Cafe Society

Bácaro has a new chef, a new menu and new hours: It's now open for lunch

The menu isn't the only thing changing at Bácaro Venetian Taverna. The restaurant recently hired a new executive chef, Patrick Halloran, and is now open for lunch.

Having relocated from Austin, where he was a chef at Texas Coffee Traders and Vespaio Inoteca, Halloran says he'll draw from his diverse background and affinity for fennel and chile flakes to create a lighter, simpler Italian experience. The dishes are a "refreshed take on Italian food," he explains.

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One such refreshing dish is the antipasti salmon crudo. Raw salmon is marinated in salmoriglio sauce, or the "sauce of 10,000 ingredients" -- and Halloran tosses in another, some chile flakes, to give an extra kick. Served with a grilled ciabatta, the salmon crudo is available on the lunch and dinner menu. The crudo pairs nicely with the oven-dried kale chips, which have also been added to the menu. Alone, the chips make a good bar nosh. The menu has numerous pizza, panini and pasta options -- and then there's the boar. Pinky-sized ribs from a wild boar are first grilled, then braised and finally fried, drizzled with a braised reduction sauce and served with an herb salad and sofrito. The ribs are available at lunch and dinner.

At first glance, the menu seems to cater to carnivores -- but more than half of the pizzas and pastas are vegetarian, and the salad options are plentiful, including the chef's favorite beet salad. Made with roasted, candy-cane-striped Chiogga beets, the salad ranges in color from light pink to almost red and is plated with fine herbs, yogurt, fennel and fennel pollen, which is more expensive than gold in weight.

Even though Holloran misses the snowless Austin winters, he says he's thrilled with this new opportunity. And while the growing season is shorter in Colorado than in Texas, he notes that "the produce is so pretty."

The new menu has been in place for a few weeks; lunch service begins today, and will continue daily from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Happy hour runs from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., and dinner is served until 10 p.m.