Thirty-years ago, while living as a teenager in his native Albania, Bachi Prevalla had a dream. Today, he is living proof that dreams do come true, as long as you work hard enough to turn fantasy into reality. The 48-year-old owner of Bachi’s Ristorante Bar and Grill on lower East Main Street sits in his business and reflects back upon his life-altering decision to come to the United States.
“We were poor, not terribly poor, but in Albania it is very difficult to advance yourself,” he says. “I would never have been able to buy a house if I stayed there and worked. So, I wanted to make something better for myself, that’s why I came here. I had relatives here that helped me with the move, and I put my mind to having my own business, which is something I always dreamed of as a way to make a good life for myself and my family.”
After he moved to the States, Prevalla paid his dues, waiting tables at several local restaurants, and finally got the chance he was looking for when he heard the owners of a small restaurant on upper East Main Street might want to sell their business. He received financial help from family to buy the restaurant and opened up his first dining establishment. It was a success. He then moved down the road a bit to the present Dos Amigos restaurant, where he continued to flourish until the building where he is now located, at 46 East Main St. in the hub of downtown Torrington, became available 15 years ago.
Bachi’s Ristorante Bar and Grill specializes in Italian fare. Over the years it has earned a large and loyal following thanks to good service, a comfortable atmosphere, consistently good food and affordable prices.
“We have tried to make a menu where there is something for everyone, whether it is an $8 sandwich or a $25 dinner,” Prevalla says.
Most of the entrees are in the $16 to $19 range and come with a salad and the restaurant’s own freshly baked bread. The latter has diners often calling for seconds.
“We have a strong following of loyal customers,” says Prevalla, who has 16-year-old triplets (two boys and a girl) and another 18-year-old daughter, who is attending the University of Connecticut. “I always say that my loyal customers 20 families, those of my staff, and mine. We owe them so much.”
Prevalla, while not a classically trained chef, “always enjoyed food and cooking,” even as a youngster. When he came to the United States he worked alongside several chefs, learning the trade. While decidedly Italian in name and flavor, Bachi’s dishes have their own flare, seasoned by his experiences with Albanian food.
“The food in Albania has many influences, from Italy, Turkey, Greece and the Slavic countries,” he says. “So, we like to think of our foods as Italian but authentic Italian. While we don’t call ourselves a pizzeria, we do make New York style pizzas and have been doing so for a long time. We also have gotten a reputation as a good steakhouse, and that has been a popular dish on the menu. We specialize in seafood and chicken dishes as well.”
The atmosphere inside the restaurant is subdued and relaxed, classical music or standards playing in the background. The bar area is popular and drink specials are available every night.
“The bar is good, but we really stress the dining room,” says the owner. “We also have outdoor seating with 22 tables that has become very popular, especially when there are events, such as the farmer’s market and car shows, in downtown. It doubles my business.”
Prevalla is high on downtown Torrington and believes there is a synergy between the restaurants and pubs that surround the center of town.
“I love the fact that there are a number of places to eat near to us; I think it helps everybody,” he says. “It’s all about getting people downtown and making it a destination. I would love to see more restaurants, and maybe do something with the river, like a river walk, and something at the old Nidec property to bring new people in, like a Thai or sushi restaurant. Make downtown a place where people can park their cars, have dinner at one place, go for a drink at another, and have dessert and yet another place.”
Bachi’s menu is varied. For instance, starters include fried zucchini, broccoli rabe and sausage, freshly breaded calamari and stuffed mushrooms with crabmeat. You can get a hefty shrimp or Greek salad, and there are over a dozen pizzas to choose from (you can also create your own). House specials, to name a few, include eggplant parmigiana, which is egg-battered eggplant rolled with ricotta cheese and baked with the house’s homestyle tomato sauce and shredded cheese, and there’s baked manicotti, with ricotta and tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, to which you can add a mushroom sauce or a meat sauce.
For dinner, the pasta Bolognese is made with ground beef, chopped onions and a touch of tomato sauce; the fabulous pollo rustico is sauteed chicken tenders with garlic, olive oil, sweet sausage, hot vinaigrette pepper and sherry wine; and the filleto di Casanova features medallions of pan-seared beef tenderloin in a Madeira Portobello sauce. Bachi’s, which also offers wraps and sandwiches and grilled items for lunch and has a kid’s menu, has a full range of alcoholic beverages to accompany the food.
Prevalla has plans to change the interior, “reinvent ourselves,” as he likes to say. He plans on removing mirrors that line one side of the main dining area and showing off the original bricks and window areas to bring back a vintage feel to the establishment. After all, the building dates back to 1888 when it was quite a notable restaurant and inn, with rooms upstairs. The building has housed a dining establishment for almost 130 years, says Prevalla. Some of the original interior, such as tin ceilings in the bar and front entrance area, are in evidence.
Bachi’s is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. You can order takeout online at wwwbachis.com.