Four years ago, in a hole-in-the-wall Italian joint in Cleveland, I had a dish that would forever change my mind about Italian food. It was five raviolis with dough rolled so thin you could see the tender shade of brown pork cheek inside. "Five ingredients," the chef told me. "That's all it took."

Four years ago, in a hole-in-the-wall Italian joint in Cleveland, I had a dish that would forever change my mind about Italian food. It was five raviolis with dough rolled so thin you could see the tender shade of brown pork cheek inside. "Five ingredients," the chef told me. "That's all it took."

He called this style of cooking "poor people's Italian" and admitted it's one of the most difficult styles of cooking to execute. Because, you see, there's nowhere to hide in a dish so simple. It either works or it doesn't.

Every meal at Basi Italia is like reliving this delicious moment over and over again. Chef and owner Johnny Dornback's style of cooking-straightforward and seasonal-perfectly illustrates how comforting simple food can be. A few of my favorites this year include oldie-but-goodie eggplant parmesan with pesto pasta and crushed tomatoes and lightly mustard crusted trout with a root vegetable puree and pomegranate vinaigrette. And more often than not something off the daily specials menu-a rotating collection of a soup, starter, pasta, meat and fish dish-catches my eye.

Dornback's food paired with the living-room-sized space that is this Victorian Village gem make eating here always feels like going to a friend's house for one hell of a dinner party.

And with an ever-evolving cocktail program (bar manager Phil Richardson is working with the kitchen staff to make syrups and tinctures, in addition to house-made soda), it's become one of my favorite places to belly up to the bar for a drink before dinner, too.

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