Very few restaurants can withstand the test of time. Places that were once Bergen County hot spots have shuttered, with their replacements rarely living up to the success their predecessors once achieved. Some have been torn down entirely, replaced by banks, because there are definitely not enough of them around here!

As sad as it is, there are still many that continue to thrive even amidst a changing cultural climate that has less people dining out or even going out at all. One of those standout places is Bacari Grill in Washington Township. Celebrating over 20 years, the restaurant is still enjoying some of its best years ever.

Bacari Grill holds a special place in my family’s hearts. To start, my sister’s Bat Mitzvah was celebrated here; three years later, in 2002, my Bar Mitzvah followed here. Almost 15 years later, I am still in love with the place.

Consistency is key in the restaurant industry, and since opening Bacari in 1993, the Amoratis family has remained the active and present owners that a large fine dining establishment needs. John Amoratis handles the day-to-day operations, and he’s exactly what every restaurant owner should strive to be.

Walk into Bacari on any given night, and the bar is buzzing from 5:45pm on, a sight not seen in most Bergen County joints since before ’08. Next you’ll notice the crew of fun, friendly, professional and attentive women behind the bar. If you go there just a couple of times, they’ll have your drink memorized and ready for you soon after they spot you walking through the doors upon your next visit. Always available is a list of specialty cocktails, which according to Ashley, one of Bacari’s vibrant bartenders, are favorites among the weekend regulars. Occasionally, a featured cocktail worthy of Bergen’s best mixologists can be found on the menu as well. And worry not, wine lovers, Bacari is recognized as having one of the best wine selections in New Jersey year after year.

Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 9.59.20 AM Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 9.59.31 AMBut the bar scene is just one aspect of what reminds you of the booming restaurants of the late ’90s and early 2000s. The service at Bacari is a cut above the rest. Well trained and knowledgeable, the staff boasts some veterans who have worked there for more than ten years. And, not losing a step, the younger staff members have carried on the tradition of great, friendly and professional service we have come to expect.

The best restaurants typically aren’t known for just one thing, though, and Bacari has succeeded where many can’t: Not only do they offer a lively bar atmosphere and phenomenal service, but they excel at what people keep going back to a restaurant for—delicious food. Enjoying his third stint at Bacari Grill, executive chef Peter Angelakos keeps improving and diversifying the menu selections.

First, the restaurant brought in sushi chefs to add another element to an already well thought-out menu. A hit from the day it was rolled out, the sushi selection—a mix of Japanese, Mediterranean and American influences all on one table—is executed perfectly. You won’t need to look further than the restaurant’s signature Bacari Roll to realize that Bacari’s sushi rivals that of the greatest of nearby sushi restaurants.

However, if sushi is not your thing—as it wasn’t Bacari’s thing for plenty of years—then you’re sure to find some other great items on the menu. For starters, the lobster cocktail with lobster, jumbo lump crabmeat, shrimp and avocado topped with a citrus vinaigrette is the perfect beginning to any meal. If that’s not your thing, either, try ordering the trio of meatballs (lamb, pork, beef) or the “Deadliest Catch” of iced Alaskin King Crab legs. And don’t overlook the slew of scrumptious salads or brick oven pizzas.

Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 9.59.25 AMWhen it comes to entrees, making just one selection becomes even more difficult. A favorite of mine for years is the Campanelle Bolognese pasta. Be sure to order extra ricotta on the side to perfectly complement the ragout of ground beef, pork and prosciutto your campanelle noodles are happily drowning in.

If you walk into Bacari not sure of what to order, your indecision will only get worse as you stare at the menu with wide eyes. Roasted duck in a tamarind-balsamic glaze, chicken “under a brick” or the prosciutto wrapped halibut are all-stars, as is the 16 oz. bone-in cowboy rib eye served with Bernaise butter. (I’m drooling as I write this.)

The restaurant, whose name “Bacari” translates roughly to “an Italian eatery with a variety of food,” has clearly hit the nail on the head. For more two decades, John, the Amoratis family and their incredible staff have brought the elegance and attention to culinary detail that Bergen County craves, and has succeeded in creating a restaurant that can withstand the test of time and our ever varying tastes. The recipe for success that keeps regulars coming back year after year is sure to make Bacari an even greater landmark in the Bergen County dining scene for years to come.

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