We have reviewed plenty of restaurants on the Lower East side for this site, but Bacaro is really low and really east - in a part of town that's too dirty even for most of the cool kids (which means it's cool).
Though the food at Bacaro is pretty good, it's the kind of place you come to for the atmosphere. There is a small upstairs bar with tables, but under no circumstances should you pass up an opportunity to eat in the downstairs basement, or what I like to call the "Dungeon of Romance". Exposed brick, crystal chandeliers, one large white candle on each table...if you can actually manage to get a date to come to this part of Manhattan, at least know you're probably going to close the deal.
The menu is technically small plate Italian, but the plates aren't really all that small. About four dishes for a table of two is a good approach. Anything with a vegetable is a solid choice, but the pastas are hit and miss. It's also worth noting that Bacaro doesn't take reservations, which can make it a risky destination for an early in the game date. If the wait is long, you can hang at the upstairs bar and have a drink, but it's small. Then again, you can always go take a walk. Nothing says love like watching a guy in Chinatown skin a chicken.
Update: Bacaro now takes reservations.
A steamed and stuffed artichoke with some delicious bread crumb and cheese filling in the center. This is an excellent way to kick off a meal.
Asparagi Con Uovo
Fresh asparagus with a soft baked egg and cheese, this is a big serving, probably too much for two. A good option for 3 or more.
These are "spicy fried meatballs" and they are definitely spicy and definitely fried. They're about the size of a Junior Mint ... a delicious meat Junior Mint.
Gnocchi con Funghi
This was a very disappointing gnocchi. The pasta looked like scallops, and the texture wasn't far off. A bit chewy and very dense. Not recommended.
Razor clams aren't on too many menus, and I think it's probably a difficult thing to do well. These have been given the right treatment – white wine and lemon make makes this a bright and tasty dish.