Biz Buzz: Baia Della opens in Baxter
In reimagining the 120-seat Prairie Bay space as a new restaurant, picking an Italian option seems to provide an experience the area was both missing and still seeking.
BAXTER — The highly anticipated remodel to transform the former Prairie Bay restaurant in Baxter to a new Italian restaurant christened Baia Della is complete and the new restaurant is open.
Baia Della Italian Kitchen opened Thursday, April 21.
Customers, who arrived for the soft opening Wednesday for complimentary meals wanted to see the new look and try out the robust menu.
From the response, they weren't disappointed on either front.
The remodel has indeed transformed the space. Once a wide open restaurant for the most part with a large meeting room and a smaller room and bar area, the restaurant now features many small spaces where people can dine out and still feel as though they are having a private experience.
For Nick Miller, restaurant owner, the many nooks and crannies are one of the things that stand out for him among the changes. Miller was greeting customers and visiting tables during the soft opening Wednesday as staff was able to work with a busy restaurant setting before the real opening day.
The pressed copper ceiling immediately sets the warm tone upon entering. There is still the large meeting room and smaller dining space off the large dining room, but now there are multiple spots to settle in for a personal dining experience that is more sheltered.
Given everything that has happened in the last two years of the pandemic, that change may bode well for diners who want to go back out for the dining experience but who aren't finding the wide open room with seating so close to others as appealing as it may have been before.
Prairie Bay is anticipated to return in a smaller venue more suited to its strengths. The Baxter area has been without a dedicated Italian restaurant since the closure of Olive Garden in March of 2019, which caught a number of people by surprise.
In reimagining the 120-seat Prairie Bay space as a new restaurant, picking an Italian option seems to provide an experience the area was both missing and still seeking. Those attending the soft opening were highly complimentary of the food and social media posts since the opening day continued that reaction.
Seeing vehicles parked outside for the soft opening Wednesday was enough to entire people off the street to come in and see if the restaurant was open.
Prairie Bay closed Feb. 15. The new restaurant offers a completely new look and dining experience.
"Change is in the air, and we are all ready for something new," Miller wrote in a Facebook post announcing the change. "This will be a reimagining.”
Now that reimagining is complete.
"Our location has been completely redesigned to better accommodate your night out," the restaurant stated on its website. "Whether it is with your family, or you are out on a date night, we have the perfect spot for you."
The restaurant features a full menu of appetizers, including a chicken gnocchi soup and a roasted vegetable minestrone, that no doubt people will try to order in bulk.
The spinach/artichoke dip is topped with thick savory pieces of artichoke and served with toasted ravioli dippers. A margherita handmade pizza is topped with plump cherry tomatoes.
There is a Fat Cat Lasagna Pocket offering a mini calzone stuffed with house-made Italian sausage lasagna and served with Sunday gravy, Alfredo and fresh pomodoro sauce.
The menu has a host of handmade pizzas along with handhelds that are served with house fries. But the hand has to be fairly large to encompass the offering if the Meatball Hero is any indication.
There are also signature pasta dishes like chicken cannelloni and braised short rib rigatoni, or a seafood manicotti. Entrees include chicken Marsala, pork Milanese, crab stuffed halibut and risotto.
The cocktail menu is also interesting with JackPine Fenceline among the draft beer options and Bellinis, red and white wine as well as martinis like the lavender lemonade, the Compari cocktail, a salted caramel martini and a raspberry lemon drop with a sugared rim or the cucumber basil martini. Other beverages include spritz and sangrias and cocktails.
The menu should appeal to a variety of dining needs and family options.
"We will definitely be back! Bruschetta Belissima was a great start with tomatoes that were absolutely delicious," Judy Rardin posted on FaceBook. "The salad was fresh and crisp with a tasty dressing. Then onto Braised Short Rib Rigatoni and Crab Stuffed Shrimp Scampi. Both were very flavorful, pasta done to perfection and no skimping on portion size!"
Baia Della is now ready for area residents and visitors to try for those who want to book a table or get takeout. Online ordering is coming soon.
Look for a new Prairie Bay by this winter.
RENEE RICHARDSON, Brainerd Dispatch managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchBizBuzz .