Since we first went to Basso Cafe back in September ’12, we’ve told everyone we meet to check it out. And, every time we’ve asked how it went, we’ve heard great things back. That’s just the kind of place Chef Renato Donzelli runs.
But, we were starting to feel like posers, recommending the place to everyone, even though we haven’t been back since. We know, bad food bloggers! So, when Basso Cafe went from a BYOB only establishment, to a full-on bar, we figured that was the perfect time to get back there and try their creative cocktails with some friends. Oh, and eat, because, you know, it’s always good to eat when downing large quantities of liquor.
So, last time we were there we dined out on their nice and chill porch, but since it was December, that was clearly not an option. The interior is warm, a bit rustic, and has nice touches of modern mixed in. The bar itself is warm and inviting, hanging out in the back of the dining space.
Once we settled in, we got our drink on. Ok, lots of drink . . . here are the deets:
Green Chile Gimlet: St. George Green Chili Vodka, simple syrup, and fresh lime juice. Sour with a gentle heat. This was very light, if that’s your thing. We thought it could use more umph all around: more spice, more citrus, more sugar . . . just more.
Cucumber Basil Martini: Crop cucumber, fresh lime juice, basil vinegar, simple sugar. Chef Donzelli brought this one out for us to try. The fragrance was wonderfully floral with a nice herby flavor at first sip. This was well balanced and super refreshing. You could easily drink a few of these without realizing you’re five drinks deep. One of our favorites.
Mighty Bourbon: Mitcher’s Bourbon Powell, Maloney peach juice, club soda, fresh orange, mint. The bourbon was very forward, slightly overtaking the peach and mint but we like bourbon so it wasn’t tough for us to put down.
Paloma: Blanco tequila, red grapefruit juice, fresh grapefruit reduction, and a lime wedge. Good flavor potential here, but unfortunately it was pretty watery. We stirred it up to see if that helped, but not so much. We’re not sure if we just got a poorly made one, or if they’re all like that, but this was our least favorite.
Bee Keeper: Barr Hill Honey Gin, fresh lime juice, lemon thyme simple syrup. Good balance here with some sweetness, contrasted with the herbs and the wildness of gin. Simple, but tasty.
Basso Martini: Artisanal organic lemon vodka, lemongrass simple syrup, lemon twist. It reminded us of an adult version of liquid Smarties, but not over the top with sweetness. Overall, we enjoyed this.
Green Chili Margarita: Chef Donzelli also brought this secret menu item out for us to try. Our absolute favorite drink from the night! There’s definitely a nice spice here that finishes off with a tart kick.
Ok, so now onto that food we talked about. Oh yeah, that! Here’s what we ordered:
Fried Brie: It’s hard to not love Brie, but this was a bit too heavily breaded for us to fully enjoy. But, it’s no longer on the menu, so perhaps they received similar feedback from patrons.
Octopus: Cooked nicely with a great, warm chili flavor. The potato was also cooked nicely, making a great pairing. This dish took us back to our first morning in Barcelona where Dan ate octopus at 10 am while locals drank entire bottles of wine while reading the paper.
Dates and Formaggio Capra: The bacon on the outside is so crispy and smoky, playing well off of the delicate nature of the dates. Bringing it all together was the Capra cheese that added a nice creamy tangy punch. Yum!
Homemade Gnocchi: Beautiful gnocchi, so delicate! There’s a nice slightly salty mushroom finish coming off with Shitake that just took us over the edge. A must order.
Pork Belly: Excellent and the winner of the night. The rind was crispy and reminded us of the killer pork belly at Hoodoo Brown BBQ. But, it wasn’t just all crispy and crunchy goodness. Nope, there was also that delicate pork belly meat and fat waiting for us under that skin.
Filet Mignon: Smoky and savory, the beef was cooked just right. The panchetta wrapped around it was crispy as was the pancake served on top. It was finished off with a rich and velvety Cabernet reduction.
Lobster Risotto: Again, cooked just right with the rice being perfectly al dente, which is the key to a good risotto. The lobster was also great with that perfect chew to it. The creamy risotto was delicate and didn’t take away from the saffron backing and gentle nature of the lobster.
Cavatelli Chicken Scarpiello: Has that nice and spicy sauce you want from a Scarpiello. Truly, nothing compares to a cavatelli that’s done just right, and this was. The chicken was cooked nicely and we liked the punches of heat that came from the hot cherry peppers.
Almond Sponge Cake: This was something that Chef was working on and wanted us to try! Take the jello shot around the cherry, enjoy the warm sponge cake, cool it down with some creamy gelato. Creative, and delish.
Apple Pie: Good, small, personal size if you only have so much room. There was a nice crust here and a nice mixture of warm, autumnal spices. Just how we like it. Plus, it was served up with a creamy almond gelato.
Tres Leches: Oh dear God we love this shit. Rich, creamy, and silky. Underneath it all was that very satisfying caramel taste undertone you come to expect in good Tres Leches slices.
When we stopped by Basso Cafe, the bar had only been open for a few weeks. Even still, we like many of the drinks, and saw potential in the ones that missed the mark. We hope they will continue to hone that craft based on feedback. In terms of the food, we feel like it was just as good as the first time we visited, making Basso Cafe nice and reliable, just like we like ’em!
Address: 124 New Canaan Ave.