We recently made a return trip to the newly reconfigured Cheshire Inn to try out another of its eateries. You may remember our visit to The Restaurant a while back. This time around, we made a beeline for Basso, the more casual cousin located below the main building.
While the overall atmosphere might be less formal than The Restaurant upstairs, Basso still had style to spare. The interior was a high-end cross between pub and lounge, anchored on one end by an expansive open kitchen and some soft-seating areas, replete with a cozy fireplace; and a main dining area dominated by a beautiful metal-clad bar in the middle with seating all around and banks of flat screens above. Add some exposed ductwork and flickering sconces on the walls, and the overall effect was warm, intimate and just a touch rustic. Be advised, though, that the high ceilings and stone walls make for a bit of noise, especially once the room starts filling up.
Basso has been described as a ‘gastropub’—not sure what this even means anymore, really; but the menu had plenty of pizzas, pastas, grill items, small plates and sides that definitely went beyond casual pub grub. Same goes for the beverage selection, which featured some hard-to-find Italian beers like Le Baladin Nora ($10), and tasty craft cocktails like the Smoke and Mirrors, similar to a Manhattan, only made with mezcal instead of rye.
We started with the Kale & Arugula Caesar ($11), a nice pile of tender greens dressed with a tangy tonnato. For a side, we opted for the Roasted Cauliflower ($6). Like the kale salad, it was super-simple but delicious, just a crock full of cauliflower florets with some creamy whipped ricotta and gremolata, topped with breadcrumbs for crunch.
While the menu had plenty of unique and delectable-sounding options, as soon as we saw the pizza selection, we were sold. Most of the pizzas had quirky names referencing pop culture items and icons, like the Stretch Armstrong and McDowell's Golden Arcs. We ordered up the Hero ($16), a flatbread version of the famed sandwich topped with sopresatta, calabrese, provolone, pepperoncini and tomato. The pie was about 12 inches around and yielded six slices, perfect for sharing.
We finished up with Tiramisu ($8), which was layered in a canning jar, making for a unique presentation.
Kudos are definitely in order for chef Patrick Connolly and his kitchen crew for creating unique offerings that really went outside of what would be expected in a casual setting like Basso. While there were some of the usual suspects on the menu--there kinda has to be a burger, after all--there also were plenty of unexpected dishes, from polenta to a duck agnolotti. All in all, Basso's menu has something for everyone, from bar food fans to gourmands.
--Basso, 7036 Clayton Ave., 932-7820, basso-stl.com.