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SWIG ‌ Al di La

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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

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