What first won you over at Basi Italia? Maybe it was the warmth of owners John Dornback and Trish Gentile. Maybe it was the Rigatoni Salumeria, the adorable patio, the effortless service or the Butterscotch Budino. Basi's menu is not trendy or earth-shattering, but instead built on its hallmark of consistency and freshness. Take, for example, this summer's outstanding risotto with sweet corn, smoky bacon and crab, a dish not overburdened with cream and cheese. Or the Eggplant Parmesan, one of Basi's signature dishes. “The thing he's most excited about right now is he got a new guy for the eggplant,” Gentile says about her chef-husband, whose eyes light up. “There's nothing like a fresh eggplant. I get geeked out about it,” Dornback says. He isn't in the kitchen every night anymore, relying on his team to do the heavy lifting during dinner service. It means Dornback is able to spend more time tweaking the menu, re-establishing relationships with local purveyors and playing Mr. DIY. Basi is not about to reinvent the wheel, he says, but heading into its 15th year, this Victorian Village stalwart continues to charm.


Difference-Maker: Cozy Conversation

When it opened 14 years ago, this little, green Italian spot on Highland Street was on the neighborhood's outskirts, and now it is surrounded by booming development on all sides. It means more people are within walking distance (or Uber range) of the restaurant. It still feels like a secret, even if Basi added a few more seats this year to the famous patio. “We're a legitimate 100-seater seven months out of the year. Which is pretty crazy for us having started out with only 28 and thinking that was as busy as I could handle,” says Dornback. While Basi may get lively, it's no competition for the new generation of warehouse-y restaurants filled with hard surfaces and noise. Basi is still one of the best places in town to go if you want an intimate dinner with warm service. “We sort of modeled it on our house. We'd have a dinner party and it got up to where we had 12, 14 or 16 people on Sundays, and it would be loud and fun, but it would still be intimate.” Inside (remember: Basi has an interior!), paintings on the ceiling help to baffle noise, along with drapes. Meanwhile, one of Dornback's DIY projects this year was to add more drama to the patio bar and kitchen with a new coat of paint. “I'm in a big black phase ... it sort of looks like theater,” he says, noting that the glow of the kitchen against the black backdrop creates the impression of a stage. And come chilly weather, the back patio gets zipped up, transforming the bar from a backyard garden party to an après ski scene complete with blankets. “It was sort of garage chic over the last couple years,” Dornback says. “So we tried to warm it up and put some different lamps out there. It's going to be a little different than just hanging out in the garage.”