[Penang, Malaysia] Italian trattoria fare at Il Bacaro, Campbell Street

Il Bacaro at Campbell House is perhaps the best bet in the heart of George Town for trattoria-style Italian fare. Venetian-born Roberto Dreon brought some of his hometown favourites to Penang, and the spot has been a favourite spot for both locals & visitors since 2011.

The sidewalk dining section is a few steps away from Cintra Food Corner, best-known in Penang for its steamed Chinese meat-stuffed rice dumplings (“bakchang”).

As Penang can be hot & humid the whole year round, most customers prefer the air-conditioned indoor seating - highly recommended.

Our lunch today consisted of:

  1. Rucola salad with sun-dried tomatoes, grilled artichokes and julienned carrots in a parmesan cream sauce.

  1. Spicy prawns Diavola - very fresh prawns, sauteed with garlic & chillis.

  2. Ravioli with braised duck filling, served with a herbed butter sauce.

  3. Buffalo mozzarella pizza. This is a thin-crust pizza, and very light and tasty, with cherry tomatoes & fresh basil.

  4. Angel-hair pasta with sliced fennel and salmon.

The kitchen was pretty efficient, competently churning out orders promptly to order in the packed lunch-time dining room. Heading its kitchen crew is Bergamo-born Executive Chef, Mauro Bernardi.

Pastry chef, Mario Dreon, is the elder brother of owner, Roberto Dreon.

One can opt to dine al fresco outside on the sidewalk if the dining room is full, but traffic along busy Cintra Street can be a bit noisy.

Campbell Street, named after Sir George William Robert Campbell, Acting Lieutenant-Governor of Penang from 1872–1873, used to be Penang’s main retail/commercial thoroughfare in the 1960s/70s, up till the advent of shopping malls.

Campbell House is located at Campbell Street’s intersection with Cintra Street, which is named after the historic Portuguese town of Sintra. George Town itself historically has a sizeable Portuguese-Eurasian community, mostly Catholic refugees who’d came over from Siam in the 19th-century to escape religious persecution.

Il Bacaro at the Campbell House
106 Campbell Street (Lebuh Campbell), 10200 Georgetown, Penang
Tel: +604-261 8290
Opening hours: 8am-11pm daily.


We’re back at Il Bacaro for lunch today - the first time since the COVID pandemic lockdowns began in Malaysia back in March 2020.

One of the changes made to the trattoria was that the floor-to-ceiling side-windows facing Cintra Street were all thrown open nowadays. Gone were the air-conditioned setting. I guess customers nowadays felt more comfortable dining al fresco or semi-al fresco, rather than cooped up in a completely enclosed environment.

Venetian blinds provide much-needed shade, though. Penang can be hot!

We opted for two of the well-conceptualized daily set lunches today, supplemented by an additional a la carte order of the 𝗖𝗶𝗰𝗰𝗵𝗲𝘁𝘁𝗶 platter, consisting of baked eggplant, cous cous “Siciliano” salad, clams cooked with garlic & chilis, deep-fried mantis shrimps, and bruschetta topped with pate & green apples.

From our set lunch order, one of the starters was a delightful, and unexpected, purple sweet potato soup with warm, earthy flavors.

My starter was a scrumptious arancini with pomodoro sauce. I love arancinis, so my only complaint here was that the starter came with only one of the delicious golden orbs.

Mind you, the rendition here was pretty large, butt-ugly, and absolutely delish! Pry it asunder and strings of mozzarella stretched between the two halves.

Our two mains respectively were:
Fillet of barracuda with roasted potatoes & sautéed vegetables - the fish fillets were plump, sweet and very fresh. But it was the accompanying pan-roasted potatoes that stole the show: the flavors and textures were pitch-perfect. The accompanying lemon-scented aioli was a plus.

Spaghetti with clams and pesto - perfectly al dente, and positively bursts with flavors.

Dessert was an old favorite of mine: the Rum Baba - rum-soaked sponge with sugar-syrup, vanilla cream and pistachios. It was a tad on the sweet side, but the sponge was well-soaked through, and had that ultra-moist texture one expects in a good rum baba. The alcohol quotient was a bit lacking though.

So, overall, a pretty satisfactory lunch. In terms of cooking, I personally still think Jaloux sets the benchmark in Penang. But there’s no beating Il Bacaro in terms of service - attentive, and always with the right timing and level of response. Our efficient maître d, Chinese-speaking Jitse Ligthart, is of Dutch descent, but has lived in Penang since he was 9.