bäco Mercat.

About The Author

I love all things Italian: the beautiful country of Italia, the Italians themselves, the language, the food… and above all, I love Italian wine. The people I meet in my charmed life are fascinating, the wines are extraordinary. I needed a special place like this to write about them, and to remember them.

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