Basi Italia offers perfect brunch setting

Beth Stallings, Columbus Crave

The convivial environment at Basi Italia has almost always been reserved for dinner. It's a spot couples head for a romantic date, sharing a bottle of wine on the lush, garden respite of a patio. Or a where groups of friends gather around the communal table by the outside bar.

But over the summer, owners John Dornback and Trish Gentile quietly expanded their hours and their menu to offer lunch-brunch hybrid service on Fridays and Saturdays. Now diners can take advantage of the Victorian Village eatery's cozy setting during daylight hours, while also tasting the kitchen's creativity.

A few months ago, Dornback turned the daytime menu over to his kitchen team, instructing them to "have a little fun with it," he says. That they took his instructions literally is obvious at first glance as there are several dishes that break from Basi's typical Italian repertoire, like crispy chicken tacos ($10), a salmon and pastrami club sandwich ($12) and lamb meatloaf ($12).

What they all have in common is Basi's signature ability to make even the heaviest-sounding dishes taste light. Take the biscuits and gravy ($9), which I ordered despite the 90-degree temperature outside during my first visit. Two fist size and lightly herbaceous rosemary parmesan biscuits come with a bowl of rich sausage gravy on the side. It's an intuitive presentation that allowed me to choose-my-own adventure-to decide whether I wanted to drown the whole plate with fennel-spiced sausage gravy, or dip one piece at a time, reserving each biscuits crisp exterior.

Their rendition of a lobster roll is made with chunks of tender shrimp ($13) slathered in a tarragon-rich green goddess aioli. Cutting the fat are acidic and colorful cherry tomatoes and the house toasted brioche so flaky, you may want to take a knife and fork to this sandwich. All sandwiches come with a choice of crisp house-made chips or a bowl of seasonal fruit.

But if you really want light, order the shrimp frittata ($12). Tomato, fresh chives and chunks of shrimp are baked into fluffy eggs. A heaping of fresh spinach gives it salad-like quality and fresh chevre gives it substance.

Since this in brunch after all, don't pass on a cocktail. If you're outside, check the chalkboard menu for daily specials, but you can't go wrong with the sparkling-spike bellini or a glass of house-made sangria.