Eat, drink, love
WEST VAIL – In Bagali’s new locale, there’s room enough for everyone to grab a piece of the pizza pie.The funky, charming Italian eatery hasn’t lost any of its soul since moving from the small space near Taco Bell in West Vail. Its new digs, the space adjacent to the Holiday Inn/Apex Lodge in West Vail, oozes with owners Scott and Stu Bucy’s Louisiana heritage. Shades of purple, green, gold, pink and turquoise color the restaurant like French Quarter homes. Mardi Gras masks, beads and posters of Jazz Festival pasts adorn the walls.That same New Orleans flare transcends into the menu, as well, creating an Italian-fusion cuisine of pasta, spicy sauces, seafood and Mama Bucy’s famous gumbo when she’s in town.
The choice to move was one of necessity. Bull Crabs, the roadhouse restaurant with a mechanical bull that occupied the space prior (also owned by Scott), wasn’t fairing too well. But Bagali’s business, which opened in 2001, was more than steady. A local cult following were filling tables on any given day of the week. Maintaining Bagali’s lively, quaint ambiance that helped to garner the following was a concern for the Bucy brothers. Goal in mind, they’ve succeeded in preserving the eatery’s integrity.”We’re local. That’s what made Bagali’s – Bagali’s. Good food and a local, noncorporate flare. It’s still here. But the best part is now we can do music,” Stu said.They’ve even sectioned off a cozy area in the back of the restaurant with purple drapes. It’s intended to replicate the original Bagali’s. The area is a gesture to Bagali’s loyal patrons.”We try to put all the regular Bagali’s people we know in the back,” said Scott.
The food and music connectionWith its added square footage, Bagali’s is hosting music Friday and Saturday nights. Tonight, trumpeter Carlos Washington and Friends of Gravity will blow the roof off the area in Bagali’s now called the Lava Lounge.On non-music nights, the Lava Lounge serves as a relaxing area for diners to sip on cocktails while waiting for a table. Cush, over-stuffed chairs beckon you to flop down and stay awhile. Lava lamps and tiny candles set the groovy mood.
When the weekend witching hour does strike, the room transforms into a hipster lounge similar to ones in New Orleans, like Cafe Brazil or Maple Leaf. People can dance in front of the band, and tables will be set up near the make-shift stage for people to chill and watch the musicians.”Where were from, small quirky places not set up to have music, have music anyway. And that creates this great, funky, local vibe,” said Stu.It’s hard to escape New Orleans without an ingrained affection for music. The town breathes rhythm. After taking a hiatus from Bagali’s in Hawaii for a couple of years, Stu returned to help establish the music scene at the new location. Together, he and his brother have a library of experiences from live concerts.”There is a link between food and music. They both can make you feel emotions and recall memories,” Stu said. “For us, it’s jazz, blues and rock ‘n’ roll.”
A cook’s secret ingredient is passionBagali’s menu hasn’t changed much since the move, and the quality hasn’t been compromised for a bigger space. Chefs are still using the freshest ingredients to create Italian standards with a southern twist. Eleven made-to-order sauces, seven different pastas, salads, hearty subs and pizza all remain on the menu. Mussels and innovative seafood specials have made an appearance.”We like making everything from scratch. It’s fun. If you’re not doing that in the restaurant business, you’re missing the point. It’s called passion,” Stu said.Stu has given up the head chef position to Abell Moran so he can help manage the restaurant, but he’s still cooking. Every Wednesday all three managers, Stu, Scott and Liam Koughlin, test their skills in the kitchen in a three-man cooking match. Each manager prepares a special entree for the night. Whichever dish sells the most wins the manager “manly pride,” Stu said.
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At interview time Wednesday afternoon, Koughlin was whipping up a risotto with asparagus and parmesan encrusted salmon. Stu was cooking chicken Rockefella, a classic New Orleans dish with spinach, bacon and oysters. Scott, who promised me his was the winner, prepared a jumbo lump crab cannelloni with béchamel creme. “It’s a good system. We have fun. The specials are good, and whatever is really hot, might end up on the menu,” Stu said.The biggest winner is the diner because these guys can all cook.
For the first time since the eatery opened, an actual sign marks the entrance into Bagali’s new location in West Vail next to the Holiday Inn/Apex Lodge. Hours of operation are 11 a.m.-close (around 2 a.m.). Diners can get slices until close. For more information, call 479-9242.Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 618, or firstname.lastname@example.orgVail Colorado