posted on February 28, 2013 14:16
Almost 8 years ago, my wife and I tied the knot downtown and had our wedding reception in the at the Cheshire hotel. It was a nice location as the area had stairs coming down into it, a large bar as open and wide as the whole room. The room sat about 250 guests and there was enough room for belly dancers to move throughout the area. It was decorated with white curtains, mirrors, old paintings of English royalty and molding at the ceilings and floors. It was in that space that we had a party and a night that we will never forget.
Now, move ahead 8 years...
My wife and I wanted to go to the Fox and Hound Tavern at the Cheshire hotel for dinner. When we arrived at about 9pm, it was packed and there was standing room only. Standing room only for eating food just doesn't work so we asked if they had another restaurant. The Cheshire used to have an old English style tavern above the banquet room in the other building. It had bookcases lining the walls, hardwood flooring and candles on the tables that provided a warm, cozy and romantic dining spot. That whole experience was remodeled. What was there now is a restaurant called simply "Restaurant". It was fancy with white table-cloths and as much as $15 for a small starter. That just didn't seem like a good fit as to the mood we were in. So, we walked around to the other side of the building, where the person at the front desk mentioned that they had an Italian pub called "Basso".
We avoided the icy sidewalk, opened the doors to get in and immediately noticed the staircase, leading downstairs. What did they do? What they did, was just this past December, guy out the reception area, the very area where we had our wedding reception, and replace it was a huge kitchen, cool dining spots and a large bar complete with televisions all over. It was loud, it was colorful and it was perfect.
We were seated at a high table, near the bar. The bartenders were dressed in black and dressed nicely and uniform, so you could see who was a bartender and who wasn't. The wait staff all had flannel shirts on. The televisions were blaring the Missouri/Kentucky basketball game and there was music that was noticeable but not enough that I could make out any words. It was loud enough to block out the conversations at most other tables which is fine. The walls were bare stucco tan colored with large gas powered flame lamps, allowing for light and a conversation piece. The tables were like a butcher block and were round and thick. It was nice, not too cold, not too hot and everything seemed good. The average dress seemed to be business casual. There wasn't anyone in there with t-shirts and jeans and most of the women were wearing nice dresses or the like. It is like it was a new place to be seen and eat.
We sat down and when our seater asked if we had been there before, we had answered with "yes, 8 years ago", to which he gave us a strange and confused look and then walked away.
We were presented with the menu and a very knowledgeable waiter and after some explanations, we ordered. I chose the garlic monkey bread, the grilled Brussels sprouts, The Donald pizza and the McDowell's Golden Arcs pizza. We had our food come out quickly. The first thing was the monkey bread:
The bread was moist, cooked nicely on the sides and was very garlic-y. It wasn't done in a bad way; I love garlic. It had some other spices in there but the garlic overtook all of them and was very delicious. For those of you starving when you get there and needing something in your belly while the food gets cooked, this is for you. I give these a 3 out of 5, as I would order them again.
The Brussels sprouts were grilled with some oregano and pecans and had a nice texture to them. I admit, I'm not a huge fan of this little vegetable and only had enough to try. They were good in my book and the crunched pecan pieces gave them that crunchy texture to go along with their tenderness. They were okay by me but my wife said they were good. I'd say a 3 out of 5.
Okay, now comes the fun stuff. At Basso, they do pizza and in a very big and cool way. I remembered that as I was working my way through a 350 recipe collection by Mario Batali cookbook, I found this Roman recipe which was butternut squash ravioli with a sage and butter sauce. Now, from what I remembered, I even drizzled some warm honey over the raviolis, taking it from a savory to a sweet dish. Here is the same concept. So I know that the squash, when mixed with sage, gives it a small bit of savory-element, but when it is also mixed with the honey, it is sweet. So, what you get on a pizza with cheese and big slices of prosciutto, is this sweet and savory with every bite dish. Was this pizza good? Yes. Every bit was perfect and it needed no hot pepper flakes or anything else on it. Would I change anything? Yes. There were these large strips or prosciutto. One strip was as large as 2 inches wide and 4 inches long. It was just a lot to bite into. I think some smaller pieces. I would still give the pizza a 4 out of 5.
The Donald is the name they gave their duck pizza. What you have here, is a pizza with pieces of duck breast, black truffles, black truffle oil and a large fried duck egg on the top, with cheese. It is a VERY rich pizza. Every bite gets you an attack of tender duck and sweet truffle flavor and it has the richness of eating whole sticks of butter. It is so rich and so sweet and I had only wished that there was something acidic to cut it. It was good and was perhaps the weirdest item on the menu so in a group it would be great to order it so everyone could try it.I'd give it a 3 and 1/2 out of 5.
So, to sum up: the two pizzas we tried are good indication that the other pizzas are good as well. Service was excellent. Everyone was friendly and nothing was too strange or nothing loud happened around us. It is a good spot for friends as well as romantic meals. I would say that Basso has moved up to one of my favorite hang-out/eateries in St. Louis. So, I should be sure to be there again soon.