The dining philosophy was also evident in my main course, the dentice belvedere, a filet of red snapper baked in the Tuscany oven with white wine, olive oil, and herbs. More courses are being designed for the previously underused red brick oven, which cooks food quickly, sealing flavor without stealing texture. The well-seasoned snapper, topped with shrimp, scallops, and baby clams, was a firm but flaky fish, succulent if a bit too salty. The main dish was accompanied by a harvest-colored melange of yellow squash, purple eggplant, and red, yellow, and green peppers, all bathed in a tangy garlic butter. Roasted potatoes, dusted with the same mixture, redolent of oregano and a grandmother's warm kitchen, completed the plate.
Another entree -- four lamb chops in a demi-glace topped with porcini (wild mushrooms) and bits of truffles -- was surprisingly thick and so tender the slices folded in on themselves as they were cut from the bone. The hearty, musky quality of the lamb fairly matched the strong and sweet sauce, and the mushrooms topping the whole were a wonderful dark touch. Baby string beans and green peppers added forest colors to the plate. But the highlight was a baked potato and goat cheese terrine, alternating layers of gentle white potato and slightly more dominant goat cheese. This addition was the only speck of dairy product viewed throughout the meal; central Italian cooking, with its roots in healthy grilled, baked, and broiled Tuscan cuisine, forgoes most cream- and cheese-heavy recipes. For a taste of cholesterol, Caffe Baci does offer some pastas, all homemade, in creamy sauces. But these are alternatives.
Federica Rossi, whose theme for the entire restaurant is "evolution, not revolution," has implemented little in the way of decor changes, preferring to keep up the history of the restaurant. She has, however, already begun planning the next phase of Baci's re-introduction to the dining public -- a week-long celebration of the white truffle, which pound for pound is more costly than gold, and can only be found in the Piedmont area of northern Italy for two weeks out of the year. She's able to purvey the truffles, she says, because half of her family is still in Italy, scouting the best bargains and raw materials for her family's Miami venture. In other words, she's got connections. And the Gables has new restaurateurs to rival Pernetti: the Rossis at their Caffe Baci.
Caffe Baci 2522 Ponce de Leon Blvd; 442-0600. Lunch Monday-Friday from noon to 3:00 p.m., dinner Monday-Saturday, 6:30 to 11:00 p.m.